We didn’t originally plan on going to Phnom Penh, but ended up making the trip from Kampot to collect our visas for Vietnam! We hadn’t really thought about it, and had just assumed that we could purchase them upon entry. However when we actually looked into it, the website told us the only way to get a visa upon entry was from flying into one of Vietnam’s airports. This left us with no choice but to go to the Cambodian Embassy of Vietnam in Phnom Penh, where we could apply and get our visas in a couple days before heading across the border. We didn’t really mind, as we knew there was a lot to do in Phnom Penh and it meant we could drive straight from there to Ho Chi Minh.
It was our first proper drive, and we worked out that it should probably take us around 4 hours so headed off at about midday. It was so beautiful! The ‘main road’ was fairly quiet and ran through countryside, which meant amazing views for me to look at as we drove by. It was a sunny day, and the drive was going smoothly until we got just outside of Phnom Penh, stopped for petrol and realised we’d got a puncture. We wheeled the bike to the nearest mechanic, at which point it also decided to start torrentially raining out of absolutely nowhere! We only had two rain macs, so James sacrificed his to put over the main bag and I put mine on over me and the backpack on my back. Half an hour and $1 later we were back on the road, but ended up hitting a now flooded Phnom Penh at rush hour. It was awful! The sides of the roads were huge puddles, meaning all the bikes were trying to go round causing crazy congestion. James was completely soaked through at this point, both our phones had got wet and therefore stopped working and we didn’t actually have any idea where we were going. And to think, it had all been going so well…
We stopped at a tiny little cafe, which I’m not sure was even actually open but they said we could sit there free of charge to shelter from the rain. We felt bad, so got two cokes (all they had) and asked for the wifi password so we could actually book somewhere to stay and have an end goal. After wiping my phone down with tissue it started to work again, and we booked ourselves into the White River Hostel II. The rain started to calm down, so we got back on the bike and headed across town. It was only about 8km but this took us so long, as we took the same one main road across the city which was still a standstill due to enhanced traffic from the flooding. Once we’d got to the hotel it had gone dark, we were absolutely drenched and very hungry. We checked into the room, changed into dry clothes and went on a mission to find some cheap flip flops. We’d spent the whole trip both in the same pair of trainers, but these were now soaked through! About an hour later we gave up our search – it turns out that Phnom Penh seemed to be the only place we’d been so far that didn’t have somewhere selling some cheap flip flops! On our walk we stumbled across a park, which was so beautiful. The name on Google Maps is ‘វាលព្រះមេរុហ៍‘, and it’s right next to the royal palace.
We decided we’d eat at our hostel, as the food looked good and cheap, and it meant we didn’t have to walk around in our wet shoes! Due to falling in love with Chicken Amok Curry in Kampot, we both ordered it here. After driving for hours and not eating all day, this was exactly what we needed!
The next day we headed to the Cambodian Embassy of Vietnam to sort out our visas. This was a really easy process! All we had to do was fill out a form, hand it over with a passport photo and pay. We went for the 24hr option, which cost $50 each. After this we headed to a nearby shopping plaza to get some lunch. However when we got there, we realised it wasn’t really what we thought it was! It was more of an indoor market of lots of household products and shoes… Definitely not the place for lunch. We walked around for a bit and found a burger place, so decided to have lunch here. Whilst eating we looked up shopping malls in Phnom Penh, a proper one this time! We had a little shopping list of things we needed to buy that we had been looking for for a while, so a trip to a big mall was exactly what we needed. We decided we’d go to Aeon Mall 1, as this seemed to be the city’s major shopping mall. We got a Tuk Tuk which didn’t cost much, and then literally spent our whole afternoon there! As I’ve mentioned before in my Kuala Lumpur post, we both love malls. Not for shopping but for just looking around – it may sound weird! This time though we were on a mission to find James an electric razor and a chess board, as he needed one for his uni deadline. We’d been on a hunt for both items for a while – who knew it’d be so hard to find either? After a few hours of scouring the whole mall, we managed to find both in the department store at one end. Typical! We then headed back to the room, where we finally sorted James’ hair out. It had grown really long whilst we’d been away, but he refused to let anyone out here cut it, claiming he’d be fine to do it himself. So, now he had a razor, he did. With a little help from yours truly! About half an hour later, he had his normal haircut back (ish). And we had very untidy bathroom, covered in hair.
I was really craving noodle soup and gyozas, so I had a look on trip advisor for places nearby that I could satisfy these cravings. We came across a place called Noodle House, so headed in that direction. On our way, we ended up going down a street of strip clubs which was an interesting experience! Noodle House was everything I had wanted – their menu had the widest variety of different noodle soups I’d ever seen! I had no idea what to go for, they all looked so good. We ordered gyozas to share, and I finally decided on ‘Bor Bor Loht’, which was a chicken noodle soup. It was incredible! James had Tom Yung Goong, which was more of a curry than a soup and came with rice, and again was so yummy. I also had my first glass of wine for the whole holiday – it was such a luxury! The meal was perfect.
The next day we drove to the embassy to collect our visa, with plans to head to the Killing Fields. The Killing Fields were something I definitely wanted to see if we came to Phnom Penh, as I’d head so much about them and how they’re something not to be missed. Unfortunately we didn’t end up going, as I started to feel unwell again. By this point I was so sick of being sick! I felt like I’d wasted so much time in bed, I didn’t want another day to go to waste. However we both had work to do, so decided a bed day wasn’t such a bad idea before we embarked on our journey to Vietnam. That night we headed for dinner near our hotel – as I wasn’t feeling well I went for comfort food: bangers and mash! We went back to the room after dinner to finish our work, then decided we’d find somewhere to go watch the football – it was the England vs Croatia game! We found a bar nearby, which we shared with five other English men. I’ve never been a football fan, but it’s different when it’s the world cup – here I was watching football drinking beer. I definitely am not the same girl I was before I came away! We ended up drinking a fair few beers that night – it’s not our fault it went into extra time! By the time we got back to the room it was nearly 4am so we headed straight to bed. We definitely weren’t planning on such a late night!
The next morning we packed up our stuff and checked out, getting some breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We were all set to leave on our longest journey to Ho Chi Minh, but our bike had a flat tyre! We got this fixed by a man on the road – it seemed like everyone out here was a mechanic! And then went off on our way.
Phnom Penh was never on our agenda, but I’m glad that we got to see a little part of the city. I’d like to go back and visit the Killing Fields, so maybe I will in the future! I was surprised by how much more developed it was than anywhere else in Cambodia. Even though it is the country’s biggest city, it was worlds away from Siem Reap! It was full of cheap eats and definitely somewhere that should be on all backpackers itinerary, though you wouldn’t need more than a couple of days! Our main reason for being in Phnom Penh was to get our Vietnamese Visas, which we did. We were both so excited to be heading to Vietnam, it felt like it was going to be the start of the real part of the adventure!
Charlotte Rick x
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