June 30, 2016
I think the fact that there isn’t much natural light in our room makes us sleep in. It seems like we’re the last people in the hotel to have breakfast. Today we both ordered Cambodian breakfast – fried rice and fried noodles. I think this hotel has the best breakfast we’ve had so far.
We’re both really happy with the service at this hotel. Everyone is super friendly and accommodating. For example, Tim collects banknotes and coins and wanted all the Cambodian Riel denominations. But this is actually harder than it seems because all the ATMs give out USD and the only change you get when paying are small denominations. Tim asked the guy at reception if the hotel had riel that he could exchange for (they convert 1 USD = 4,000 riel in Cambodia). The hotel didn’t have all the bills so the guy at reception got a tuk tuk driver to go to the bank and take out one of each Cambodian banknote for Tim. That was really nice and definitely something they didn’t have to do for us but they did. It made Tim’s search for all the bills really easy.
The same tuk tuk driver who went to the bank for Tim drove us to the Russian Market for $3 USD. The Russian Market has nothing Russian in it. There’s the Russian Market and also a Russian Boulevard because the Russians funded the construction of the road in Phnom Penh after the Vietnam liberated Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge.
The market was filled with everything from souvenirs to home tools to raw meat. We walked through the rows of vendors and were pleasantly surprised that we weren’t harassed to buy things even if we touched a t-shirt. It was definitely more relaxing than shopping at Ben Thanh in Saigon. I bought some tank tops similar to the neon pink owl top I bought in Thailand 3 years ago. I wear it a lot more than I thought I would so these are to replace it. I bargained on my own and was really proud of myself for getting 3 of them for $5 USD!
We were pretty full from our heavy breakfast and didn’t end up eating at the market. There seemed to be a lot of good food options in the market though. Around the outside of the market there were pineapple vendors who cut and sold mini pineapples that you could hold by the stem and munch on as you walked around the market. We shared one and it was tender and very sweet! We saw these small pineapples while in Vietnam and Laos, but didn’t try them there. The ones we saw in Laos were being cut while the pineapple was being swarmed by flies. These ones were fly free (from what we saw) so I felt better about eating it.
While walking around the outer part of the market, we saw a street vendor that sold sugar cane juice and smoothies. She had some seats under a tree so we decided to get some drinks here before heading to the Royal Palace. We ordered one sugar cane juice ($0.60 USD) and a mango smoothie ($1 USD). Across the street we saw a fried chicken stall that I noticed while on the tuk tuk yesterday. Tim is a fried chicken fiend and went across the street to get some chicken for us to eat. He’s the one who said he wasn’t hungry in the slightest (10 minutes before he saw fried chicken). He brought back 4 pieces for us to share. They looked good and were only $0.60 USD each! It tasted like KFC but with sweet chilli sauce. As we were finishing up our lunch it started getting really windy. Being in SE Asia for 3 weeks, I knew what that meant. As soon as I felt that gust of wind I told Tim that it was going to start pouring soon. Sure enough, I was right!
We took a tuk tuk to the Royal Palace ($2.50 USD) and as soon as we got there it started to pour. Like torrential downpour. We both took out our rain jackets and umbrellas. Wearing rain jackets with a t-shirt underneath in humid weather was not pleasant. I was also wearing Toms (canvas shoes) which was probably the worst shoes I could’ve worn today. My feet were soaked and I knew they would be that way for the remainder of the day.
The Royal Palace admission cost $6.50 USD each. The palace grounds are all very nicely groomed and it would’ve been a nice area to just walk around if it hadn’t been pouring. I guess the bright side is that it wasn’t scorching hot! We walked through the palace grounds and went into the “silver pagoda” where the floor is made out of sterling silver. We actually missed this at first because on the map it doesn’t say silver pagoda, it just says “emerald Buddha”. Yes, there’s an emerald Buddha in the silver pagoda, so we totally missed the silver floor when we walked in (Tim: It didn’t help that 90% of the floor was covered in rugs, so you had to look at the edges to notice the silver). You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside the palace buildings so I can’t show you what it looked like. Let’s just say the fact that we missed it the first time and had to go back is all you need to know. The palace is a nice place to visit but it was a bit underwhelming for the admission price.
