We flew into Phnom Penh from Vietnam (however, you can also book a Bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh) and after a small wait at immigration to get our visa on entry, were through, collecting our bags and into our waiting car (as always the board said Mr Ben!). We had landed in the morning so drove straight into the morning rush hour – after India, no roads are crazy any more so we settled back and watched the city awake around us.Thursday 34°CFriday 35°CSaturday 34°CSunday 33°C
We had booked to stay in the The Kabiki which, although right in the heart of the city, was hidden down a very quiet neighbourhood past a security barrier and gate house next to various embassies. The entrance to the hotel was through a lush green garden and we were offered a seat by the cute swimming pool with welcome drinks whilst we waited for our room. Unfortunately we ended up waiting for nearly 2 hours for our room which, given the beautiful surroundings, wouldn’t have been so bad but we could see other people, who had arrived after us, checking in and being taken straight to their rooms. It became apparent that we had been forgotten and that the single receptionist was rushed off her feet. Not the best start for a 4* hotel.
After checking in and dropping our bags off, we headed straight back out. Our first stop was the Royal Palace. There were plenty of auto rickshaws and tuk tuks about but we opted to walk having been sat down all day so far which gave us time to look around as well rather than whizzing past it all. It was really easy to navigate and we barely got given a second glance by the locals which was a refreshing change from other countries.
As we got close to the Palace, it absolutely poured down (having umbrellas is a really important part of travelling during monsoon season – worth it though as not many tourists come during this time). As with most downpours, it didn’t last long and by the time we had got our tickets and had our bags checked, the sun was out, the ground was drying and a rainbow had appeared over one of the temples.
The Palace grounds were massive and, whilst you couldn’t go into many of the buildings, you could freely wander around the rest with the locals, the devout and many monks. There weren’t many tourists here at all, in fact there was barely anyone there!
Departing the Palace complex, we wandered down to the river side and aimlessly walked through the stalls, families and normal tat being sold before deciding to hop aboard a sunset river “cruise” which was about to depart along the Mekong River. The boat was a typical double decker style with a mixed cliental of tourists, families with children and monks with iPads!
The boat did a figure of 8 loop up and down the river giving us plenty of time to take in the setting sun with the palace silhouetted in front whilst people watching – there were lots of houseboats moored along the banks crammed full of people living and working. Drinks, but sadly no beer, was available to purchase from a battered ice box on the lower deck.
Returning to the shore, the heavens opened again and we got absolutely drenched before running for shelter into The Blue Pumpkin ice-cream parlour which turned out to be such a brilliant idea – awesome selection of ice creams in a very laid back atmosphere (white sofas to recline on).
After returning to the hotel to shower and change, we headed back out to the Connecting Hands Cafe. This smart little air-conditioned (we sat outside) cafe on St 178 is set up to assist victims of trafficking or abuse with vocational training as chefs, baristas and waitresses. The menu offers a good range of international favourites and local specialities nicely rounded off with their signature turmeric crepes. There were plenty of veggie options for me as well! We finished the night off at the Eclipse Sky Bar which had stunning views but ridiculous prices (and we felt out of place in shorts and flip flops) so we left and headed back to our hotel for some much needed sleep.
Tips and Tricks:
- The totally free offline maps.me app is getting better again and show nearly everything I wanted to plot
- Remember to book everything you can via TopCashBack – even when booking via Hotels.com, Booking.com etc or even direct with the hotel/car hire/carrier
- As always, my Revolut card worked perfectly
- Bookaway.com offer a great range of transfers and tickets. Get your tickets for Phnom Penh