The journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh can be described as one of the most painful bus rides of my life. Hot, dusty, loud and diesel fumed, I nearly got sick on more than one occasion. Our rickety old bus rolled down the highway and then boarded a ferry to cross the river from Vietnam into Cambodia.
After hours of suffering heat exhaustion, we made it. Phnom Penh leaves something to be desired upon first glance. It is incredibly run down, gritty and busy, but for those willing to look a little closer, there are a lot of great reasons to visit.
Here are a few reasons that Phnom Penh should be on your travel itinerary:
The Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda
To get a better understanding of Cambodia and its history, the Royal Palace offers a peaceful refuge and educational experience. The Silver Pagoda is technically a separate sight, but enclosed within the same walls. The palace and pagoda are beautiful examples of Cambodian architecture and filled with art and sculptures.
Friends of Cambodia Restaurant
This amazing restaurant is about more than just great food, it is a training and social program that helps train former street youth or other marginalized and at-risk groups in food service. It is a non-profit that invests in helping its students grow into skilled people with a secure future. I highly recommend a visit.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
One of the most emotional places I have ever visited. Visiting the Genocide Museum is an important step in understanding what happened during the Khmer Rouge, as this was the main interrogation and extermination centre. We were fortunate to meet one of the few survivors, which left me speechless.