I’ve been to Cambodia several times now. My husband and I take our daughters back once a year to visit their birth families, and it is always a great trip. The people are friendly, the food is good, things are generally cheap, and there is so much history to soak up.
Here are my top tips for hotels, restaurants, site seeing, and shopping in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (the gateway to Angkor Wat).
Raffles Hotel is the nicest hotel on the larger scale.
Another decent hotel is Amanjaya, located in a central location along the river.
The Quay Hotel (part of the FCC group) is a good choice for a boutique hotel in a central location, but make sure you get a room with a balcony overlooking the river.
White Mansion is a newer addition to the hotel scene. Away from the river it is still located in a fairly central location.
Most of the local joints will serve up good food.
The Quay Hotel on Sisowath Quay has a nice modern fusion Cambodian menu.
For western food try the FCC (Foreign Correspondent’s Club) on the river which is not far a from The Quay Hotel and run by the same group.
Pacharan, a Tapas restaurant a little further along the river, is also run by the FCC Group and quite good, but book a table on the terrace.
Le Wok near the National Museum serves yummy French Khmer dishes.
Terrazza has good Italian food.
Comme a la maison is a great, low-key French place.
Site seeing –
Toul Sleng Genocide Museum is an absolute must in order to understand the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Formerly a school, it was converted into a prison in Pol Pot’s time and its harrowing history can be felt in the floors and walls of the building.
The Killing Fields is a short drive out of the city, but well worth the trip. Once the killing grounds of the Khmer Rouge, there is still evidence of open death pits and piles of human sculls.
NB: Both Tuol Sleng Museum and the Killing Fields exhibits may be disturbing for some and aren’t suitable for younger children.
The Royal Palace. Home to the King and Queen of Cambodia, the Palace grounds are opened to the public except when the King is in residence. Make sure you wear a top that covers your shoulders or you won’t be allowed entry.
The National Museum exhibits historic works relating to art, history, and religion. The architecture of the building is a good enough reason to visit on its own.
Wat Phnom near Raffles Hotel. Climb the stairs to visit the pagoda or stroll around the base of the hill and see local life buzzing around you. Monks rest under the shade of trees, tourists go on elephant rides, and locals buy caged sparrows to set free for good luck.
Russian Market is the best market. You can also see the Central Market.
Street 240 has nice cafes & boutiques.
There is a fun art store underneath FCC on Sisowath Quay.
There’s a night market in town opposite the river heading in the direction of Wat Phnom.
There’s an indoor more modern market in the Sorya building.
Hotel Angkor, an FCC hotel
A good place for dinner is “The Alley”. There are heaps of restaurants to choose from along this narrow walking strip. One good local one is Amok. AHA restaurant is also here.
The FCC Hotel has good food. They do a yummy breakfast too.
Shinta Mani serves some of the best food I’ve had in Siem Reap.
Another good restaurant is the French bistro at the Victoria Hotel.
Cafe de la Paix on Preah Song Reach Tep Vong Street is a good lunch spot.
Site seeing –
You don’t need to see anything more than Angkor Wat and the surrounding ruins while you’re in Siem Reap, as it can take days to cover it in entirety. If you do want to add some variety to your days there are half-day trips you can do outside of Siem Reap, for example the Vietnamese fishing village.
Climb the hill (or take an elephant ride) to the summit of Phnom Bakheng for sunset.
One touristy thing worth visiting is the landmine museum in the Angkor area. It is a modest building that makes up for its size with its contents and stories.
The Old Market and its surrounding shops.
Shops at the FCC Hotel.
Artisans D’Angkor – impoverished youngsters are trained in the arts of their ancestors at this art village-cum-retail centre.
For anyone wanting a change of pace after the above cities, I highly recommend a slice of Khmer island luxury at Songsaa Island.
I’d love to hear feedback from people who have visited any of the above places.