Monday, December 10, 2018

[Travel/ Food Guide] Itinerary to Phnom Penh (金边), Cambodia (柬埔寨) 2018.

The capital of Cambodia- Phnom Penh sits at the junction of Mekong River and Tonle Sap... has recently experienced rapid expansion and developments due to a great influx of foreign direct investments. Being the most populous city in the nation, Phnom Penh is a melting pot for culture; tourists get to experience its vast and diversified culinary offerings... seeing both urban and developing sides of the nation. The place is happening but not as worth-visiting as compared to Siem Reap... the historical city that houses Angkor Wat, one of the seven wonders of the world. If you are planning to visit, we'd recommend a 4 Day 3 Night trip would be more than suffice. Check out our write up about Angkor Wat few years ago here

Moving Around in Phnom Penh:

Tuk-Tuk or taxis are widely used in Phnom Penh but to prevent any unhappy moments dealing with the drivers, it is best to use ride-hailing apps... for fairly charged fare as well as exact pin-point location without going through the hassle of explaining the location to the drivers (most local drivers are English-illiterate). While Grab is widely used by most tourists, the locals use PassApp. I was using Grab throughout my entire journey- certain locations might be hard to pin point and the exact location turned out to be a little different from the pick up point.

1) Royal Palace of Phnom Penh
Address: Samdach Sothearos Blvd (3), Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Business Hours: 8 am to 5 pm. Opens Daily.
Admission Fee: USD $10

One of the iconic landmarks of Phnom Penh is the Royal Palace. Built in the 1860's, the place was home to the royal families of Cambodia. It has many stories to be told; visitors may pay a fee to enter the place with a guided tour to visit the palace. We did not visit the palace as we read reviews saying it's not worth it to visit. The place turns lively in the evenings though... with locals gathering around right in front of the empty space to chill out and hang around.

2) Sisowath Quay
Address: Preath Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Right opposite the Royal Palace of Phnom Penh is Sisowath Quay, the 3 kilometer-long boulevard along the intersection of Tonle Sap and Mekong River is one of the must-visit places in Phnom Penh. It may be too hot to visit during the day time but the place is very crowded in the evenings. The locals take casual stroll after dinner and many gather here for games, exercises and casual hangouts. We recommend dropping by this place after visiting the Royal Palace... as this is just a street-cross away from the palace.

3) Central Market of Phnom Penh
Address: Central Market (Phsar Thmei), Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Business Hours: 7 am to 6 pm. Opens Daily.

Grilled Squid (USD $11/ depending of size)

Bun Rieu (7,000 KHR/ USD$1.75)

Other food stalls in Central Market

Fruits and Vegetable Stalls in the Central Market

No trip to Phnom Penh is complete without a trip to Phnom Penh's Central Market; besides, the best way to experience the local culture is to visit a local market right? There are many things to see and eat in Central Market; set aside the souvenirs and household items, the food corner of the market is worth a trip there. It took us a while to decide what to try but we were particularly attracted to the giant Squid on the grill. We had one for USD $11... beautifully grilled and brushed with Scallion Oil, served with tangy, spicy-sour local Cambodian Chili dip. The texture was perfect... chewy but not rubbery and seriously addictive. But the huge portion was more than satisfactory for the two of us. Though not particularly cheap, it's definitely one of the must-tries in our opinion. We yearned for something piping hot and thus, the Bun Rieu was our choice. The delicacy is basically Crab Cake-based Vermicelli Noodles topped with meat toppings and fresh greens. Delicious on its own but even better with the addition of those colorful chili dips.

If you are into nuts (Cashew Nuts, Almonds or even Lotus Seeds), the Central Market is the best place to stock up some. Some of the proprietors can speak decent Mandarin and they are willing to offer better rates (at least better than supermarkets). Do try to bargain if you are buying in bulk.

Clothing and Accessories available in the market

4) Be.K Dessert & Coffee
Address: #16, St.306 Boeng Keng Kang 1, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Business Hours: 8 am to 10 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +855 86 757 582
Be.K Dessert & Coffee Facebook Page

Coconut Snow Bingsu (USD $6.50)

Beat the heat by having a bowl of icy cold sweet treat at Be.K Dessert & Coffee. The cafe is a little off the beaten track from most tourist attractions but riding on a Tuk Tuk should be able to get you there (short 5-10 minute drive from Royal Palace). The cafe menu features a great range of Korean delights but our eyes were on the Bingsu. To cool down, we had the Coconut Snow Bingsu... Korean shaved ice using Coconut Juice as the base and topped with Vanilla Ice Cream, served with condensed Milk and fresh Longan fruit. The texture was good but the Coconut flavor could be bolder. Cozy space with comfortable seats, one of the places that you can escape the heat.

