Cambodia: Phnom Penh


We’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had proper time to continue on with my blogging of the rest of our SE Asia trip. I left off with us in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam but I still have to talk a bit about Cambodia. We were to spend about 7 days in Cambodia with the main highlight being Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. This post will be fairly short compared to the posts I will do about Angkor Wat and Siem Reap.

We left Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) via a public bus loaded with a bunch of tourists and local people headed to Cambodia. This would be the first time we were using local transportation for such a long journey.

The bus travel itself, if I can recall was interesting at times. The border crossing from Vietnam into Cambodia was unique for us too. We got off at the Vietnam border, off the bus and went through immigration. We got back on to the bus and then drove for about 2 minutes to the next check-point where we got off again, this time it was for Cambodia’s border. Luckily the border crossing here was fairly quick and painless. We all piled back onto the bus drove for about 10 minutes and stopped off for lunch. After a quick 30 minute lunch, everyone piled back on to the bus and we headed for Phnom Phen. We even drove though our tour guide’s home town too along the way.

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s capital city and located on the banks the Mekong River. We were to stay a total of 3 nights at the Cadaramon Hotel. We arrived at the hotel at around 2 PM, we were exhausted and starving. We were going to meet up with the rest of our group later in the evening for dinner so Robyn and I ordered some room service to tide us over until dinner. That was where the rest of our Phnom Penh experience took a dive for the worst. I ordered a rice dish of sorts, Robyn ordered a basic Pho soup. My food was right, but after a while Robyn mentioned that she wasn’t feeling good and that her Pho seemed “off”. I took a couple bites of it and agreed with her about it tasting “off”. It didn’t take too long but Robyn started not to feel good, I felt ok but not great. It got so bad that Robyn went to bed and essentially didn’t see any of Phnom Penh for the rest of the 3 days we were there. We concluded that we both had gotten food poisoning, but I was able to take the antibiotics we brought where she could not because of being pregnant. It was a horrible experience for both of us, but more so for her. We even had to move rooms because there was construction going on at a building next to where our room was located and Robyn couldn’t sleep. She was all achy, feverish and just overall not good.

Tuk-tuk Tour

Cambodia Royal Palace

That evening though, I went off with our group for a little tour of Phnom Penh. We saw how crowded the streets got with scooters and vehicles. We saw the variety temples that dot the Phnom Penh area. We even saw the presidential mansion which is massive. Bigger than anything I’ve seen here in BC. We even stopped off at the Royal Palace and saw hundreds of people congregated outside of the walls. According to our tour guide (Thou, pronounced “two”), the King of Cambodia died the week before or so and people were paying their respects. We wandered towards the river front and stopped off at a restaurant for dinner that evening.

The next day Robyn was still feeling quite ill. It got so bad that we were not sure if she would be able to travel to Siem Reap and see Angkor Wat in a few days. I was frantic looking at last minute flights out of Phnom Penh to Siem Reap or back to Thailand to come home earlier. Later in the event I went out again with our group and had dinner with a local family who our tour leader knew. They brought out it all for us at their home. I don’t think they normally eat what we had a great feast with the family. They even had some of their friends come over and eat with us. I opted not to bring my camera but the food was delicious and I enjoyed drinking rice whiskey from a bottle that had 2 tarantulas in it.

The next day Robyn was feeling a tad bit better, still not great though. Luckily, the night before with the help of our tour leader Thou, we managed to find some real Tylenol to help bring down her aches and fever. Robyn said she was fit enough for travelling again so we were a bit relieved that not only did we not have to fly out of Phnom Penh, but that we would both get to see Angkor Wat; one reason we wanted to go on this 28-day tour with Intrepid.

We left Phnom Penh and headed for Siem Reap. This time we did travel again by private bus and we made a few stops along the way.

Our first stop was for a bathroom break and some snacks. This is where you can pick up Cambodian specialties too, mainly BBQ’d tarantula. If it wasn’t for the food poisoning in Phnom Penh, I would have definitely wanted to try it. You could pick a live spider and have them BBQ it for you right there. They also had fried crickets among other local favourites.

Cambodian Tarantula

BBQ'd Cambodia Tarantula

Fried Crickets

Thou mentioned that this was the only place we would be able to get the BBQ’d tarantulas too as they are locally found in the area. If we ever return to Cambodia, we will have to make a special stop to that rest area so I can indulge in some fried critters. I’m always up for trying something new.

Carving Stone Statues in Cambodia

The next place we stopped off was an area known for their stone carvings. They would carve marble, sandstone, and other types of rock into beautiful statues and carvings. I bought a little stone elephant from one lady too. Some of the statues they were carving were 2 stories high! I tried to get Munal to stand in front of one to show the height, but she didn’t want to be in a photo.

Cambodian Sticky Rice

Thou peeling the bamboo

Robyn eating the sticky rice

The last stop on our journey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap was another little road side stand that sold a favourite of Robyn’s. That favourite through our entire trip was Sticky Rice. The cool thing about this sticky rice was that it was placed inside bamboo! They would cook the sticky rice inside the bamboo and then you would peel the bamboo like a banana. As you can see from Robyn’s expression, the LOVES sticky rice. The bamboo would keep the sticky rice warm for most of the day so you could eat it at a later time.

Thou with a Cambodian Flag

Random Cambodian Temple

There we go, a quick recap of our experience in Phnom Penh and the journey up to Siem Reap. We didn’t really experience much of Phnom Penh due to our food poisoning but what we did see of it, I am sure there is much more to explore.

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