Busy, hectic, messy, vintage but yet developing and vibrant; the best words to describe the city of Phnom Penh. As the Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh is now the centre of economic and governance. Used to be ruled under French, a lot of French colonial architecture can still be found in the cities. French language still also holds a privileged place in Cambodian society and widely spoken especially among the educated members of the older generation.
Behind the current developing state, Phnom Penh keeps Khmer’s dark history. The city becomes the silent witness for the worst genocide history in 20th century. Up to 2,000,000 Cambodians, nearly a quarter of the country’s then population were mass-killed. The remaining of the victims (bones and the clothing) have not been excavated in the memorial park at Choeung Ek and the Killing Fields and (Tuol Sleng) S-21 Prison is now opened as a museum to public as a commemoration to the victims.
I did not visit the memorial park and the Killing Fields, but the (Tuol Sleng) S-21 Prison Museum. It was already heart-wrenching enough for me. The feeling of walking through the memorial places of the mass killing has never been not soothing at all. However I learnt to understand how the genocide was carried out and how the aftermath still affects the people in Cambodia today.
If the memorial park is too disturbing, try The Royal Palace. The grant architectures remind me of the Royal Palace of Thailand. The complex is not as complex as the Thai’s and it is easier to explore too. Guided tour is also available for visitors. I did not spend too long at the palace compound, probably less than an hour as we still had the next stop to visit ; RUSSIAN MARKET!
Russian Market, what more can I say…. shopping, shopping and shopping! The place is very huge to the extend you may get lost here. It’s pretty similar as Chatucak Market in Bangkok. You can find almost everything here. There are actually 2 main markets in the city, Russian Market and Central Market. My driver was the one who recommended the Russian Market. Well, the locals are always be the best tour guide, aren’t they?
The night life in Phnom Penh is more vibrant compared to Siem Reap. The riverside is where the most swarmed with tourists. The innermost part of the city is the alive at night with many cafes and restaurants around. Every night, there will be a night market held in the area, goods sold varies from clothes, arts and handmade accessories to local food. It is better for ladies travellers to wear modest clothing while in Cambodia. Although there are many Caucasians, sexy attire still attracts attention and it can be uncomfortable. I, myself was annoyed with the unwanted attention from those wandering eyes because of my tank-top.
After all, visiting Phnom Penh is another unforgettable experience. For those who love to blend in authentic South East Asian culture, Phnom Penh is the perfect place to show them all.