Coming to Cambodia was never part of my travel goals. It never also came across my mind that I’ll be able to traverse this land as I’m done thinking about just visiting Pinoy-famous tourist spots in Asia which is Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.
I have less expectations for Cambodia as I only know that this country has deep history as it has one of the oldest civilization in the world which is the Siem Reap.
I traveled to Phnom Pehn on July 11, 2019 by bus from Ho Chi Mihn city, Vietnam which took almost 7 hours of travel that includes border pass – immigration and short stops in between travel for quick breaks. The border between Vietnam and Cambodia was one of my most memorable moment because I am a fan of Vox’s border episode. I became more interested on what every country’s border looked like that I was looking forward for my first ever border crossing experience which is the Vietnam-Cambodia border.
This is the Cambodia (left) and Vietnam (right) border. The Vietnam border is located in Bình Hiệp, Kampong Rou, Long An Province just an hour and a half bus ride from Ho Chi Mihn City. Passing through the immigration was easy as long as there aren’t many people waiting in line. Normally, you can walk from Vietnam Immigration and cross this border to Cambodia Immigration on foot but during my visit I had to hop on to the bus as there were numbers of Trucks probably trying to settle for customs. I posted a blog about this border. See if you find it interested here: The Cambodia-Vietnam Border.
First look of Cambodia.
It was probably 5:00PM when I reached Cambodia and from my first impression the country is full of dust and looked like the government is trying to build a good impression for visitors coming from the East as there are casinos, hotels and buildings here but the road still looked like a mess. It was foggy from the dust being created from vehicles. I started imaging what it will look like when it rains. Muddy?
It took me 4 hours of travel by bus to Phnom Pehn. During the travel hours I’ve noticed so many Wedding celebrations along the road and it was made up with somewhat paper folding, linen, cloth and other flower arrangements to decorate a tent. They just filled the celebration with LED lights and people were dancing, singing. I had the impression that Cambodians know how to party actually.
I actually lost track of time but based on my travel itinerary, which by the way, I made it myself, I have arrived in Phnom Pehn very late. Thanks to my instinct, I have saved money and time trying to reach my AirBnB. It is a nice thing to do to read your map and understand your location.
I reached AirBnB from the main city road by foot. Not too far if you are used to walking.
This is how my AirBnB looked like:
I stayed here at Envoy Hostel in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. If you are a backpacker, you can consider to stay here as it gives you that comfort that you commonly need. They offer free coffee, FREE POP CORN, wi-fi and drinking water. They’ve got friendly staff also which speaks adequate English. During my stay here, there were a couple of other foreigners who stayed here. If you want to check them out, just search for ENVOY in AirBnB and I tell you it’s so easy to located this hostel.
Talk about location, getting around in Phnom Pehn is also very easy as the streets were named as numbers. Take my AirBnb for Example, the street is 322. The blocks also has a number named street to it. If you look into your map, locating it would be very easy. Minus those Street names that you couldn’t read and probably pronounce.
July 12, 2019.
Did I mentioned that I traveled with 6 other friends? No I didn’t. We arrived in Phnom Pehn without Cambodian money of the Riel on a late evening. So my Ren (my male office mate friend) decided to get up early and search for the Money Exchange shop. We took the courage to walk early around street 322 of Phnom Pehn, without any information where is the nearest Money Exchange shop. It took us about an hour until we found ourselves in an Old Market. I was absolutely scared getting inside the Public Market as it was very Dark and wet! We found a lady, she was nice enough to deal with and just having a calculator as our means of communication. She was so honest that she gave us our change that we (Ren and I) totally forgot about. Yes! We got confused for minutes about what she was trying to explain because Ren was giving her USD and the lady refused to accept it. UNTIL we finally understood that she was just trying to give us the excess money from our trade. We couldn’t thank her enough.
We left the market and headed back to AirBnB and we found this street vendor cooking a Cambodian Dish called Mi Chao. It tastes like the Philippines’ Pancit Canton with vegetables but with a different kick of spice in it.
A little trivia.
You need not to worry running out of KHR in Phnom Pehn since one of their medium of trade is USD. I finally got that idea when I noticed that all of the shops that I saw had price tags with the dollar ($$$$) sign on it. They actually prefer to receive USD than of their own KHR.
I also have developed this one cool skill during this travel. I’m good with other currencies and all it takes is just keeping in mind one currency in mind to budget. But seriously, it’s so easy to be frugal on a cheap country like Cambodia. You can grab a meal with just a dollar.
My cousin once mentioned that there’s nothing you can do in Phnom Pehn. I started believing him the moment I saw Phnom Pehn in daylight. It somewhat looked like the same as the Philippines. Cambodians actually looked similar with the Filipinos. Our host, the front desk staff said “Oh! Filipinos! We look the same!” and I think I replied to him “Almost.” What I mean with the almost is that we differ only with the language, the way we open our mouths to talk.
In the end, I realized my cousin was wrong. Phnom Pehn has its own gem that the rest of the world doesn’t have. It’s their people. Their history and their culture.
It is more than just your travel destination. I have so much respect with Phnom Pehn.
So, in order for you to appreciate Phon Pehn, you must visit these places which I am going to list down below:
So, below are the things that we did during a whole day in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. To get into places around Phnom Pehn, you can hire Tuk-tuks which will cost you around 25USD for the whole day. Depending on your Tuk-tuk driver, they will suggest places that you can visit. Normally Cambodians are friendly and easy to talk to. Just look for the English speaking ones so you won’t have problem bargaining.
The travel spots I am about to enlist below are in order. So, if you are planning to go around Phnom Pehn, feel free to follow our route.
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
The place where they chronicled the Cambodian Genocide. Entrance fee for the museum is around 15USD and you will have the choice to go on tour with an audio guide. If you are into history, I suggest you pay for an entrance fee with an audio guide. I wasn’t able to pick the tour with the audio because we only have a limited time. So, instead, I grabbed one of the pamphlets at the entrance so I’ll have something to read on my free time. Visiting this place first means you’ll experience a sad beginning of the Cambodian History. I’ll be posting a different blog about this since I am so moved with its history.