5) AEON Shopping Mall
Address: #132, Street Samdach Sothearos Blvd (3), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Business Hours: 8 am to 10 pm. Opens Daily.

Green Tea & Red Bean Bingsu (USD $2.70/ individual size)

Mango Bingsu (USD $6.50/ regular)

While visiting a local market is a good idea to experience the local culture, it is also great to visit a local supermarket or shopping mall, especially if you would like to see the spending power of the general public. AEON Mall is one of the largest and latest malls in Phnom Penh with many international brands. The supermarket's food corner offers a great variety of local eats freshly cooked on the spot. Though prices are higher, everything is handled with better hygiene (good for those who with sensitive stomach). 

Dessert lovers may also check out Swensens, the famous Ice Cream parlor has its own local flavors in Cambodia. We especially recommend the Mango Bingsu with sticky rice (Glutinous Rice); the concoction is amazing. The ice is finely shaved and drizzled with fresh Mango juice, underneath the shaved ice is the sticky rice. Great texture and familiar combination. 

Food Section in AEON

6) Mama Wong's Dumplings and Noodles
Address: #41, St.308, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Business Hours: 11 am to 11 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +855 97 850 8383
Service Charge: 7%

Steamed Sea Bass on Fresh Noodles (USD $4.50)

Duck Noodle Soup (USD $4.50)

Spiced Lamb Dumplings (USD $4.50)

Highly rated on Trip Advisor, Mama Wong's Dumplings and Noodles received many positive reviews on many major review websites. We were curious and made a special trip there just to see how good they are. To our dismay, we found out the place was entirely occupied by Western visitors. You know what happens if there is no Chinese in a Chinese restaurant.

We had Steamed Sea Bass on Fresh Noodles and Duck Noodle Soup, both come in huge serving but the flavors and seasonings were weak. The only thing good about our orders was the texture of the Noodles.... smooth and al-dente, almost like Japanese Ramen. The Spiced Lamb Dumplings were not any better as well, the dumpling skin was hard in texture and the filling barely registered any flavors. Save for the food presentation, the overall impression towards this place is pretty negative. 

7) NagaWorld Hotel & Entertainment Complex
Address: Samdech Hun Sen St, Park 12301, Cambodia
Business Hours: Opens Daily- 24/7.

The name NagaWorld needs no further introduction. It is one of the latest development plans for Phnom Penh. It is an entertainment complex- hotels, casino and a mall... in the heart of Phnom Penh. It has 2 buildings to it, the main building connects to a new building- NagaWorld 2; the connecting path is a shopping place with many renowned international brands. There is not much thing to do unless you are into gambling. But if you are planning to try your luck at the casino, the minimum table bet is USD $25 while the minimum bet for table-machine would be USD $0.10 (machine Roulette). There are also plenty of slot machines in the casino with minimum bet of USD $0.01. For first timers, you can sign up the membership card at the counter and you will be awarded USD $10 non-negotiable credits to start with.

8) 18 Reakreay Restaurant and Phnom Penh Night Market
Address: Preah Mohaksat Treiyani Kossamak, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Business Hours: 5 pm to 11 pm. Opens Daily.

Stir Fried Cambodian Noodles with Beef (USD $5)

Banana Shoots Salad with Chicken (USD $5)

Stir Fried Giant Clams with Cambodian sauce (USD $10/ kg)

The only night market in Phnom Penh, the Phnom Penh Night Market is right opposite Sisowath Quay and has gathered quite a number of stalls there. Expect to find some inexpensive garments, accessories, souvenirs as well as food. One unique feature dining here is that there will be no tables or chairs... most visitors dining in would sit on the floor (mats are provided) and enjoy their food. Nothing too exciting on the food so we walked across the street to 18 Reakreay Restaurant... a rather big Seafood joint with 3-4 shops next to each other. All of them offer the same menu but to our surprise, the standard is pretty high for a roadside unassuming dining place. 

Do not look down on the Stir Fried Cambodian Noodles with Beef... though almost similar to instant noodles, the flavors were amazing. The Beef and Vegetables were skillfully cooked and the whole combination was near to perfect. Banana Shoots Salad with Chicken was an exquisite dish but the sour-crunchy combination was lovely... almost like the Thai appetizers. We were pretty happy with the food quality over here.

