We checked out of our hotel early in the morning and were at Laos airport 3 hours before our flight to Phnom Penh only to find that check in wouldn’t be open for another hour. As such we set about finding somewhere to have a decent breakfast and after lugging all our bags up 3 levels we found this place. It probably wont mean anything to anyone unless you’re an Aussie who follows the AFL but to find this in the Vientiane International Airport was a bit of a laugh (Go Bombers).
After a couple of cups of coffee and a reasonable bacon and eggs breakfast (without the bacon as is often the case in Asia) we boarded our flight and were on our way to Cambodia.
First impressions of Phnom Penh were that its HOT and bustling. We grabbed our gear and set about getting ourselves some local SIM cards and then finding a hotel. A note to anyone buying mobile SIM cards over here, if they say you get cheap international calls that’s all you get. No data. No local calls. If they say cheap 3G data the same applies. No calls. Everything is an extra as we later found out so be very clear about what you’re getting before you hand over the cash.
After an hour or so we settled on the Okay Guest House for our first nights accommodation as they were cheap and had triple rooms available. We jumped in a taxi after vigorous debate with a few tuk-tuk drivers about whether they could fit 3 of us and our luggage in one tuk-tuk. Thankfully we didn’t listen to them as it was a much longer drive than we’d expected and wouldn’t have been fun squashed in the back of a tuk-tuk with no air-conditioning.
Phnom Penh was much more the bustling Asian Capital I was expecting. The roads were packed and people were everywhere. Every set of traffic lights we stopped at we would have kids tapping on the windows either begging or trying to sell little trinkets to us. I was a little surprised but Cambodia definitely comes across as a much poorer country than Laos and I was expecting the exact opposite prior to the trip.
We made our way to the little laneway that is Road #258 in Phnom Penh and found our hotel. The rooms are very simple and the place would be a bit of a death trap if there was a fire due to the narrow hallways, bars on the windows and only single stairwell at the back of the building but it was cheap, clean and in a great area. Road 258 has a full range of backpacker bars, hotels and restaurants and is only a $1 tuk-tuk ride to the main part of town.
Thankfully our hosts offered to carry our very heavy suitcases up the three flights of stairs to our room.
After settling in and sorting out the issues with not being able to call local landlines on my new SIM I finally got a hold of Bernard at Red Raid Motorbike Tours to confirm our bikes for tomorrow morning. Jim had mentioned to us back in Laos that traffic out of Phnom Penh can be chaos in the mornings and we really wanted to be out of the city by about 5am so I called Bernard hoping we could pickup the bikes later that evening. The short answer was no. The earliest we could get them was 8am the next morning so we made a plan to be there when they opened the doors.
With the next day planned we jumped in a tuk-tuk and headed up towards the Night Markets and the main restaurant strip along the rivers edge on National Hwy 5.
We wandered through the very basic night markets and then dropped into a couple of bars to make the most of “Happy Hour” drinks. While the local brews aren’t too bad they were nothing compared to the Beer Lao we’d become so fond of. The local currency here is Riel but realistically its only used when you get out of the cities and can be very difficult at times to get rid of without wearing a major hit on the exchange rate. Everywhere else uses USD and because it allows them to always round up, beer and food was significantly more expensive here than in Laos.
Having lived off local Asian food for over a week now we couldn’t pass up a Sunday Roast at Paddy Rice Irish Sports Bar. With tables on the street where you can watch the world go by, lovely wait staff and reasonably priced food and drink we would spend a fair bit of time here on our two days in Phnom Penh. Check out the meals below!
You do have to be prepared to get hassled a bit by the kids walking the streets selling books, sunglasses and jewellery. Most are good hearted and will leave you alone if you ask them to, others can get quite rude. We did have a bit of fun with one of the kids trying to sell me a road map of Cambodia as you’ll see in the video below. I thought this guy had the rock paper scissors as his own little tactic for selling but it turns out they all try it. Just be warned that you need to be VERY clear on the terms of the deal and exactly how many games your playing as while this kid was a great sport we did have a couple of others cheat and or do a runner with the goods when they lost.