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[CAMBODIA] Day 1 & Day 2: Walked around Phnom Penh - Russian Market, Central Market and Night Market

Travelling is always full of excitement, the flight to Cambodia departed an hour late than scheduled time due to the air traffic congestion at KLIA2. Nevertheless, the dopamine concentration in my central nervous was abnormally high, rendering resting at the plane impossible though I was deprived of sleep yesterday night. We arrived Phnom Penh around 5pm (GMT+7), and the whole plan upon arrival at Cambodia was switched to getting the stomach filled.

The capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh was larger than I thought. Located on the banks of Tonle Sap and Mekong river, the capital city houses some high rises commercial lots and French architecture still vividly crafted on certain buildings. 

View at Phnom Penh, Cambodia
We pre-agreed with the taxi driver that the fare will be 12 USD from Phnom Penh International Airport to OKAY guest house but the thing turned otherwise when we reached the destination. He forcedly demanded for 15 USD in a courteous way and justified it with the reason we talked to him too much during the whole journey, and 3 USD is required for tips. Left with no other option, we obliged to his request. There comes the first unpleasant experience in Cambodia, 1 hour after touching down at this country.

OKAY Guest House
The double bedrom

OKAY guest house was really okay. The double room is 18 USD per night and it was well air conditioned and attached with a private bathroom. The room was clean as well.

As the rumbling stomach has caught attention of people nearby us, we simply headed to AEON for a dinner and we almost missed out some interesting local food within the vicinity of the guest house! 

This fried noodles (1.25 USD) seem popular among locals. You may choose from 3 different types of noodles offered and it was fried with marinated beefs. 

Walk along the street you may see a few stalls selling all these skewered foods. We thought it is lok-lok (Malaysia variant of steambot which the food served is dipped into hot boiling water) but something caught our mind later - the unusual fried stuff in below picture. And yes, it was a frog! 

The above plate with a frog, French baguette and fried bread cost us 2 USD. A truly exotic food experience, the frog meat was tender, especially the leg part! Never once in my life I had tasted such tender meat. 

It comes with sliced cucumbers as appetizer which we thought was weird combination.

Lok Lak
Not satisfying without tasting any Khmer food and the rumbling sound of stomach still audible, we went around and peeped at the menu in nearby lounge. Both the dishes were nice, Amok (4 USD) is actually freshwater fish fillets cooked in coconut milk and spices and Lok Lak (4 USD) has the meat of your selection marinated in sauce with pepper and lime.

A cup of Angkor beer (1 USD) to cool down the heaty body. The beer was rather diluted compared to Carlsberg or Tiger.

Royala palace exterior look
Royal palace is within walking distance from OKAY guest house and we just walked around its surroundings as the entrance fees were not cheap (6.50 USD /pax) and it only opens from 7:30 - 11:00am and 2:00 - 5:00pm everyday. The architecture well resembles the mixture of European and Thailand essences.  

Presence of children sellers/beggars outside of Royal Palace, trying very hard to sell things to you under the command of certain adults, which we observed the adults instructed them to approach us. I am not sure whether buying things from them is an act of relieving them or indirectly promoting misuse of kids for these activities.
Various national flags at Riverfront
Riverfront was just feet away from Royal Palace, stretched along Sisowath Quay, the riverfront front. There are dozens of restaurants, bars, hotels shops along the road, hence making it a popular place for a meal and relax while enjoying the scenic view. 

Americano (2.3 USD)
Iced Mocha (4.25 USD)

We then stopped by Costa Coffee by the riverfront for a morning tea break. To our surprise, Costa Coffee was voted as barista of the year in 2014 for serving the top quality coffee. The coffee was smooth and having the essential fragrance of coffee, though milder in taste.

At this hour, we are seemingly lost at where to go. The historical attractions did not look appealing to us and it was costly to enter as well, so we decided to head to Russian Market (Phsar Toul Tom Poung). Hailed a tuk-tuk to there for 3 USD after some haggling.

Interesting way of selling eggs

Cambodian sausage

Russian market is a traditional market in Phnom Penh, selling various items such as silks, clothes, fabrics and souvenirs. There are various local food and drink stands in the middle of the market though the hygiene is questionable.

Soup noodles with pork (USD 2.5)
Fragrant rice with pork cutlet (USD 2.9)

We were too hungry so we took our lunch at a nearby restaurant - Divine Cafe. The pork served with the fragrant rice was nice and tender. Honestly speaking, we felt that the food at Cambodia is relatively expensive comparing to Thailand. A simple plate of noodles could cost 2.5 USD while you may be able to get it for 1.5 USD or even lesser at Thailand. Well, we always hear that expenditure at Cambodia is minimal but I really felt otherwise, especially on the food part.

It did not take us a long time to tour Russian Market as the market was relatively small comparing it to some floating market or night markets at Thailand. Not satisfied with the shopping spree, we hailed a tuk tuk and went to to Central Market for 3 USD.

Central Market

The unique design of Central Market dome
Central market building is one of the city distinctive landmark, with four arms of the market converge in a soaring dome of the hub, perhaps reflecting the four arms of chaktomuk (the converge of Mekong river).

Central part of the market building offers an amazing collection of gems and jewelry, and vendors at the four arms of the market house vendors selling electronic gadgets, clothes, handicrafts, souvenirs, postcards, etc. Flower and food vendors are seen outside of the market.

We spotted this lady preparing some form of unknown white noodles and topped it with fried shrimps and peanuts, and this definitely spooked our interest. We have no idea what is this dish called even till now but it could be Kampot Rice Noodles Salad (0.75 USD). It comes with a pack of chili sauce which was really spicy, and the dried shrimp was great in texture. 

Then we spotted this sausage marinated with some interesting and sweet sauce. Curiosity drove us to order one piece (0.25 USD; 1000 Cambodian Riel), and it turned out to be....
Picked banana
Pickled sugar banana! Tada!! We were totally deceived by its appearance! 

Having no idea where to go, we walked to Phnom Penh Night Market. Yes, it is just another market. I know 3 markets in a day seems tiring but this was what Phnom Penh could offer, apart from its cultural and historical rich site seeing.

Again, the items repeated. Souvenirs, clothes etc. There is nothing much to see or excited about this market unless you love to shop for clothes and souvenirs.

On the other side of the night market, there were various food vendors selling some local food. Carpets were ready on the floor and this was definitely a great experience to dine here.

BBQ food, it was sebaceous
Mixture of sugar cane with lime juice, combination of sweet and sour

Then it marked out trip at Phnom Penh. Overall Phnom Penh's points of interest are largely historical and cultural, such as the Royal Palace, National Museum, Wat Phnom, Independence monuments, Choueng Ek Killing Fields and Toul Sleng Genocide Museum. However if you are not a historical person, one may modifies its itinerary to shopping, dining, spa and nightlife as Phnom Penh offers plenty of these activities. 

Otherwise, you can do some local shopping by visiting Russian Market, Central Market and Phnom Penh night market, just like we did. On top of that, there are several Angkorian-era ruins and other historic sites such as Oudong, Phnom Da, Phnom Chisor and Prasat Naeng Khmau located at Takeo province, which are 20-60km outside of town waiting for you to venture.

We then headed to Siam Reap for our most anticipating destination - Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap.

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