Friday, April 8, 2016

Phnom Penh - Off the Beaten Path

If you've already done the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom, Tuol Sleng museum etc. (or aren't interested), here are 10 fun ways to pass time in the busy capital of Cambodia.

1.  Dinner & a Movie - VIP Style 
Deadpool was released in the states while we were in transit to Cambodia.  The Mo couldn't wait to come back to the states to watch the R-rated comic book film starring Ryan Reynolds.  We headed to Major Cineplex the new Aeon Mall by the Russian embassy in Phnom Penh

VIP tickets are $15.00 each and includes an alcoholic beverage and snack. There is a separate waiting area for VIP guests with plush couches and a bartender to serve the complimentary drink and snack for each guest.

The leather seating boasts a full flat bed with  adjust-ability up to 180 degree.  Blankets are provided to keep theater goers comfortable.

Before or after the movie, splurge on authentic Chinese cuisine at the nearby Yi Sang Chinese Restaurant where they are known for the roasted duck.

2.  Tonle Sap Picnic
Go over the bridge and cross the Tonle Sap to the Chroy Changvar Peninsula.  An entrance to a beautiful pagoda will be on the right. Drive through the pagoda and take a right.  

There are many thatched bamboo  huts overlooking the Tonle Sap. Pick a place to picnic and enjoy the scenery. 

Most of the places don't have menus but the popular dish here seems to be roasted whole chicken. We ordered chicken - two ways, fried fermented Khmer dish and a baby shrimp soup.  With beers, water and white rice. the total was about $30.00. That included the usage of the hammocks and huts.

Spend an hour here or spend the whole day here. Other locals were celebrating an occasion and hung out playing cards all day.

Tip* Another popular place for picnics is in my mother's village of Kien Svay about 20-30 minutes outside of the city.

3. Day visit at Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel 
Since you are already on Chroy Changvar Peninsula, drive towards the end towards Sokha Phnom Penh and spend the day there. The hotel is massive! There are 7 restaurants, 4 bars, a KARAOKE lounge, and nightclub on the 19th floor.  The hotel has a beautiful view overlooking Phnom Penh's busy riverfront area.
image via Sokha Hotel

Image via Sokha Hotels

They have a great spa with reasonable prices.  We booked a great couple's massage.  There are other steam room and fitness center facilities. The pool is absolutely amazing and the largest in Phnom Penh.  No one at the hotel really uses the pool, we had it all to ourselves for the most part.

Since we were staying a the hotel, we didn't have to pay to use the facilities.  I did see a sign for day visitors wanting to use the pool, fitness center and spa.

For a nice treat, the lobby cafe offers half price sweets between 3-6 PM.  They have lots of goodies to offer for a nice price.

4. Bottle Service at The Lounge at Riverhouse

I gawk at the prices for bottle service in the states.  When in Cambodia, I feel like royalty.  A bottle of champagne is $28.00. You have to buy (2) bottles of champagne to get a VIP booth at The Lounge at Riverhouse.  When you buy (2) bottles, you get a 3rd free. Essentially. it comes down to $56.00 for three bottles of champagne.  Plus. you don't have to drink it all in one night. You can take it home or leave it with them for the next time you visit the establishment.  If champagne is not your choice of poison, then a bottle of Absolut will set you back only $50.00 USD.

Watch from the privacy of your own VIP booth as locals come together to let their hair down and dance the night away.

I loved the rock-star treatment.  The girls made sure our glasses were always full and we even had escorts to the bathroom and to our cars.

 5.  Naga World -
Try your luck  or just watch beautiful people

Thankfully, we're not much of gamblers but Naga World is still worth a visit to people watch.  This is the place where Scantily-clad women collect in one area.  I'm not really sure if they are working girls or girls that are dressed up for a night out. Maybe  combination of both? I thought it was awkward that the lobby bathroom was occupied by girls getting ready full fledged on, like straightening their hair and applying on fake lashes.

The lounge upstairs is great for listening to Philliphines, Cambodian and Vietnamese singers perform cover songs or their own originals.  Prices for drinks are per western standards.

Darlin Darlin Club Lounge  offers vibrant group performers until it gets later in the night when it converts to a night club for the trendy Phnom Penh crowd.

6. Carnival Games and Rides at Koh Pich

Right down the street from Naga World, there is a small kid's amusement park in Koh Pich. Keyword, its for kids but its fun to walk through and see all the neon lights and crazy and non-safety regulated kids ride.  Most rides do not come equipped with seat belts or other safety precautions.   Then again, this is a country where infants are usually straddled on the back of a motorbike.  Each ride is 25 cents each.  

Adults can try their luck with some of the popular carnival games.

7. Tour model homes in Luxury developments

Koh Pich (Diamond City) is sought to be a prominent area in Phnom Penh with more than 1,000 brand new condos and villas to be developed.  There will be two international schools, luxury hotels and one of the world's tallest building will be erected there.  

Casa Meridian Condo

Therefore, buying a condo might be a great investment for a future home or just to invest in.  It's very difficult for a foreigner to purchase land or property in Cambodia. There are  many restrictions and impediments.  One way around this is the "Condo Law" that allows foreigners to purchase condos in a new building with the exception of any unit on the ground floor.

Most luxury condos start at $ 80,000 USD for a one bedroom and features security, fitness center, swimming pool, river views, high end appliances and lighting and mixed used spaces.

If the city is too much, there are other "Beverly Hills" like developments on the outskirts of town within a 20 minute tuk tuk ride. A 3-bedroom multi-level townhouse starts at $75,000 and dwellers have access to the community pool and other shared facilities. 

8.  Eat your heart out at a Buffet 
Tonle Bassac and Tonle Bassac II are well known for their extensive buffet offerings featuring local Khmer and western cuisines.  Lunch is a good option to have the "experience" without putting a dent in your wallet. Price for lunch is $7.00 USD and $20.00 USD for dinner.  

The meal is a bit overwhelming as there are many delicious things to try! 

9. Phnom Reap

About 25 kilometers from Phnom Penh, is a man made cultural site called Phnom Reap (aka Prasat Vihear Suor).  The drive is scenic as you pass by local markets, lotus farms and an Islamic community.  This area was erected in the style of "Angkor Wat" and is sometimes referred to as the "New Angkor Wat." The construction took 2 years to build and estimated to cost around $ 1 million USD.  There is no entrance fee and when we visited, we were the only ones there.  This area is also popular with Khmer karaoke videos.

For lunch, there are picnic areas within steps nearby.  The locals will roast a chicken or make any Khmer soup to your liking.  3 entrees, white rice, soda, beer and water for 4 people is about $28.00

*About 1 km away is Phnom Prasith, a beautiful hillside religious site with pagodas and a reclining Buddha statue. 

10. Silk Farm (aka Koh Dach)

This is not really off the beaten path as there are many tours available at a steep price.  I would recommend doing it on your own.  Luckily for us, my friend Dem took us to the island in her Lexus aboard a ferry crossing the Mekong River.  (You can also hire a tuk tuk for $15.00-$20.00 USD) for the day to take you there.

You can visit local homes where the preparation for the silk is done beneath their home.  There is no fee but they encourage you to purchase scarves.

There is a tourist site on the island that charges an entrance fee. There are restrooms, watering holes and picnic and play areas.  It's pretty neat to see the cocoons of the silk worms.

The worker uses both her hand and feet to operate the machinery.