I landed in PP (short form of Phnom Penh) from Malaysia.
Most western countries need a visa for Cambodia which you can get at the border crossing.
You can do an E-visa, but the process was quite simple and painless when I went.
-One passport photo
-Several documents to fill in that you get on the plane/at the airport
I didn’t realize Cambodia uses USD as their main currency until several days before I went.
So I also recommend having USD before arriving, just enough to last till you can go to an ATM, but ATMs charge a withdrawal fee of around 5 USD plus your own foreign fees you incur from your bank. So maybe it is best having enough USD for your whole trip before leaving America. Or have it already exchanged if you don’t live in the USA, but I am not sure if that is a better deal for you than withdrawing at the ATM, etc.
In total, the visa process took 5 minutes.
Before I knew it, I was in a tuk tuk riding to my hostel. It cost me 10 USD, which my guide book said was normal and though it was about 7 km away, it took about an hour due to traffic.
Cambodia is also more expensive than I was imagining. I heard it was pretty run down especially PP, but when I got there, I found it is quite developed. I was thinking it would be more like the Philippines, but it definitely is not.
I met 2 women, a Dutch woman (IK) and a woman from Denmark (T).
Here are the main things to do in PP:
S-21 genocide museum
I went to both these with IK. We hired a tuk tuk to go out to the field and asked if he could drop us at the museum for 12 USD.
Here’s some history on Cambodia.
Between 1975-1979 Cambodia had a dictatorship by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. He was basically like Hitler- killing anyone who was an intellectual and didn’t fit his idea of the perfect Communist Cambodian. I found this hypocritical because him and his cronies were well educated in France and knew at least 3 languages. One even wore glasses (while others were killed for wearing them).
Thousands died, most in these killing fields (think Holocaust concentration camps, but they were only alive there for at most a day or two).
There was no mercy for children as babies would be smashed against trees once their parents were killed.
The audio guide is well worth it and very emotional.
It also irritated me that when Swedish officials came to inspect Cambodia, they didn’t believe any refugees and even defended the regime. This is irritating because that’s exactly what the Red CROSS did during the Holocaust. Honestly…..did no one learn from the tragedy that happened just 30 years prior?
The audio guide also mentioned that hopefully the fields will help prevent further genocide in the future, but it was doubtful. And that made me realize….this will probably happen again- which really was distressing.
The museum is where the regime had their secret torture prison. The sad part is they converted a high school for this purpose.
A place of happiness and joy, left stricken with despair and anguish.
The old school rooms have some cells still left as well as pictures of the victims because for some reason all regimes like to take pictures. Some rooms hold sensitive pictures (dead bodies) and the audio guide warns you ahead of time. Most of the photos are right after their arrest.
To enter the fields it’s 6 dollars with audio and to enter the museum it’s 8 with audio guide or 5 without.
After this fun morning…..sarcasm, we needed something nice. We hit some markets.
The first was the Russian market where we had lunch for 3 USD each.
That evening we went to a container market, all the shops are made from shipping containers. That was really cool and it was a nice area.
The next day I wanted to hit some of the major sites in the city center. But while I was walking a man in a tuk tuk approached me asking for a tour of the city. I bargained him to 16 usd, but due to change reasons ended up paying almost 17.
So, they don’t have USD cents, so for change, they use Cambodian riel. So by giving a 20 and say it was 15.50, I should have received 4 USD with 2,000 riel (1 USD is 4,000 riel).
It was rather hot and I planned a lot of walking and I figured what the hell.
He drove me around and was very knowledgeable.
Your basic big market
Only open 8-11 and 2-5. Make sure to wear sleeves and long pants. 10 Usd
I didn’t go because I didn’t feel like paying 10 usd especially when the locals pay 500 riel (that’s less than 25 cents).
I don’t mind paying slightly more as a tourist and foreigner, but that is a huge difference, which just shows me they are taking advantage of foreigners, which I think will hurt their tourism industry sooner than they think.
The royal palace can be done in 30 minutes depending on your walking and such. Most of it is closed as the king still lives there. I don’t recommend going unless you have a lot of time in PP.
My tuk tuk driver was very proud of the late king and how influential and popular he was in the world. My driver also told me he was born in a killing field and his father died in one as well. The way he said it made it seem very genuine and he was not trying to get extra money for me or whatever. It was very matter of fact for him. He only told me when I asked him about the time of Pol Plot.
I went back to the container market that night with T and a Canadian woman. I ordered a Cambodian salad, but upon receiving it, I realized that I had raw crab. I started freaking out. It is such a rookie mistake to order raw fish in a market while traveling.
I asked the owner about it and he said I will be fine. Well, it turns out, I was and I ended up going back a week later and he recognized me haha.
Both times I stayed at Mad Monkey Hostel. It is a bit of a party hostel and I recommend not reserving the 6 bed mixed dorm because you will be right by the bar, which they kick everyone out at around midnight so then it will be quiet, but if you expect an early night- you won’t get this.
There is a pool and like in many places in Southeast Asia, there is a restaurant associated with the hostel. It is a chain so there are a lot of Mad Monkeys in Asia.
Anyways, my Dutch friend, IS, and I had a night bus, please see my post on Battambang, and arrived very tired and early to PP. We took an easy day. We met two gentlemen that accompanied us on our journey in PP.
The first was a young man from Canada who joined us to a day trip around PP to see 2 more temples as well as sunset on a lake. We didn’t get to see the sunset as it was a cloudy day, but it was still nice.
The road to the temples is very dusty and our driver got us masks. We ended up paying 20 USD per person, but it was about a 2 hour drive there and back.
The first temple is on a hill with many steps so that took us a bit of time and we sweated a lot since it was the height of the day.
These temples are not very known among foreigners. There was a big group of local tourists. The temples are also not well maintained. The one on the hill had construction work and small children were begging. The second temple had elderly begging.
After the touristy well maintained images of Angkor Wat and even the temples in Battambang, this was a bit of a shock and a good comparison.
The second young man we met was from Brasil, but basically has lived everywhere! He awarded me with honorary Latina, which is freaking awesome! He joined us to the container night market and hung out with us during the pub crawl. Mad Monkey’s pub crawl donates the money spent to join on local charities, which was really awesome!
I really enjoyed Cambodia and hope you like it as well!
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