We arrived in Phnom Penh in the afternoon and left again three days later early morning. We spent one day visiting S-21 and the Killing Fields, the other day (my birthday!) relaxing by the pool of our guesthouse. This means we haven’t really “experienced” the capital of Cambodia to the fullest.
For me, it felt old and dusty. Literally. There were parts where they were performing major road works so clouds of dust made our eyes water. There were new buildings, like the hospital near our guesthouse, but there was a lot of poverty to be seen as well. People begging on the streets and children pulling my arm for some money. You have to make your heart a stone and don’t give them anything. It’s hard, but it’s the right thing, otherwise you keep them out of school and they’ll never escape poverty. (Read about child safe tourism here)
So, where to eat in Phnom Penh?
On our first night in Phnom Penh we ate at Pop Cafe, a little Italian restaurant alongside the Tonle Sap River. We dined here with our Israeli friend, the one with the bad luck we met on the bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh. We all loved the pasta! I had a nice Penne All’Amatriciana and Brecht a delicious Tagliatelle Carrettiera (with tuna), each $7.50. We had Angkor Beer with our pasta, no Italian wine. It was quite the walk from Eighty8 Guesthouse, but it was worth it.
Brecht wanted to try out Viva, a Mexican restaurant, so that’s where we went on our second night. Do try one of the Margaritas, they’re cheap ($1.50) and frozen, yummy! Unfortunately I went with the regular Margarita, because it was explicitly mentioned it would be frozen. While I was drinking a cocktail seemingly made of tequila mixed with tequila and ice, Brecht was enjoying his delicious Pineapple Margarita, which was frozen as well. Damn you, stupid menu! I had no more luck with my food. I really hated my Viva Burrito ($6), while Brecht loved his California Burrito ($7.50). Chances are I just don’t like Mexican food.
On our way back to the guesthouse, we walked over the night market. (Close to Viva.) It couldn’t cheer me up as markets normally do, as there weren’t that much nice things to shop (or in my case to look at). Two people were singing on the stage in the center of the market. There’s also a kind of food court at the night market: lots of food stalls surround an area covered with mats. People take of their shoes and eat while sitting on mats. You can walk over the market when you pass it, but don’t plan a full evening here.
We had all our other meals at the Eighty8 Bar, the bar at our guesthouse, also open to non-guests. We tried some Thai food: the stir fried chicken ($3.75) was better than the egg fried rice with chicken ($3.25), but the chicken fried noodles ($3.25) were definitely the best. We had one of their baguettes as well, which was not bad: the cheese and coleslaw baguette ($3.50). On my birthday we ordered Western food. We started off with some cocktails and the Combo Snack Platter, $4 worth of delicious snacks. I got a free Strawberry Daiquiri (yummy, my favourite!) and Brecht chose a Caipirinha ($2). For dinner we had a spaghetti bolognese ($4.25) and fish and chips ($4.50). The spaghetti was nothing special, but the fish was nice!
We were not sure about Cambodian (Khmer) food, so we stuck to Western (and Thai and Mexican) food in Phnom Penh. Our favourite was the Italian Pop Cafe. We both love pasta and really liked the ones we ate there.