By late afternoon we arrived at our hotel. We quickly checked in, dropped our bags and left the room. We booked our next leg to Sihanoukville from our hotel receptionist. When I asked the guy booking our trip if the vehicle has an air conditioner, he remarked as though I was being ridiculous to even have asked him this silly question, "Of course! It's a brand new costing over $40,000 USD German Mercedes Madame!" After we booked our car trip he asked if we are hungry and handed us their restaurant menu. I looked at the menu, glancing at the food description and food photos which did not appear to be too exciting or appetizing despite my hunger. I also did not see anyone eating food which is a bad sign. When it comes to eating out I try to eat in places where I see many local people eating. We thanked him and handed him the menu. We decided to walk to the local market and I made a few purchases.
|view from inside a tuk tuk in the congested city|
|interesting architecture of the local market|
|woman selling bananas and leaves in the market|
(as a teenager my mother used to cut the leaves
from the banana grove behind
her parents' yard and sold them to the local
neighbors for extra money)
Earlier my husband read about happy hour served at the Elephant Bar located in the historic Raffles Hotel Le Royal. The hotel was beautiful with elephant art painted on the walls. We were pleasantly surprised that our drinks came with some tasty light snacks and we were entertained by a lovely live piano performance. Of course prior to visiting the hotel be sure to adhere to the dress code! Fortunately the staff let us in; I had flip flops, t-shirt and jeans.
After a fabulous time at the Elephant Bar we walked through the Phnom Penh night market. If you want to see the night crowd that's the place to be. There was a live entertainer, must be a comedian because people were laughing but we could not understanding Khmer. In one section of the market there were stalls with people selling all sorts of goods; watches, shoes, clothing, accessories, etc. You can shop and haggle for prices until you drop! In the back there were all types of Cambodian eateries. It seemed to be popular among local families and friends; large crowds of people gathered around, sitting on mats and eating their food. There were no tables or chairs but everyone seemed to be comfortable and having a good time.
Later we passed by the Riverhouse Lounge-a restored French building remodeled in 2009 and is currently a stylish restaurant and bar. We were curious about the interior and it appeared that this place is the place to be. The upstairs had some very loud music with lots of lights. We made our way inside through the crowd and walked right out again. Everyone was half our age and the music was loud and not particularly pleasant.
Next we visited the brand-new Frangipani hotel, and its popular rooftop bar. The temperature was about 85 degrees Fahrenheit and to me that was perfect to be sitting outside. We sat next to an expat couple who work for an NGO. They appeared to be enjoying life in Phnom Penh. They were going clubbing to hear some house music after dinner and had invited us to meet them there later. Maybe 15-20 years earlier I may have re-considered the invitation. However, I was not in the mood for house music, partly due to the fact that I was clueless to that style of music. On our walk back to our hotel we came across Memphis Pub. It is known to have the best Rock 'n Roll in the city. Lucky for us there was a live band and the music was exceptionally good. Although we were tired we ended up staying longer to watch them. Who would have thought to hear excellent Rock 'n Roll music in Cambodia?!
|a few of the dim sum|
dishes we ate
|enjoying a drink and light snacks |
at the historic hotel
|the Elephant Bar|
with live piano performance
|Phnom Penh night market|
|an entertainer at the night market|
|view of The Riverhouse Lounge|
|view from the rooftop bar at Frangipani hotel|
with excellent Rock 'n Roll music
|entrance of restaurant|
|woman selling Chinese home-style cooking|
Our tuk tuk took us to the palace. We hired an English speaking guide, named Ivenum and he pointed out interesting facts and history of the palace. The palace was constructed over a century ago and is still used by King Norodom Sihamoni. Part of the grounds were not open to the public when we visited since the King was visiting that day. The place has not changed much since our last visit in 2007 and the entire palace is kept amazingly spotless. It's a beautiful and peaceful place to walk and enjoy all the detailed architecture and sculptures especially when there are few tourists.