We found a tuk tuk outside the palace that agreed (after bargaining of course) to take us to the Central Market, Riverside, and then back to our hotel later in the night for $9 USD. Central Market is a nicer looking market than the Russian Market but it felt like more of a maze since it’s more of a circular configuration. Again, the market had everything. They even had a whole row of tailors and nail stalls (lots of people were getting pedicures). I just bought a bulk bag (probably 30+) of hair ties for $1 USD. I didn’t bother bargaining because I was surprised at how cheap it was already.
We stayed at the Central Market for an hour wandering around each row of vendors. I liked the Russian Market better. There were more vendors at the Russian Market whose products looked more appealing to me. We went back to the front of the market where our driver was supposed to meet us at 5pm. He wasn’t there and we waited for another 10 minutes for him before we decided to just find another tuk tuk driver. We were surprised that he wasn’t there since we didn’t even pay him or give him a “deposit”.
The next tuk tuk driver took us to the Riverside Night Market for $3 USD. Today was the first day we took tuk tuks between all our sights and it was awesome! Usually we walk everywhere but Phnom Penh isn’t a very walker friendly city. Basically everyone takes tuk tuks and I can see why. When we got to the night market it was still fairly early and vendors were still setting up. We went across the street and walked along the riverside. We read that Japan had donated money in developing Phnom Penh’s riverside walk way by helping the city deal with their sewage system, building a dyke to prevent flooding, and making it more aesthetically pleasing by lining it with palm trees.
While we were walking along the river Tim saw a noodle stand that he wanted to try. We went up to the stand and ordered noodles to share. A local came to help and translated for us since the vendor didn’t speak any English. We’ve been in Cambodia for 3 days now and we’ve noticed that people here are very nice and helpful. So far Cambodia and Laos has the nicest people during our SE Asia portion of our trip.
(Tim: The main reason this stall got my attention was because it looked like the lady was wearing pajamas). The noodles were really good ($1.50 USD). They were basically instant noodles stir fried with beef and vegetables and a sweet and spicy sauce. Beside the noodle stand was a grilled corn stand that seemed very popular amongst the locals. We tried one corn on the cob and agreed that it was pretty darn good. The corn was grilled and then dipped in a sweet onion sauce. The corn was only $0.50 USD. The little girl helping her Dad spoke English and helped me out. There were two different kinds of corn – yellow and white corn. She asked which one I wanted and I asked her which one she liked. She picked yellow so I went with that.
We walked back to the night market and as we were walking the tuk tuk driver who ditched us at the Central Market saw us! He told us that there was so much traffic on the way back so he got there 10-15 minutes after 5pm. He said he would drive us back to our hotel, less the amount we paid the other tuk tuk driver. We agreed to meet him after we were done at the market.
There wasn’t too much going on at the night market. There were some clothing stalls but nothing caught our eye. Maybe we were marketed out at this point in the day. At the back of the market there are a few food stalls. We shared some fried noodles with chicken ($1.50 USD, seems to be the standard price) which were good but I think I liked the instant noodle ones better. I was more excited for dessert since we saw a coconut ice cream stall that looked delicious.
We shared a fresh coconut ice cream for dessert. They cut a fresh coconut in half and they scraped the flesh off the shell and then piled 3 scoops of coconut ice cream, peanuts, and pieces of palm flesh. It was delicious and only $1.25 USD!
After dessert we went back to the tuk tuk and went back to the hotel. I couldn’t wait to take off my wet TOMS – so gross. When we got back to our room, our bed was decorated and there were rose petals with a bath drawn in the washroom. The manager at the hotel thinks this is our honeymoon so that’s why they decorated our room.
We’re leaving for Siem Reap tomorrow and will be there for 4 days. Looking forward to seeing the famous Angkor Wat! I enjoyed our time in Phnom Penh. It took a little to warm up to the city but I actually really enjoyed it. Phnom Penh isn’t the prettiest city and is a little rough around the edges but the country and city have been through hell and back so it’s understandable. As mentioned earlier, we both think that Cambodian people are some of the friendliest people we have met so far on this trip. As a whole, considering all that they have been through, there doesn’t seem to be a chip on anyone’s shoulder in the same way that we felt in Vietnam. We also learned that it’s not pronounced “Nom-Pen” like how we thought it was, but it is pronounced “Pah-Nom-Pen”. Now we know better!
Steps today: 17,000