After spending a night watching the Water Festival and sitting for too long on the bus, what we needed was to sleep like logs. Yet, our (actually, my) enthusiasm about exploring Phnom Penh successfully beat what we called our tiredness. Right after coming back to the hotel, with the help of a super map and guide book we ‘stole’ from the receptionist’s area, we made a list of places we’d like to visit around Sisowath Quay.
Some tuk-tuk drivers who stood in front of our hotels offered us a short or long journey around the capital. Usually, they handed you a list of places along with the picture and the price. So, you can directly adjust your budget and they won’t rip you off with their price. Most of the places they suggested are located outside the Sisowath Quay, such as Wat Phnom, Independence Monument, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, and Choeung Ek.
For the last two, we had made a decision not to visit them. Why? We thought that it was enough seeing how bad the war was in the Vietnam War Remnants Museum. Moreover, what had happened in Cambodia is a nightmare not only for the locals, but also for me even though I’m just a tourist. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sorry for them, but to be honest such places always reduce me to tears. Tears of remorse about what has happened in Cambodia in the past, tears of anger and tears of deep sadness. Therefore, please don’t be surprised if you don’t find any posts about those two places on my blog.
Back to the main theme, about tuk-tuk. They can bring you all over the town with really affordable price, or if you are a real penny-pinching person, you can walk around only in Sisowath Quay like we did on the first and second day.
National Museum of Cambodia
Entrance fee: 10 USD (2017)
I won’t tell you that the entrance fee will break your bank, but if you are not a fan of museums, antiquities, or historical artefacts, you’d better stay outside and take some pictures without buying the entrance ticket. This is Cambodia’s largest museum of cultural history and archeology and is dedicated to aficionados of art, especially Khmer art, including sculptural, ceramics, bronzes, and ethnographic objects.
The building itself has an elegant facade, with a traditional pattern on its roof and an exquisite warm color, in this case red brick, dominating the outside and the wings.
The Royal Palace
Despite being an official residence of King Sihamoni, The Royal Palace is still open to the public. Although, of course, we can’t visit all parts of the palace – the visit is limited only to the throne hall and a clutch of buildings surrounding it.
But it’s more than enough for me admiring its super classic Khmer Roof, decorated ornately and dominated by the color of gold. To enter the building, there are some rules you need to adhere to: you are not allowed to wear shorts or a tank top. If you do, the shorts must reach your knees and the t-shirt or blouse must cover your elbows. If you don’t know the rules, don’t worry, at the ticket booth they sell some appropriate sarong for visitors who are dressed too sexy. :) Is it worth to visit? Yes, it is.
Walking along the Sisowath Quay
When you are staying on Sisowath Quay, the most appropriate thing to do is walk around the district and stroll along the riverbank, because it’s beautiful, especially if the weather is nice and the day is not a real scorcher. Besides the river and a great view overlooking the Tonle Sap River, you can also enjoy some snacks from the food stalls around it, varying from crepes to fried sweet potatoes.
Watching traditional dance
Something that I skipped but is worth doing in Sisowath Quay is watching the traditional dancing. The dance is normally held in a place close to the National Museum of Cambodia with an entrance fee of 10 or 15 USD. The ticket can be bought directly from the ticket booth.
And what if you are tired of Sisowath Quay (which is impossible)?
SHOP TILL YOU DROP IN THE RUSSIAN MARKET!
Phnom Penh, as a fast growing capital, offers not only hundreds of historical places to visit, but also an overwhelming number of places to shop, starting from local boutiques up to international ones. With a great number of choices of products, I bet you won’t stop until your wallet tells you you have to. Note: maybe this only applies only to shopaholics, but believe me, I needed to ‘survive’ thousands of interesting things and shops along the Sisowath Quay, and at the end I was enchanted by a local clothing store.
A store in Cambodia is not just a store. Most of the time, they are built by the foundations to raise funds, which may be for war victims, the handicapped, or the poor. So, while you are shopping, you also donating some of your money to them. What a great idea!
Besides local stores that are situated a stone’s throw away from your hotel, you can also visit some Phsars (Khmer for market). Among the five or more markets scattered around the capital – Bayon Market, Old Market, Olympic Market, Orussey Market, and Central Market – I decided to visit the Russian Market a.k.a Toul Tum Poung. Its name successfully lured me to come, not because my husband is Russian, but mostly because I wanted a souvenir for myself: a magnet for the refrigerator. So, accompanied by our friendly tuk-tuk driver (he was really friendly – he charged us 6 USD one way and 12 USD return, and waited for us while we went around the market for no additional fee), we explored the market.
There are more than ten sections inside the market: clothes, spare parts for motorcycles and cars, food, antiques and art, books and stationery, luggage and bags, tools and paint, beauty salons and cosmetics, tailors, CD/DVD, watches and jewelry, general house appliances, Khmer handicraft, silk, electronics, and fresh produce. Entering the building of the Phsar made me feel like Harry Potter inside the maze on the third task of The Triwizard Tournament. You MUST remember where the entrance is if you don’t want to get lost inside. The best way to prevent the problem is by reading and studying the map one day before you go.
By the way, why is it called the Russian Market? It’s not because they sell Russians, or because the sellers are Russian, or because they sell ‘secret additional products’ like AK-47s, Vodka and all that jazz – this name has become popular as most of the visitors in the past were Soviets, who lived not so far from the area.
Keep in mind that Phsars in Asia may be big, busy, hot, and confusing like a maze. Here, what you need is comfortable clothes, a bottle of mineral water, and a high level of patience. Happy shopping!