It’s funny, Phnom Penh was probably our least favourite place in Cambodia and yet we ended up visiting three times. This was obviously by necessity rather than choice as it’s the hub for most major transport options, but still a funny thought.
Anyway, my point is that we were visiting more than once during our travels, so we decided to wrap all three visits into one post.
Apart from the abundance of pushy tuk tuk drivers, erratic traffic and blistering heat, the reason why we didn’t really like Phnom Penh was the lack of things to do. On the upside, the variety and accessibilty to street food is by far better than anywhere else we’d visited in Cambodia, so it wasn’t all bad.
Our first visit saw us travelling to the Killing Fields and Tuol Seng Museum; a truly sobering experience. In short, the Killing Fields is a mass grave of victims killed during the Khmer Rouge of 1975-1979. The Tuol Seng Genocide Museum is a former high school used as a prison during the same period. The stories we’d heard at these places were shocking. After spending half a day learning of the atrocities that happened we’d had enough.
On our second visit we made friends with a very friendly hostess at one of the girly bars around the corner from our hostel. These bars are mainly targeted at foreign men looking to pick up local girls, but with 50 cent draft beer, we were taking a seat regardless. We learned quite a bit about Cambodian culture from our new english-speaking friend. She also introduced us to a salty, sweet boiled egg snack sold from a passing cart. Anita wasn’t a fan but I didn’t mind them too much. After a few beers and a chin wag we said our goodbyes and headed to the night market for dinner.
The market had a number of stalls which involved picking a selection of edibles for them to prepare, taking a seat on a mat, and having them bring them to you. The market had a really nice atmosphere and surprisingly not that many tourists. It was there that I tried my first pong tia koon. Put simply, it’s a boiled fertilised duck embryo and a bit of a delicacy in Cambodia. It’s served with salt, pepper, Cambodian mint and a squeeze of lime. How does it taste? A mix between grey chicken meat, beef broth and hardened egg yolk with a soft crunch of bone. Yummo!
On our last visit to Phnom Penh we decided to take it easy by the hostel pool, mosey around the local market and get organised for our next destination – Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.