No, this piece has nothing to do with getting fish massages, grabbing a drink on the riverside, hiring mototaxis, watching Apsara shows or critiquing museums in Phnom Penh. If that’s the sort of advice you’re seeking then let’s just say that what follows will be your salvation as you will no longer have to ask google what to do in Phnom Penh. Alright, so let’s not keep you guessing and get to it 🙂 here’s our list of 5 things in Phnom Penh that we guarantee you will not find on most travel guides (dare we say, not even the revered lonely planet) nor has the most well-traversed travel writer written about.
1. Fishing in the Mekong with sunset
If you’ve visited the must see places and you still find yourself in Phnom Penh having exhausted the list of things to see or do, a unique alternative to spend an afternoon/ evening discovering a charming side to Cambodian culture that is not readily accessible to visitors would be to look beyond the promenade of the riverside and venture out into the Mighty Mekong and the Tonle Sap river with a local fisherman to experience local fishing lifestyle at its most intact form. Backstreet Academy provides a one of a kind experience on the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers with a local fisherman and his family. You will get to experience life on the water for a few hours and learn how to fish using nets and cook a traditional dish from the catch on the boat itself! The trip also provides a good view for islands and shores of the river banks and the fishing community that live on them. The trip ends with a spectacular sunset over Phnom Penh as the sun dips into the capital to its west.
2. Fear Factor Challenge
Gear yourself up for the Phnom Penh Fear Factor challenge! What’s fear factor for us is everyday fare for the locals in Cambodia. Deep fried with spices, garlic, herbs and garnished with lime, chilli and many other ingredients, this is one delicacy Cambodians love to have with their national beer. It’s not as simple as just throwing everything into the boiling oil and fry until crisp. The marinating, preparation, selection of fresh grub takes skill and experience, and you get to learn it from one of the local masters in town! You can choose the insects that you want to devour, with juicy water beetles, springy crickets, crunchy grasshoppers, melt-in-your-mouth worms and mini frogs on the menu. Be brave, complete the challenge and you can not only tell people you ate these but also prepared, marinated and cooked them.
3. Makers Marathon in Phnom Penh
While the contemporary global maker culture has begun to take root among the youth in Cambodia, there are those who’ve been part of the original maker culture for several centuries all the way back to when Angkor Wat was built. And it will be to these original makers with roots to ancient Angkor who you will be learning from during the course of this experience – you will learn how to make newspaper bags, carve on coconut husks and candles.
4. Choeung Ek and SL2
The killing fields should actually be a no-brainier when in Cambodia, and you shouldn’t really have to wonder what to do in Phnom Penh before deciding to visit. Nonetheless, a visit to Phnom Penh is not complete without a visit to the Choeung Ek killing fields and the Tuol Sleng Museum. Yes, the visits to these two places will leave you feeling grim and heavy hearted, but beyond the immediate reactions one might have, it serves a much higher purpose. Among being an integral part of understanding more about the Khmer Rouge and the genocide it inflicted on the country, it gives you a sense of the resilience of the people of Cambodia – how they have come through their recent turmoil and are rebuilding the nation from the time of the Khmer Rouge. Though it makes little difference which location you visit first, starting with the Tuol Sleng museum will give you a better context for your visit to the Choeung Ek killing fields.
5. Street food tour
Cambodia food is closely related to the cuisines of neighboring Thailand and Laos and, to a lesser extent, Vietnam, but there are some distinct local dishes. The overall consensus is that Khmer cooking is like Thai without spicy. Curries, stir fried vegetable, rice, noodles and soups are staples of the Khmer diet. Street food is very popular in Phnom Penh, particularly among the city’s youth. Fried meatballs, hotdogs, grilled chicken and other foods can be found nearly everywhere in the capital, near high schools, outside factories, on the sidewalks, from mobile vendor carts. But as tasty as much of this food. Be sure to try some of Cambodia’s street side delicacies before you leave Phnom Penh. 😉
For additional information on things to do in Phnom Penh we recommend reading Bino’s tips on iwandered.net.