Travel and Tourism

Phnom Penh in 72 hours

Chit U. Juan - The Philippine Star
Phnom Penh in 72 hours

The Royal Palace which serves as the residence of the King of Cambodia.

MANILA, Philippines - Seasoned travelers recommend that you stay at a luxury hotel when it is your first time in a strange city. No less than the choice of presidents and heads of states, we decided to stay at the Le Royal by Raffles during our first group visit to the Kingdom of Cambodia.?And it did not disappoint.

From the well adorned lobby that was simple yet elegant to the elegant suites, this hotel is a good choice for first time visitors.?

Cafe Monivong where breakfast is served has courteous staff to see to your every need. The front desk staff are helpful without being intrusive. And the housekeeping staff are very efficient while being friendly and helpful.?

As we were entertained by our ASEAN women-leader friends, we got a taste of Sunday traffic along the boulevard by the Mekong River on our way to Yi Sang restaurant. Though the temperature is similarly warm like Manila’s, there was a gentle breeze that made our dinner pleasant as we tried Cambodian fare– Cambodian noodle soup, a vegetable soup medley, and a curry-like laksa which was mixed boiled vegetables doused with a coconut milk-based spicy sauce. All good and spiced just right.

The next day we went for the specialties cooked up by the ladies like squash shoots in garlic, another vegetable soup with local varieties similar to our laswa, chicken in basil which is a Thai influence. For dessert we had steamed durian cakes (like puto) and steamed black rice cakes with a mung bean stuffing.

As we were in Moon Coffee we also had a taste of the local brew from Mondalkiri and Kep states. A coffee roaster who sat beside me takes pride in sourcing coffee from 25 provinces and having a thriving coffee roasting business equipped with four – yes, four – giant 60-kilo roasters!?

Dinner was the famous Amok, a fish curry served in a fresh coconut bowl, beef satay with papaya pickles and lots of mixed vegetables and rice cakes, spring rolls and to drink we had banana whiskey which is 40-proof alcohol.

We were hosted by Palm Boutique Hotel’s owners (a woman-owned enterprise) for dinner and even checked out their penthouse which affords a fantastic view of the city at night.

There are many silk stores as well as stone and handicraft choices at the Wat Phnom Cultural and Handicraft Center, in the same building as the Wat Phnom pagoda. There also are walkable streets by the Royal Palace where the bachelor king resides.?

We may have had barely three days to explore the city but we know we’re definitely coming back. Although Siem Reap is the most famous destination in Cambodia, a trip to Phnom Penh, the political capital at the junction of the mighty Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers, is a good introduction to the culture of this warm and friendly people. If you are a coffee lover, Phnom Penh will make even Seoul pale in comparison with the number of local and international brands of coffee houses. There are several Korean coffee brands as well as U.K. and US flagship coffee stores.

For a taste of touristy things to do, you can ride a tuktuk which seems to be the more famous mode of taxi transport. And you can walk along the riverside and check out the street food which ranges from the usual street fare to the exotic – like  insects and seahorses! Not for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure.

Looking for souvenirs to share with folks back home? Take a bag or two of their famous kampot pepper (available in fresh green, white or black), their version of aromatherapy concoctions like tiger balm, and also their Cambodian Mondalkiri coffee.?

When you plan a visit to Cambodia, start with the capital and then take the road to the provinces and other tourist destinations like elephant conservation sites, eco farms and silk farms, too. Get to know our ASEAN neighbors and discover how similar yet distinct we are.





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