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Phnom Penh – Forget 24 hours, let’s do 3 days!

Phnom Penh – Photo Credit: Jay Austin

By Jay Austin

Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s bustling capital and for years it has been known as the hot, busy business center of the country. After a recent re-exploration of Phnom Penh, we discovered that there is more here than meets the eye and it certainly warrants more than a mere 24 hours to soak it all in. This is an exciting time for Cambodia as a country and as a culture. Following years of atrocities and war, the country is beginning to revive itself. What we are seeing now is an explosion of art & culture which is taking Cambodia back to its former glory as one of the hottest places in Southeast Asia. This is particularly evident in Phnom Penh where international influence has blended with local culture to create some truly exceptional experiences.

Veasna offering a local dish

This 3 day suggested itinerary merely scratches the surface of all that Phnom Penh has to offer the discerning traveler, but we are sure it will keep you enthralled and show you exactly why we are so lucky to call this incredible country home. A further 2 days could easily be spent with Phnom Penh as a base to explore the ancient capitol just outside the city, spend some time at the Sun Bear sanctuary or just enjoy the extensive range of restaurants and bars that this city has to offer.

Narla exploring the surrounding countryside by motorbike – Photo Credit: Jay Austin

Phnom Penh is also a wonderful starting point for trips to many other interesting Cambodian destinations such as Siem Reap, Battambang, Kep or Koh Rong Sanloem. This is a place that was formerly known as a gateway which has become a destination in itself!

The Museum – Photo Credit: Jay Austin

Suggested 3 Day Itinerary of Phnom Penh:

Day 1 –History and Architecture

This morning you will enjoy a wonderful introduction to Cambodia’s architectural history as you slowly move through the small side streets of Phnom Penh in the most traditional form of transport, a cyclo. This tour is lead by an architectural specialist who is there to provide you with some wonderful insight into the architectural elements of the city’s inner core.

With your newly acquired architectural knowledge, you will be able to take in the Royal Palace and National Museum this afternoon in a new light.  Experience Cambodia’s rich history as your expert guide leads you through some of Cambodia’s most beautiful places and takes you on a journey of the past.

This evening you are going local! You will be met by Cambodian Chef, Mr. Nara who will guide you comfortably through a number of markets and street food locations as you sample the local Cambodian snacks along the way. For dinner this evening you will be invited to join Nara at one of his favorite local restaurants before returning to your hotel.

Day 2 – Reminiscing and Moving Forward

This morning you will visit former Khmer Rouge prison camp S21 which is a sobering experience for most. Here you will have the opportunity to meet the 2 survivors of the camp who have gone on to write inspirational books about their experiences in this harrowing time of Cambodia’s history. From here you will drive out to the Killing Fields, a quiet place of memory for those who were lost during this tragic time. This is a sombering experience indeed, but also an experience that all should have, simply to marvel at how quickly the people have come back from such a horrific time. This will help you to truly appreciate how far Cambodia has come in the last 20 years.

Head back to the city to enjoy lunch at Friends Café, operated in support of a local NGO who works with poor and disadvantaged children to provide them with education and a better life.

This afternoon is for adventure! You will be collected by the fantastic team at MotoGirl to explore Phnom Penh on the back of one of their signature pink motorbikes, like the locals do! Visit local villages, the silk island and learn from these wonderful young entrepreneurs about their favorite places in Phnom Penh and on the outskirts of the city. Return to your hotel at approximately 5pm to freshen up for this evening’s special dinner.

At 6pm your driver will collect you with another incredible young Chef, Mr. Veasna who will be taking you to a private river-font apartment this evening to prepare a special gourmet Cambodian meal for you. Relax on the balcony overlooking the river and enjoy Phnom Penh from above as Veasna prepares you an unforgettable meal.

Day 3 – Culture and Culinary Experience    

Today you will hit the markets with Chef Nara to purchase the ingredients you will require for you morning cooking class. Watch and learn as Nara barters on the price of vegetables and even give it a go for yourself. Enjoy your guided tour through the chaos before heading to your cooking station at Feelgood Café to start learning. Nara will guide you through the process of putting together 3 tasty traditional Cambodian dishes which you will enjoy for lunch.

This afternoon you will visit one of Cambodia’s largest not-for-profit organizations whose primary focus is on art and culture. You will be guided by one of their expert teachers in the art and forms of traditional Cambodian dancing, called Apsara Dancing. This 3 hour workshop will help you to gain a broader understanding of the traditions of Cambodia and how the art forms were almost lost and are now experiencing a revival thanks to organizations such as this one.

Take a break and head to the riverside for an early dinner this evening before returning to the National Museum to take in the Cambodian Living Arts traditional dance show. This is reputed to be the best performance of Cambodian traditional dance in the country!

This short 3 day itinerary can be combined with any larger itinerary package, or can stand alone for travelers looking for a short stop-over in Phnom Penh.  The price for this touring will vary depending on the number of travelers, and the level of accommodations. 

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