Nov 4-9, 2014
Exploring Phnom Penh, Cambodia
GPS waypoint: 11°33'23.2"N 104°55'41.4"E
Location: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
In Kampot, an Italian lady gave me her $8 bus ticket as she had to take a quick cab ride instead from Kampot to Phnom Penh. Thank you! The 3.5-hour, 150.8km trip to Phnom Penh from Kampot was smooth and issue-free on paved roads. Arriving at the bus terminal, I hooked-up with fellow backpackers to split the tuk-tuk ride to Mad Monkey Guesthouse. I have heard so much about Mad Monkey as a backpacker lodging choice - it's high time I check-in. But at $7/night even on a/c dorm beds, I could only stay for a night - too rich for me. The backpackers I met even showed surprise - "$7 is already cheap!". In fairness though, Mad Monkey is clean, new, well-managed and felt backpacker-upscale in terms of amenities. I moved to a nearby backpacker joint, Mini Banana for $4/night - that was more like it for me. No frills, just a mattress you could move around inside a big not-so-ventilated room. There was a lively bar where the socials and alcohol hammering happens.
Getting a Client
I strayed into One Up Banana Hotel and talked to its general manager. He's smart. He completely got what I was offering on the internet. In exchange for my service, I got to stay in their finely appointed room plus breakfast. Nice! Like all my clients, I don't see myself simply as the guy who made a webpage for them and then left. I see myself as a partner in helping them achieve their online booking objectives through my web machinery. This means establishing a relationship built on earned merits. I'm totally up for that. If I do a good job, they just might renew by next year.
One Up Banana Hotel
The hotel itself is impeccable - new, clean, well-appointed, centrally located with lots of chic restaurants and cafés in the area. They have an open roof deck which came in handy when the fireworks were on display. The staff are all Khmer and from what I hear, the owner gives them higher-than-industry wages. I like that too. I found them courteous and helpful. Also, their general English is better than average - so it was easier to communicate.
Roaming Around on a Bicycle
After getting myself a bicycle, I was free to extend my radius. I roamed the greater Phnom Penh going from one essential area to the next, eating my way through to what seems like good cheap eats.
The Independence Monument is one of the most important structures in Phnom Penh. It was built in 1958 to commemorate the independence of Cambodia from France. It becomes the center of all other national events. Close to the structure is a monument of the late king, Norodom Sihanouk, the one who is credited for negotiating with the French, the independence of Cambodia. Like the king of Thailand, he is revered and loved by the people. It is best seen at night when the lights offer a dramatic effect. Locals hang out there and past the time away. There are vendors hawking good cheap eats.
Wat Phnom is a Buddhist temple standing 27 meters on a hill. It is said to be the founding mark of the city of Phnom Penh, dating back to 1373. While it does not tower as imposingly as the more grand pagodas, its historical significance make it one of the more iconic landmarks of the city. Legend has it that four bronze Buddha statues were found on this site which led to the building of the temple.
Built in 1937, this dome-shaped art deco public market has four annexes branching out to make 4 quadrants. It houses countless stalls selling everything from dry goods, precious metals, coins, food, art, household items and souvenir items. While it remains a functional market, it lends itself more to tourists, much like Chatuchak Market of Bangkok. Open from 7:00am to 5:00pm.
Russian Market (Psar Toul Tom Poung Market)
Back in the 1980s, Russian tourists frequented this market earning it its nickname. This is less touristy, catering more to locals, offering a huge line of silks, fabrics, carvings at reasonable prices. Open everyday from 7:00am to 5:00pm.
National Museum of Cambodia
The National Museum of Cambodia is a magnificent structure that houses the country's largest collection of historical and archaeological artifacts dating back from prehistoric times to post-Khmer Empire. It has a spacious and manicured courtyard. Admission fee: $5 for foreigners. Open from 8:00am until 5:00pm daily. No photography allowed.
It was timely that I got to Phnom Penh during the annual Water Festival. It's a weekend of festivities on the Tonle Sap River. As a traveler, the festival also made the hotel bookings more difficult and more expensive, as I could not get an extension from Mad Monkey. I braved the intense heat of the mid-day sun and squeezed myself into throng of people who came to watch the frenzied boat races. Fireworks filled up the night sky. This event was marred in 2010 when a stampede killed 340 revellers. This event however, did not seem to dampen the festive spirit.
Phnom Penh has so much more to offer but time is not on my side. Before my visa expires, I have to do what I came to Phnom Penh for - visit the killing fields.
- one mug draft beer (.75 happy hour)
- 1.5 liter drinking water
- from street coffee to restaurant coffee
- bicycle rental, 24 hours
- cheap dorm lodging (Mini Banana)
- glass of sugarcane juice
- best way to explore Phnom Penh is still by bicycle ($2/day) - intersections can be tricky
- if there is festival happening, it's best to book bus and hotels ahead of time as they can be more expensive or fully booked
- Phnom Penh is generally more expensive than the rest of Cambodia
- Cambodia accepts payment in US$ - even sidewalk vendors. If your change is less than $1, it will be given in riel
- How to Get to Phnom Penh from Kampot
- the minivan fare from my hotel straight to Phnom Penh is $8/pax ($10 during the Water Festival), 3.5 hours. Like most bus rides, you can have your hotel book it for you. Usually, the rate is the same as booking it directly with the bus company - so I book mine with the hotel (and get the hotel pick-up service).
- How to Get to Ho Chi Minh City from Phnom Penh
- there are many bus ticketing offices around the Old Market where you can buy tickets. 5 hours 30 mins, $5-7
Nov 4-9, 2014
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