We finished our days in Cambodia with the capital, Phnom Penh for just a quick visit. One day and one night were enough to have a glimpse of this very promising city! Actually, our agency hadn’t proposed us to go but we insisted because come on, if you don’t see the capital of a country have you really see it?
I divided it in two parts, day and night, because they were so much different!! We had only one day to see the basics so we visited the must-see for a tourist: the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda and the Wat Phnom temple. Interesting of course but not very thrilling I must say… It was also so much hot this day, you couldn’t stand yourself with the clothes, no wonder why at night everything is better!
So, starting from the Royal Palace, built in 1813 containing several buildings which have been used for the coronation of kings and other ceremonies. I remember in king’s throne room I saw the biggest carpet I’ve ever seen, and a girl ironing a part of it, on the ground. Unfortunately, you weren’t allowed to take any photos. Within the grounds of the Palace is the Silver Pagoda, named because of the 5.000 silver tiles weighing 1kg each which cover the entire floor.
Continue to Wat Phnom, the city’s main temple situated on top of a hill along with throngs of worshippers. To tell you the truth, what impressed me the most of all of them was the wall murals with the beautiful paintings. Very large areas painted with stories from their history/mythology, unbelievable detailed. Some parts of them vrey splatter!
What we didn’t see and I believe it must have been very interesting to understand the cultural context of modern Cambodia was the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre, a testament to those who suffered under the Khmer Rouge and a serious piece of the country’s history that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Phnom Penh is growing very fast, catching the eye of investors and entrepreneurs, mostly from China from what we’ve been told. For return visitors who prefer the city the way it was, this unrelenting urban expansion may come as an unpleasant shock. However, for me that didn’t know anything, and from the very small part I saw, I was very intrigued. I think it has a lot of dynamic, as any Asian big city after all.
A characteristic that shocked me a little though was the sex tourism thing that was happening all over. At least, around the area we’re staying at the city’s center. There were many bars with pretty girls hanging out outside, inviting European guys to keep them company and a lot of solo men walking around. I know it’s a real thing but I was kind of socked seeing it in front of me, out in the open, so easy and so normal.
Phnom Penh’s riverside area is a lively public place with a wide assortment of Khmer and Western restaurants and a bar on nearly every rooftop. A lot of people around, a lot of music from everywhere and a lot of colorful lights! I was fascinated by it, like a huge party in the city! We had dinner at one of the most popular riverside night spots, Oskar Bistro, an urban-chic look and feel, with great food and cocktails, being very lucky to find a table.
One of the coolest thing I saw was a live, coaching, public dance at the riverside, where so many people were participating, dancing so casually, having fun! Anyone could hop in, make a few moves and continue to have a drink at a bar, I didn’t do it though..my western shyness hold me back from all this fun.
We found also a Night Market very cool – of course my mother wouldn’t miss a good market, she could find it in closed eyes! It was very big, with so many tents and very nice clothes actually! I bought some cute stuff, waiting the summer to be worn…if we ever go out from the lockdown! At the end of the night market, or at the center depending how you see it, there was a big scene with live music, which I totally loved!!! Someone could say lame but that’s what I love the most! You can check in my instagram account (at highlights) some videos from then. Behind the music scene there was a large street food area, with a lot of people eating and hanging around. Unfortunately, we didn’t try anything because we were afraid, but they were very tempting.
What can I say, I love Asian culture and Asian expression of life and this is what I found in Phnom Penh! I was very happy that eventually we did make a stop there, totally worth it.