On our Southeast Asia trip around the holidays we decided to spend New Years Eve in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. As soon as we got out from the airport, we were jumped by tuk-tuk drivers who offered us a ride to the city center for 15 dollars but in the end we decided to get into the city from the airport with the bus. Although the official currency is riel, everyone happily accepts US dollars. It came as a surprise to us when we payed the bus ticket for both of us with a 1 dollar note and got change back.
After settling into our accommodation at Vacation Boutique hotel, we quickly made a list with the sights we wanted to see during our short stay.
Our accommodation was less than 5 minutes from the market so we couldn’t stay away, we had to have a look inside the market, to see how a Cambodian market looks like. They had everything, from food and spices to clothes, shoes and electronics. The first thing you will notice is the lack of prices on the items which means they will always tell you a higher price. Don’t forget you can negotiate almost everywhere in Southeast Asia.
Royal Palace and Park
Our next stop on the list was the Royal Palace. Due to the number of tourists, you can see people selling different things here, even children selling bags of corn to feed the pigeons. The women are mostly selling food which is carried on their shoulders using a pole and attached to both ends they have their food pots, but there are some who have stands with food as well.
Although these are for tourists only, if you are looking for spiders, snakes or grasshoppers, you are in the right place.
Statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk
This a huge bronze statue of the former king who died as a hero in 2012. The statue is hard to miss if you are heading to the Independence Monument which is literally a few meters away. In the park area, there’s a really good atmosphere in the early evening with kids and adults playing around.
The Independence Monument of Phnom Penh was built in 1958 as a memorial to their independence from France in 1953. This monument is very similar with the Angkor Wat tower and is located in the heart of Phnom Penh.
Because we weren’t that hungry after a hearty lunch, we decided to skip dinner and just go for something sweet before heading over to the NYE party on the Mekong riverside where all the locals were gathering for the NYE celebration. We found a French place that sold crepes with nutella and banana.
We couldn’t celebrate empty handed so we decided to stop at a supermarket and get some drinks. Even though we didn’t arrive late, a lot of people were already gathered in the park and surroundings. Most people were having a picnic on the grass with friends and family, since unlike our previous European NYE celebrations, here was T-shirt weather.
Around midnight a firework show started from across the river. It wasn’t that big of a celebration for us, but it was special since it was the first one outside Europe. We spent a few more minutes around the park after which we headed back to our accommodation. Next day we had our flight to Siem Reap to view and photograph Angkor Wat and the Angkor temples.
- The currency is riel but dollars are highly accepted
- Always leave tips in restaurants as the wages are really low in Cambodia
- Wear appropriate clothes if you are planning a visit to the temples
- Always keep your bag or camera around your neck/shoulder as scooter theft is popular in here
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