Inquiry Submission By steveprez
Visited a number of cities and sites as part of a solo tour through ancient cities and former colonial capitals of Southeast Asia. Will leave a trip report for the individual stops.
Arrived about 9:00AM on a flight from Saigon using Cambodia Angkor Air. Flight was on-time and uneventful. From my experience, CAA seems to be a decent airline, from purchasing tickets online through to the flights. Just need to be sure to use the authentic website and not the look-alike travel agency website. Prior to leaving the US, I applied for an e-visa that I acquired through the Cambodia website, and it took less than 15 minutes to clear immigration procedures. Cambodia is a dollarized economy so no need to exchange currency. 🙂
Based on a discussion on this board awhile back, I’d initially planned to take train into the city and see a bit of the city from that perspective. But would have been a one hour wait. (To be successful, I expect the train will need to be scheduled a bit more frequently.) So I went back to airport to get a tuk tuk; $10 to Sun and Moon Urban Hotel. Took about 25 minutes.
Sun and Moon; Urban Hotel: The hotel is modern and chic with a very colorful decor. I reviewed separately for TA. In short, a nice hotel in a good part of town, though getting a little dated.
Despite having traveled for 36 straight hours from San Diego to PP, I?d spent the day visiting a few sites and started at Wat Phnom. Took a tuk tuk from my hotel for $3, which was likely too much, and spent a good amount of time touring the site. Definitely a site worth seeing in PP. Another tuk-tuk back to 136th street ($2 this time) to have lunch riverside at Restaurant Olala. Nice riverside hotel with a cool breeze off the river.
Had plenty of time before Royal Palace/Silver Pagoda (also reviewed separately) would open at 2:00 so chose to walk down the riverside; restaurant staff warned me to hold onto backpack tightly, no issues though on an enjoyable walk down the riverside park. Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda are spectacular examples of modern Khmer architecture. Definitely worth a 1-2 hour visit. There are tour guides just beyond the admission area that do a 35 minute tour. I decided to pass. Overall, I suspect that it?s better to tour the Royal Palace/Silver Pagoda in the morning (open fromm 9:00 – 12:00), especially if you are taking photographs. The light will be better and it will be cooler as well.
Given my jet lag, I finished up early. Took a nap and headed up to the skybar at the Sun and Moon. Very cool skybar with great views of the city, though very quiet with few guests (perhaps I was too early). Afterwards had a quick bite to eat and went to bed early.
Next day: Trip to Choung Ek Genocidal Center and Suol Teng/S21 tourture center. For this trip I had a guide who is a remarkable woman. A survivor of the genocide, she weaved her incredible story of survival into the broader history of the Khmer Rouge era, which she is also intimately associated with through family connections. My guide arranged a car (actually a small van) and driver for the day for $50, and I paid her $50 for her service. A tuk-tuk would have been $15 for the day. Glad I paid extra for the car because a tuk-tuk would have been incredibly dusty and of course noisy. (If interested, I?m happy to pass along contact information for my tour guide. I highly recommend her. PM me for details.) Chuong Ek/Suol Teng are pretty much a ?must do? in Phnom Penh. Not a happy tour but it?s important IMO to see and understand this aspect of Cambodian/human history.
These tours took pretty much the whole day, even with an early start.
The next morning my hotel arranged a trip to the airport for $20 in a newer model sedan; double the price of a tuk-tuk, but more pleasant.
I enjoyed my visit to Phnom Penh very much. It’s interesting to see the sleepy former colonial capital growing into a modern city. I was particularly impressed with how kind and gentle the Khmer people are. Given the recent history of Cambodia, I expected otherwise and was very pleasantly surprised.
I’d only spent two days and in retrospect would have have stayed longer and I was sad to leave when I did. I saw it as an entry point into Cambodia and quickly moved on to Siem Reap. Would have been nice to spend a couple more days. I hope to get back at some point.
Finally, many thanks to Ian/Angkorlad for the wealth of helpful information both here and privately. Made a big, positive difference on my visit.