|2 monks outside of the Royal Palace|
|our guide, Ivenum (wearing a red shirt|
because it was Monday--
each day there is a different color)
|one of the most ornate doors|
on this trip
|statues next to a cannonball tree |
We left the Palace and took a tuk tuk to another market known as the Russian Market that my husband had read about. Our tuk tuk driver agreed to wait for us while we shopped. This market has everything you can ever want to buy from food, toys, souvenirs and all sorts of items that you may or may not need! We ended up buying a few apsara and Buddha statues. Outside the market I smelled pineapple and noticed a young girl selling them from the back of her bicycle. She was cutting the fruits and hanging them in a a clear plastic bags so people walking by can look at her beautiful work and be tempted to purchase them. The fruits looked and smelled amazingly sweet but I had to refrain myself from buying one. When it comes to buying fruits in Southeast Asia I generally buy those that I can peel myself--for sanitary reasons.
|strings of colorful|
|indoor food market|
meat on the left and vegetables on the right
|young girl selling freshly|
|beautifully cut pineapple|
with amazingly sweet aroma
|view from back of the tuk tuk|
(our driver was almost hit by the
guy holding some long boards)
|another typical view from a tuk tuk|
|door and flip flops|
Next we asked our driver to take us to a restaurant along the water. He was unable to give us a recommendation since the restaurants there were too expensive for him. My husband asked him where he goes and he showed him on a map. We finally asked him to drop us off at Khmer Saravan, one of the busier restaurants. The food was good but the writing and art from other travelers on the wall was even better! I ate amok (a popular dish in Cambodia) which was made with curry and fish. My husband had a pad Thai.
|our driver showing my husband where he |
and the other tuk tuk drivers eat
|interesting writing/art on the wall|
|"Lady! You want tuk tuk?"|
|amok-a popular dish in Cambodia|
(it seems that all the restaurants in Phnom Penh serve this)
|entrance of museum|
|beautiful courtyard of museum|
|apsara sculpture in courtyard|
We left the museum at closing and flagged down a tuk tuk to take us to the newly opened Frangipani Royal Palace Hotel & Spa. My husband read that there is a roof top bar with a nice view. We were looking forward to a drink and watch the sunset. We climbed up to the top and by then I was relieved and happy to have any cold drink! There was not much of a sunset due to the haze from burning fields (end of harvesting season) but from the top we could see all of Phnom Penh. The view in 2013 resembles more of a little city than in 2007. Despite the air pollution the view was still beautiful and we enjoyed the cool tropical breeze with our extra cold drinks!
|new skyscrapers in distance|
|Phnom Penh waterfront|
|waterfront at night|
We left our roof top view and took a tuk tuk to find the eatery that was recommended to us by our previous tuk tuk driver. After a long day in the tropical humid heat we were happy to sit down for some food and more cold drinks. I was pleased to see that this place had many customers. The food was home-style, inexpensive and it hit the spot!
The next morning we visited the same little Chinese eatery from the day earlier, and ate our final breakfast in Phnom Penh before heading to Sihanoukville. We sat in lounge chairs in front of the hotel waiting for our pick up. I noticed a woman with cart of food coming closer to us. It was very popular, the woman was slow traveling down the street since she stopped many times and was filling multiple orders. Even our hotel/restaurant owners ordered food from her. I decided to go up to cart and inspect the food. To my surprise I recognized the food, they were Vietnamese sweet snacks! I was delighted and bought a few containers.
|Vietnamese vendors selling food from a portable cart--|
typical sight in Southeast Asia
|delicious Vietnamese sweet snacks|
(thank you Paul for the photos)
We were at about half way into our trip and I started to smell a strange odor that I cannot identify. I thought it came from outside our vehicle so I did not say anything. Later our driver sensed something was wrong, pulled over and opened up the van. We all hopped out of the van and stood by the side of the road. One of the passengers is a French lady traveling alone. She waved to a young boy on a bicycle to come to her but he was painfully shy so he stood outside his yard. She then went over to him and gave him a small white bag. He put his palms together to thank her for the gift and rode off. I asked her what was in the bag. I thought it was candies. She gets lots of toiletry from the hotels during her travel, toothbrushes, soaps, etc. She would take all the toiletry given to her and then give them out to the local children. What an excellent idea! While we waited on the side of the road the local people looked at us with curiosity and some smiled and waved. We must looked strange since this brand new looking van stopped on the road with what looked like engine problem. While we were standing looking at the van my husband and I simultaneously noticed that our $40,000 Mercedes is actually a Ford. So much for being "brand new German".
|waiting on the side of the road|
|French lady giving out toiletry kit to local boy|
|3 happy and well-behaved boys|
in cart pushed by their father
|the sun going down and we were still far from Sihanoukville|