Taking an overnight sleeper bus from Siem Reap, I arrived early morning at the capital and the larget city of Cambodia-Phnom Penh. I have two objectives on visiting the city; first is to see the different sights and secondly is to do another border crossing towards Vietnam.
For some might say that South East Asian countries does feel and look the same but I think what set Phnom Penh apart from its interesting name is the architectural mixture of French colonial past and the grandeur of Khmer inherited identity found at the city streets.
Once considered as the most beautiful city in French Indochina and even compare to Paris in ambiance, the narrow two or three-storey buildings with a hint of European décor are still visible despite the grimes caused by modernization and obvious lack of maintenance.
From the Independent Monument, to Wat Phnom, to National Museum, it is undeniable that what truly makes Phnom Penh a remarkable capital are the well-decorated pagodas and temples found around the city.
One of the most astounding example is The Royal Palace, the official residence of the King of Cambodia. Proving the grandeur of Khmer royalty, at the south-side of the complex is the Silver Pagoda, whose floors are said to be made up of 5329 silver tiles.
The most popular area for tourist where budget guesthouses are located is called the Riverside. The former tourist area of Lakeside no longer exists and now slowly being transformed into a hub of high rise residential condominiums, though what seems to be a brand new boardwalk of Sisowath Quay is a nice addition to the city modern transformation.
Cambodians are very friendly,never once I felt unsafe exploring the streets of Riverside or the central market, even at early evening when the girly pubs started to operate and I wanted to go for a stroll or buy an ice cream at the convenience store.
Like Siem Reap, the best way to explore Phnom Penh is to use the ever reliable tuktuk. Number one rule when travelling in South East Asia is to learn to negotiate.
To wrap the day, my tuktuk driver brought me to the Russian Market, not really sure why it is called Russian Market in the first place. It is a huge market divided into different section, basically the go to place for those interested to buy some souvenirs and factory rejects Old Navy and Banana Republic shirts.