When after spending a few days in Siem Reap, I decided to move to Phnom Penh, it was FOR ONLY ONE NIGHT – before further moving to the coast. I had more than just a fortnight left in Cambodia, and islands were my priority. But as I arrived in Phnom Penh, one night became two, two became four, and four became almost a week. Every day, I woke up, thought to myself, I’ll get in the bus tomorrow, and wasted the entire day street hopping, eating, and drinking. That wasn’t me. But the city had cast its magic on me.
Phnom Penh is a kind of city that stuck you in. It is laid back, cheap and easy-going. Everything here is accessible at a hand’s reach, and at a cost cheaper than affordable. The pace of life is seamless, and the many affable locals make the city enjoyable to a next level. In short, Phnom Penh is a perfect city to easily blend in, and you don’t need more than one day to realise that.
What I particularly loved about the city is its global approach to things and a Wild West feel. The streets are made of dirt, but cars and motorbikes race around you in all directions. As the sun goes weary, the people swarm the streets, and the many restaurant and bars come to life, with their undying and attractive happy hour offers. The buildings were a bit run down from years of neglect, yet the city was no short of contrasts – thanks to the many ritzy hotels standing tall and promising.
And then there is this addictive rawness in its air. With looting and mugging not being a rare sight, some people call the city risky. Sure, you may call it risky, but if you look it with my eyes, you would prefer the term ‘adventurous’. “I am Indian by origin, handling a little heat should be no problem for me”, reassured my heart, every time a tuktuk driver asked me to put my bag on my chest, before the ride.
Phnom Penh is moreover a place that you have to get to know beneath the surface. You have to look for the patterns. On the outset, the city might look crazy and wild, but if you take the time to chat with a local – maybe the vendor who sold you hippie pants in the market yesterday, or a waiter who served you the breakfast, you will learn that this city – and the country, at large – is still recovering from a dark past, yet the people here are nothing but all smiles. You will learn that Khmers are kind, cheerful and are thankful for you visiting their country.
[Also Read: How Much It Costs To Travel In Cambodia]
It was the spirit of Phnom Penh that reassured my love for it. It was the smiles of the locals that I have brought back with me.
Indeed, the city felt great!
Where To Stay In Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh offers a great accommodation scene. Most of the places, whether a youth hostel or a hotel, offer clean beds and a good customer service. Though the staff can always be found expecting tips, you at least won’t have to worry much about the quality. I stayed in a backpacker hostel called Same Same Backpacker, located inside the heart of the city and only about 600 meter from the Royal Palace.
Planning a trip to Cambodia soon? Read Cambodia Travel Guide and learn more about the country.
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