When my husband and I first arrived in Phnom Penh in 2002, my first impression was that it was full of history and culture but lacked the luxuries, excitement, and comfort of modern and urban life. At that time, we’d go home from work at five, have dinner and by six, we’d be staring at each other and wondering what to do.
More than five years later, Phnom Penh has developed into a lively, bustling urban city. There are so many restaurants, bars, hotels, and tourist places. At night, Phnom Penh is very bright and full of life. Most of my favorite channels are available on cable, and we actually have high-speed Internet in our home.
At the same time, Phnom Penh remains quaint and true to its historical and cultural past, with its wide boulevards, well-manicured parks, river walks, museums, galleries, and cultural shows.
(Guide's note: You can book a room from this selection of hotels in Phnom Penh.)
Transportation in Phnom Penh
You can’t hail a taxi on the street in Phnom Penh. You have to arrange for a taxi or a tuktuk from your hotel. I don’t recommend riding a moto dohp (motorcycle taxi) due to safety reasons although the more adventurous foreigners often ride on these.
It’s easy enough to get to the places you want to go to if you arrange with your hotel to talk to the driver beforehand.
I got my first culture shock in Phnom Penh when we were driving around and almost ran smack into Sam Bo, the huge Phnom Penh elephant, who was ambling along the boulevard. But Sam Bo wasn’t the only danger on the streets. Traffic here in Phnom Penh remains one of the major conversation topics of expats.
Foreigners are treated with respect in Phnom Penh. Locals are fast learning how to speak in English making communication around the city easier. A lot of foreigners are looked up to by Cambodians, as they are perceived as their partners in Cambodia’s development and recovery from the ravages of war.