During December 2014, we spent over a week in Cambodia's capital: Phnom Penh. Prior to arriving, we heard nightmare backpacking stories about travellers getting mugged, harrased, robbed, and even assaulted in Phnom Penh. Unsurprisingly, we were a little hesitant to decide to spend our first Christmas outside of Canada together in this apparently sketchy city. Nonetheless, we decided to take our chances and stayed in Phnom Penh over the holidays.
I can confirm, based on our experiences, Cambodia's capital city is....CHARMING! We had an amazing time and it was the perfect place for us to spend our Christmas.
The Independence monument found at the intersection of Norodom and Sihanouk
First of all, there is no shortage of activities to keep you busy during your visit to Phnom Penh. We were here for nine nights and ran out of time! We thoroughly enjoyed just wandering around the city, and loved that it is small enough to walk everywhere and get a good workout. We found ourselves stumbling upon beautiful monuments and buildings; Khmer architecture is just stunning!
Outside the Royal Palace at night - very eclectic!
As you can see, there is a lot of development going on in Phnom Penh
From monks walking with umbrellas to beautiful Khmer families having picnics along the river, Phnom Penh was a great place to people watch.
Walking along Phnom Penh's Royal Palace
There is a lot of history in Phnom Penh - both good and bad. A visit to the Killing Fields or the Tuol Sleng Genocide Musuem (S-21) really puts into perspective how recent the genocide was. It was a very emotional and heavy experience but I am glad we visited.
Inside S-21, the site where 20,000 prisoners were held and later murdered in the late 1970s
Do not miss a visit to the night market! We didn't find anything that appealed to us in the stalls, but it was fun to grab a drink and a meal and sit on the floor with locals and tourists alike.
Victoria with her favourite drink in Southeast Asia: sugarcane juice!
Lastly, we did spend Christmas here. What would Christmas be without a fancy, home-cooked, all-vegan Christmas dinner?
We feel so fortunate to have visited such a beautiful, developing, and vibrant small city. Based on our experience there, which may differ from yours, we loved Phnom Penh! We highly recommend a visit there.