9) JOMA Bakery Cafe 
Address:  St. 294 Corner Preah Norodom Blvd (41), Phnom Penh 12302, Cambodia
Business Hours: 7 am to 9 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +855 89 698 707

Cinnamon Bun (USD $1.70)

If you are a huge fan of this Cinnamon-spiced Bun, then you should really check out JOMA Bakery Cafe, a franchise brand originated from Thai. JOMA's Cinnamon Bun is one of its kind... soft, pillowy Bun heavily dusted with Cinnamon sprinkles topped with sweet, thick and gooey glaze. Albeit sweet, the overall flavor is bold and stays close to the one I had in England; definitely worth-trying for those with a sweet tooth. This particular JOMA Bakery Cafe is a short walk from Independence Monument of Phnom Penh.

10) Yee-Ay Sok Sor Cambodian Barbecue Skewers
Address:  #35, St. 51, Phnom Penh 12302, Cambodia
Business Hours: 12 am to 9 pm. Opens Daily.

Beef Skewers (2,700 KHR/ USD $0.675 per stick)

Lemongrass Beef Skewers (2,700 KHR/ USD $0.675 per stick)

The Cambodian seems to love their grilled meats a lot and one of the best places to try the delicacy. On one part of Street 51, there's a row of restaurants serving grilled meats but this particular one has received great attention thanks to Migrationology. The location is a little off the beaten track but do ask your driver to drop to the nearest spot... there's a Kiwi Mart nearby if you must know. The place specializes in serving Beef skewers. There 2 types of Beef Skewers- cut meat or Lemongrass-infused minced meat; the latter one is a popular choice. The local way of enjoying this delicacy would be to sandwich the meat between the crusty Baguette and served with pickled vegetables as well as the Cambodian Chili sauce. The meat tastes like the Malaysian Satay.... equally sweet but sans the herbaceous flavor.

11) Independence Monument
Address:  Intersection between Norodom Boulevard and Sihanouk Boulevard Phnom Penh
Admission Fee: Free

Like suggested by its name, the Independence Monument is built to memorialize the independence of the nation from France in early 1950's. The 121 feet tall Monument stands in the bustling street in the heartland of Phnom Penh. Today, it is one of the most iconic landmarks of Phnom Penh. No visitors are allowed to walk under the Monument so it's more like a photo-taking place.

12) Maison Eric Kayser Riverside
Address:  277 C, Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Business Hours: 7:30 am to 10:30 pm. Opens Daily.

Caramel Flan (USD $2.80)

Mango & Passion Fruit Smoothie (USD $4)

A French pastry house in Phnom Penh- Maison Eric Kayser can be found in a few location across the city. The brand is known to churn out some delicious French pastries and desserts. We rested our shopping feet at Maison Eric Kayser's Sitowath Quay outlet (a short walk from Phnom Penh Night Market). While the pastries did look promising, we were particularly attracted to the Caramel Flan in the form of pie. Everything was perfect- sweetness, flavor and texture; and the portion was well-justified for that price. Comfortable environment to cool down or take a break from the sultry hot tropical heat.

13) Russian Market of Phnom Penh (Toul Tum Poung Market)
Address:  Street 163 of Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Business Hours: 6:30 am to 5 pm. Opens Daily.

Another famous market in Phnom Penh that you can visit is Russian Market, though the scale is not as big as the Central Market, the Russian Market has also many interesting stuff to see and buy. One area of the place is dedicated to crafts and knick-knacks (for souvenirs); the food selection is not too big but the seating area can be a little unhygienic. There are plenty of local produce though, if you have some time to spare, you may check this place out (the Central Market is a better place in my opinion).

14) Brothers' Beef Noodles
Address:  Street 78 of Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Business Hours: 9 am am to late. Opens Daily.

Beef Ramen (USD $6)

Beef Noodles (USD $6)

A short walk away from the busy NagaWorld Hotel & Entertainment Complex is a stretch of Chinese joints run by the China Chinese. Many Chinese expats working for the entertainment group settle their meals there. For a bowl of comforting Noodles, we recommend Brother's Beef Noodles. It's a type of Sze Chuan-influenced Noodles with spicy Beef broth... but don't be deceived by the red hue. By Malaysian standard, the spicy level is bearable and considered mild. The flavorful and piping hot broth would be something comforting for your stomach. It does not come cheap though... USD $6 for a bowl.

Have Fun Exploring Phnom Penh!

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