Learn About the History You can experience the Cambodian culture just by walking through its streets and mixing with the locals, but if you want to really understand it, you have to learn about its history. The two main places to visit if you want to understand the city is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 Prison) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Both an important part of Phnom Penh’s bloody history under Khmer Rouge, the prison stands as a monument to the thousands that were murdered and imprisoned, while the killing fields finally stand as peaceful grounds. While the entire thing is slightly depressing, a visit to these museums is vital to understand the culture of the Cambodian people and seeing how they have remained resilient and strong.
Eat Kampot pepper crab
Being quite the hip capital, Phnom Penh is full of alluring cafes, bustling bars, and a world-class food scene. Let’s just say you’ll never be far from a good meal! Even with all this, the one dish you absolutely have to try is the Kampot Pepper Crab. Originating from the small riverside town of Kampot, this seafood delicacy and its many variations have become somewhat of a national dish. I mean who wouldn’t enjoy whole fried or baked crab, smothered in a sweet and spicy peppercorn sauce?
Admire the Temples
While Cambodia’s other major city-Siem Reap, is better known for its many temples and ruins, Phnom Penh has some wats (temples) of its own that deserve some attention. Whether you like to marvel at the different architecture or learn about each long and interesting history, there is a temple for everyone here! Don’t know where to start? Check out our top 5 must visits: Wat Phnom, Wat Ounalom, Ta Prohm, Wat Langka, Phnom Chisor.Whether exploring ruins or actual temples, always make sure that you are covering your shoulders and your knees. These are sacred grounds where locals come to pray so it’s important to be respectful. You don’t have to wear full-length clothes, a light scarf is adequate to cover what you need to.
Cruise the Mekong River
As Phnom Penh is located at the point where the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers meet, exploring the water is a pretty common thing to do here. You can take a tour of the sites, marvel at the floating villages, or even dine on the water (this is pretty cool so do it if you get the chance!). The most popular cruise though by far, are the sunset river cruises. With all inclusive refreshments, you can leisurely float along the river watching the city become surrounded with a warm orange glow. There is nothing quite like these views! While the floating villages are commonly seen in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh
Join in local festivals
What better way to experience the true Cambodian culture than to join in on local festivals and celebrations? Festivals are our favorite thing to get involved in, it is such an insight into the local customs and traditions of a place. Obviously, you might not be around for any, but if you are, don’t hesitate to participate! The two biggest festivals are Khmer New Year and Bonn Om Tuk (the water festival). They are both just as fun as each other so embrace them and enjoy the experience.