Taking the Long Way travel blog

Central Phnom Penh

Independence Monument

Friendship Monument

River front on Tonle Sap




Heading up Wat Phnom

View from Wat Phnom

Monkeys everywhere! Even climbing the electricity cables sometimes.


Wat Phnom

Roadside aerobics class




Phnom Penh is chaotic and captivating in its poverty and desperation to pull itself up by its bootstraps. Since the end of the Khmer rule the city has struggled to regain its former prosperity but given that 40% of the Cambodian population is under the age of 15 its taking a very long time. The city is based on the Tonle Sap River, part of the Mekong and where I’m staying, at the Bright Lotus Guesthouse now, is in prime position to see most of the city; as well as being right next to the river and the nightlife there.

Stories of pick-pocketing, bag-snatches and robberies are common to hear as I chat with other travellers but so far I have come through unscathed. Although I have taken no chances and go out at night with nothing more than the money I need for that night!

The Cambodian official currency is the ‘Riel’ but they also use US dollars so it’s a dual currency system that takes a little getting used to. Everything over $1 is in US and ATM’s only dispense US dollars. There is 4000R to the dollar so if, for example, something costs $2.50 and you paid with a $5 note, you would get back $2US and 2000R change. The only way to get Riel is to be given it as small change. The cost of things here is pretty much the same as in Vietnam so my budget hasn’t really changed at all.

The city isn’t very big and is easy to walk around, or there are plenty of tuk-tuks, motos or taxis if you’re feeling a little lazy. I’ve walked countless kilometres since I got here taking in the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, the Independence Monument (which I got kicked out of, I didn’t realise you weren’t supposed to go IN) and Wat Phnom, the city’s highest peak complete with pagoda at a minuscule 27m.

I decided to do a ruthless cull and send some stuff home that seemed to be taking up unnecessary space in my backpack and marched off to the posy office today with about 2kg of things to send home. To my dismay I was told it would cost $130USD to send to Australia so I promptly took it all back and will just send it home with the next person I meet up with instead!

Late in the afternoon I headed out to Phnom Penh airport and waited for Fran to arrive on her flight from Brisbane, via Kuala Lumpur. It was fantastic to see her again and lovely to see a familiar face after travelling on my own for awhile now. We had a great evening catching up and planning what we want to do and where we want to go during the next few weeks together. We head down to Sihanoukville in the morning.

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