Phnom Penh is a phenomenal city and a great start to our vacation. While it’s always shocking to go from a place like the states to a developing country, the culture shock involved in diving into Phnom Penh was nowhere near as much as Kathmandu. The city feels compact, and for all the development going on it mixes modernity with its past.
The city has a hustle and bustle to it that can seem chaotic, but is actually quite fun as people motor about on tuk tuks and mopeds. Life, it seems, is predominantly carried out on motor scooters. Families are stacked three or even five deep, televisions are carried, and food is sold on motor scooters of all shapes and sizes.
Coming from Seattle in November, the shock of the heat and humidity was relatively profound. Two or three mile walks you’d expect to easily cover in short amounts of time leave you winded, dehydrated, and ready to dive into an air conditioned café.
The architecture of the city is quite incredible. Phnom Penh has a rich and blended style ranging from French colonial to pure Khmer. The Khmer architecture is the most impressive and it stands out in the numerous temples and the Royal Palace. Where you’d expect most temples to feel like antiques, here they burst to life and explode with color. These temples are alive and a part of daily life.
If the architecture is the incredible, the food is simply divine. There are numerous trendy cafes serving all sorts of delicious food. We weren’t so brave as to try fried bugs, but here’s our short list of must have food and drink:
- Frog Legs and Quail Eggs at Slek Chak
- Tequila Black-Pepper Prawns at Metro
- A cool drink at the FCC to commune with history
- Happy hour drinks at the Quay overlooking the river, sunset, and the Tai Chi on the waterfront
We’ve only had a couple days to explore the city. So far it’s been hot, tiring, somewhat stressful, but also interesting. We keep looking forward to Angkor, so it’s hard to really feel like this is a destination unto itself. Despite that, it’s been fun to unwind, forget about work, and explore a new culture.
Next up we’ll have a post about the genocide and the Khmer Rouge since we’ll be visiting the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng. Grim, but it’s a real part of this country and its people.