Welcome to Phnom Penh; Cambodia's vibrant capital of luxury and poverty, intense tourism, massive congestion and honking, pricey hotels, astounding Khmer and French-influenced architecture, best sugarcane juice we ever tasted, rapid westernisation, tour guides who speak good english, cheap yummy street food, really happening night life, swanky restaurants overlooking the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, and lots of other surprises.
Amidst the colors of bustling economic and industrial activity, there seems to be an air of grey that still lurks over the city. It is indeed hard to imagine that just about 30 years ago, thousands were insanely exterminated and mass buried during the Khmer Rouge regime that took Phnom Penh by force.
The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum need no introduction.
As we walked solemnly round the stupa that housed thousands of human skulls, many questions shot through my head. I can't help but wonder who these people are, what they did when they were alive, and how they looked like.
As we got to Tuol Sleng in the afternoon, my questions were answered. Photographs of victims were displayed at the site that was formerly a high school. When the Khmer Rouge regime swept to power, the site was converted into the Security Prison 21 (S-21) where prisoners were interrogated and kept.
Bed for high-ranking prisoners who would be shackled down with iron bars.
Beyond the grim, we did find time to seep in the sights of Phsar Thmay (or Central Market); a French-influenced dome-shaped architectural wonder built during the colonial rule.
Were impressed by dare-devil stunts by teenagers having fun in the roller-blading rink. Note the difference between them and Singaporeans - they aren't even wearing knee guards and they don't give a shit!
Stopped by a walkway along the river to wonder if even trash cans are architectural wonders.
Stared in amusement at how much shellfish is being consumed by Cambodians daily. Note the different 'seasoning' and huge quantities. Mind you, this is after loads have already been bought up earlier in the morning. I seriously wonder what they eat it with. Must find out!!!
How could we forget to showcase the lovely place we stayed at! This is Billabong Hotel. A pleasant escapade from all that hustle and bustle. The hotel is within walking distance from places such as Sorya Mall and Phsar Thmay, and there's even a swimming pool for guests to get away from the heat! Which I suppose is the hotel's prized asset since they emphasize it alot. Haha.
The people at Billabong are really nice. Service is good and they even helped put together a little surprise party by the pool for Bibu :) Oh! Breakfast is included in the room rates and every morning, we get to choose between fried rice or eggs with sausage/bacon. There isnt a picture of the fried rice but its yummy!
Juice is included too!
Here's the interior of our room! The decor is modest and contemporary with clean bathroom and sheets. We paid about USD$39 per night for the standard room with pool view located on the 3rd floor if I remembered correctly. Haha. We initially wanted the deluxe with private balcony but those were fully booked!
Well, the Billabong's a nice place to stay at but some have complained that the pool invites Caucasian men who bring along their Cambodian girlfriends. That didnt bother us though.
Before we left for Phnom Penh, we already heard about the famous or infamous FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) so we had to give it a try! We wanted to stay there initially (the FCC houses a restaurant and hotel rooms) but after reading tonnes of unpleasant hotel room reviews, we decided that a meal at their chic restaurant would suffice. The open-aired restaurant overlooks the Mekong and prides itself on a menu that invokes a delightful fusion of Asian and Western flavors.
Bibu had the Fish Amok - some sort of fish curry that was served with steamed rice.
While I had a pork belly dish but unfortunately forgotten its name :( The food is not too bad and we adjourned from our dining table to some bar seats offering a view of the city's busy streets.
Where we had Angkor Beer and some fried calamari as snacks but we didnt snap a picture of it! Damn! Those calamari were pretty good and came with a dipping sauce made from lime and vodka :D
Since I'm on the topic of food, we also tried stuff from this local fastfood outlet - Lucky Seven! They have really good nuggets and sandwiches with sinful fried chicken in it. Sorta like the Zinger burgers from KFC.
And speaking of KFC, guess what?! They have made their way into Cambodia with a first outlet at Monivong Boulevard - think Globalization!! A little birdie told us that the staff were trained by the people from Malaysia's KFC and the food quality is kept to that same standard as well. We tried, and hey it does taste like the ones from Malaysia!! Good for them, since Malaysia's KFC does taste pretty good!
Fried chicken aside, we randomly bought a packet of fried noodles with sliced beef from a street food vendor and omg, it was awesome!!! We paid USD$1 for that packet and boy was that 1 buck super worth it. The noodles were springy with super alot of MSG (horrors!) but it was devilishly tasty with sweet chilli sauce and other flavorings. Hah!
Before the post ends, did we mention we popped by Swensen's as well? It was cheap lah. Cannot resist!
And what's more, they had special Tuk Tuk Sundae!!!
So cute! Must eat!!