Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Phnom Penh 2014 (Day 1 - Part 1)

Our first international trip in 2014 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia!

Phnom Penh is the capital and the largest city of Cambodia. It is located on the banks of TonLe Sap and Mekong River. Phnom Penh has been the national capital since the French colonization of Cambodia and has grown to become the nation's center of economic and industrial activities, as well as the center of security, politics, cultural heritage, and diplomacy of Cambodia.

Cambodian time is 1 hour behind Malaysian time (meaning to say our 7am is their 6am), so when we finally touched down on Cambodian soil, we felt as if we had an extra hour to do sightseeing!
(*side note: the in-flight safety announcement was hilarious! Airasia, you guys should do this more often!)

In Cambodia, all trades are dealt in 2 currencies – US Dollars or Cambodian Riel or both.  In Malaysia, I have yet to see any Foreign Currency Exchange trading Cambodian Riel. It's probably because Cambodian Riel is still a fairly new currency as they were only established about 30 years ago. Majority of tourists will use USD to pay for items, and since USD is a larger currency, there will almost always be loose change in the form of Riel. Subsequently, you can use the Riels in combination with USD to pay for items.

There are multiple local telco operators catering for us tourists. Upon touchdown at Phnom Penh airport, you can buy a sim pack from any of the stalls located at the airport entrance. Most of the offer/packages from the different telco companies are similar. For us, we bought 2 sim packs for USD 3 each, which gave us 1gb of data and a few minutes of local/international talk time and expires in 1 week.

The major mode of transportation in Phnom Penh are tuk-tuks (yup exactly like those tuk-tuks in Thailand). My advice when taking tuks-tuks is to haggle the price down before getting into one as they often quote a higher price to tourist.

 Rough tuk-tuk price guidelines in Phnom Penh based on my experience:
  • Airport --> Town/Riverside  : USD 5-8 (one way)
  • Within Town/Riverside area: USD1-2 (one way)
  • Town/ Riverside --> Choeung Ek Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Prison (S21): USD17-20 (two ways)
*always take the tuk-tuks stationed outside the airport grounds as they will quote you a much cheaper price (USD 5).

The only downside about tuks tuks is that you might suffocate enroute to your destination as it is soooo dusty in Phnom Penh. Not sure if it’s because of all the ongoing constructions and development, or if it’s just naturally dusty, but yup, lesson is, to always be prepared with a face mask!

1st night: 11 Happy Backpackers
2nd night: Le Cube Hotel
3rd night: Le Cube Hotel

17 January 2014 (Friday)

Our day started in the wee hours of the morning at 4.30am as we woke up to prepare for our 7.05am flight to Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, aboard flight AK1472. I had only 2 hours of sleep that night as I was scrambling to pack my luggage for the 4 days 3 nights trip.  Thank goodness I did not oversleep!

We reached LCCT about 5.30am, checked in, and entered the International Departure Hall.

 Fast forward 3 hours later, we are finally in Cambodia!

We bought 2 sim packs from a booth at the entrance of Phnom Penh airport and then headed out to the main street and hailed a tuk-tuk. It cost us USD 5 for a one way trip to town.

It was a 20 minutes ride to our accommodation for the night, 11 Happy Backpackers!

We had to wait for about half an hour for our rooms to be ready as we reached the hostel before the allocated check in time. We took the opportunity to chill at the rooftop bar/café and plan our schedule.

When we were finally brought to our room, we were very disappointed. The room was dirty, old and small. 

Summary for 11 Happy Backpackers
Plus point:
1) They have a built in cinema at the ground floor called The Flicks! For USD 3, you are entitled to watch all the movies shown that day.
2) Cheap rooms (~RM60 / night)
3) Kick ass rooftop bar
4) A backpacker’s haven. Lots of angmohs here!

Minus point:
1) Old furniture
2) No water heater
3) No TV
4) Small rooms
5) Lack basic amenities like hair dryer
6) Non-functioning light
7) Noisy at night
8) Door lock is non-functional
9) Unfriendly receptionist

After settling into our rooms and freshening up a bit, it was time for breakfast!

Because we were so hungry, we jumped at the first decent restaurant we saw. Turned out to be our best decision ever! It was the best meal we had throughout our 4 days 3 nights trip! So good that we went there for breakfast for the next 3 days without fail! (We googled the place and found out it is really popular among locals! No wonder it was always jam packed with people every morning)


We both had Koay Teow Soup - one with beef, and the other with pork. It looks plain, but trust me you won’t regret ordering this. So tasty I can’t even. It comes with a side of raw bean sprouts and magic brown sweet sauce with lime.
Price: 3000 Riel

After breakfast, we hired a tuk-tuk to drive us to Choeung Ek Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Prison (S21) and back for USD 17.
(to be continued.....)

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