We took a 5.5hr car ride from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, via a min-van booking we did at the last minute. Here’s video that I have put together to document our trip in Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh is a stark contrast to Siem Reap, with it being a city with sprouting skyscrapers. The only constant is Tuk-Tuk 🙂 This city is largely similar to Ho Chi Minh City and we felt some of the streets and alleys were unusually quiet. Perhaps our late arrival in Phnom Penh attributed to this tinge of uneasiness.
We stayed at this new modern hotel named Aquarius Hotel; well known for its rooftop sky bar and infinity pool. It is more of a boutique hotel with the hippest and contemporary-styled room ever. Here’s a shot of our breakfast:
The infinity pool really offers a good view.
Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
Our first stop was Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda.
It was crowded at certain times due to tour groups but other than that, it’s still a relaxing visit. After a while, we realised that we were the only ones left and we were told by the guard that they usually close during lunch time from 1130am-200pm. Wow, that’s a good work-life balance.
One thing I noticed was that there will be cats inside the temples and they are all so skinny. On a side note, I would recommend to spend around 1 hour exploring this place at a comfortable pace.
We did our research and shortlisted this cafe near the Royal Palace. If you are craving for some healthy bowls to any other vegetarian/vegan options, this is the place to go. It’s a 2-storey building and we regretted not going second floor to have our meals. haha.
After this, we headed to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to know about the Khmer Rouge regime.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Well I have to say you would need to adjust your mood before visiting this place. I can’t believe so many people (1.7 – 2 millions lives) were killed during this Khmer Rouge regime 1975-1979. Come to think of it, it’s not long ago.
The Mysterious Golden Temple
After this, we hopped on a Grab Tuk Tuk, on a quest to search for the Golden Temple that I kept seeing on Instagram and some blogs. The address was Wat Klean Klang. This is where our trip got interesting and memorable. We never found the place. LOL.
The ride was arduous enduring rain and sand on a Tuk Tuk (Thank god there’s a cover) and it was close to an hour ride away from Phnom Penh. When the tuk tuk driver stopped at the destination, we were shown a barren land! And it was raining. Holy shit. We saw some temple-like buildings and stupas leading somewhere inside and got the driver to drive us in and dropped us there. We found ourselves in a rural village where we sought shelter at this temple, with companions such as dogs, puppies, cats, a giant monkey.
We were stuck there in the rain for close to 2.5 hours and my bladder was bursting. There was no sight of any gold temple or structure at all. We braved through the rain and explored the nearby stupas and temples but to no avail. Suddenly a little girl appeared, who seemed to have finish classes nearby in her uniform. She and the cat seemed to like us and followed us. She couldn’t seem to understand English but we enjoyed each other’s company. The little girl was staring at my straw bag and touching it; think she has never seen a straw bag before too. I wonder if she had been to the city besides this small village that she grew up in.
The cat was so cute but I was in no mood to play with the cat as my full and bursting bladder was making me so miserable; I was desperate to find a toilet. We showed the little girl pictures of toilet bowls but she shook her head. Her elder brother was nearby with his bike, selling fruits. Thereafter, her elder brother came over and pointed to a direction for toilets. It was then it dawned on me that their toilets are those squat kind, not sitting kind. And that she may not have seen toilet bowls before. When I was heading to the toilet area, I really couldn’t bring myself to go in at all. Especially with the huge-ass monkey stationing outside the row of toilet cubicles.
We tried to GrabCar and Grab Tuk Tuk but no response. Then, a local drove past with his tuk-tuk and we asked him if he can offer his services. He initially wanted to head back home and call it a day but knowing that we wanted to go to Phnom Penh, he was willing to take us back there. A ride of USD12 meant a lot to them.
So we left the place and bade farewell to the little girl and her elder brother. While we were on the tuk tuk heading to Phnom Penh, we saw a bike drove past us and a little girl turned back and waved at me. It was the same little girl back there. I waved back. I could not forget the happy smile on her face.
We asked the tuk tuk driver where exactly is the golden temple and he said maybe it’s another distance away. Even when we asked our hotel concierge, they didn’t seem to be sure too. So I guess, this golden temple will always be a mystery to us. Anyone knows where exactly this is?
We had our dinner at Mok Mony, an unassuming local Khmer eatery located at an alley but we were surprised to see it so packed with customers. I can’t get enough of Fish Amok and their asian dishes.
And we had dinner at Aquarius Hotel rooftop to enjoy our last night there.
The very next day, we tried to explore nearby for cafes but it started to rain. We then headed to the airport and we still manage to get a taste of Brown Coffee, a famous coffee chain in Phnom Penh. And I just had to have my last Fish Amok before I leave.
We initially had separate seats and asked for us to be seated together – and I got what we wish for at the emergency exit seats! Bigger leg space for my fiancé. So that sums up our adventure in Phnom Penh. Anyone knows where to find authentic Khmer food in Singapore? Damn, I have cravings for fish amok now. 🙂