Phnom Penh is a city steep in history, with a heavy past and hopefully a radiant future. If you like historical buildings (about to be bulldozed), urban architecture or simply like to stroll around town to feel the local pulse, take to the streets of the Cambodian capital city.
All right, we grant it to you, the sidewalks in Phnom Penh are not always in tip top condition, and serve as parking or selling space more often than not. Add on the crazy traffic, the heat or the floods, and you've got yourself a cocktail of pedestrian hell.
Visitors are often surprised to discover the average Cambodian will gladly make his melodious voice heard. There is in fact no such thing as closet singers in Cambodia, only karaoke singers.
There is a handful of performing troupes of Sbek Thom (literally large leather) shadow theatre in Phnom Penh and few more in the rest of Cambodia. Sbek Thom features two metre high leather puppets lit against a white screen by torches (or modern projectors), and a classical pin-peat music ensemble.
If there is one expression you should learn, it is Sok Sabay, which is used to greet people, ask how they fare, bid goodbye. Literally Sok means peace and Sabay means happiness.
Packed a day bag, a camera, and a couple of friends. And off we were to Phnom Chisor, an 11th century site about 60 km South of Phnom Penh. There are two ways to reach the temple sitting at the top of the phnom (the hill) by foot : the old, high, steep and overgrown Angkorian steps, and the new concrete ones, less charming, but more suited to our small statures and footsteps.
Traffic in Phnom Penh is seriously bad. You cannot go anywhere fast, not even in a motorcade. Public transport includes cyclo, moto, remorque and taxi.
Let us introduce you to some alcoholic beverages that are popular in Cambodia so that you can taste local drinks when you are visiting Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Angkor: Cambodian beer, Cambodian palm wine and Cambodian rice wine!
Kralan, a typically Cambodian savoury snack, which consists of sticky rice cooked in coconut milk black eyed peas or bean stuffed in bamboo. The cooking is a lengthy and fuel consuming process. The eating is fast and easy.