We visited Phnom Penh twice and it wasn’t really until our second visit that I started to appreciate the city. This time we stayed at Blue Lime Hotel. This hotel was a bit of a treat as it had a swimming pool. We spent a few lazy hours relaxing by the pool, ordering food and drinks from the hotel bar and dipping in and out of the water.
We did visit the Royal Palace which was beautiful and had some amazing buildings and gardens but we were extremely hot and bothered and rushed round a bit.
The things I enjoyed about Phnom Penh were the less touristy things we did. We arranged to meet up with Evan, an American guy we had met in Siem Reap. He lived in the city so was able to show us around a bit. I do enjoy a bit of gym time and Evan had mentioned he was a member of the gym in Phnom Penh so we decided to give it a try! This was an interesting experience that left me barely able to walk for the next two days. The gym we went to was called VIP Sports Centre. There was a gym, aerobics classes, an outdoor swimming pool, a steam room, sauna and even one of those pedicure fish tank things that you could use for free. No thank you! Visitors can go for $4 per visit. The gym was absolutely sweltering as there was no air con. I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much in my whole life. There weren’t many cardio machines which didn’t really bother me as I like weights but I was pretty much the only women in the gym and was definitely the only female anywhere near the weights. Most people were staring at me the whole time! None of the weights had any numbers on them so I had no idea what I was lifting…hence the extremely painful muscles afterwards! After our sweaty gym session we thought it might be nice to have a little dip in the pool. Cambodian women are incredibly modest and I’d not really considered this and packed my bikini. All the women were in swimming costumes as a minimum. Some wore t-shirts and shorts in the pool. I felt really self conscious and quite quickly went to get changed. I couldn’t work out the etiquette in the changing room! I seemed to be the only one actually getting changed so couldn’t take the lead from anyone else. There were lots of women sitting around in chairs covering in moisturiser and jabbering away in Khmer. I imagined that they would probably be very discreet when changing so awkwardly got changed under my towel whilst desperately trying not to expose myself to the whole room.
Evan took us to the Night Market. Similar to many markets in Cambodia we found row upon row of stalls selling clothes, jewelry, shoes, sunglasses, watches etc. There was also a big food court area with the usual tiny plastic chairs and tables but also lots of rugs on the floor. We decided to sample some street food. We selected a few things and put them into a basket. The food was then cooked and brought over to us. I have no idea what any of it was but it was so tasty.
We also sampled some sugar cane juice which is really nice.
I grew to love Phnom Penh and enjoyed seeing it from a more local viewpoint but it was hard seeing the darker side of the city. When having a drink at a bar we were surrounded by older white men drinking alone apparently waiting to pick up prostitutes. There were also quite a lot of street children begging or trying to sell things. It was nice to eat on the river front but you did not to put up with being constantly approached by both adults and children trying to sell things. I felt very heartless saying no and ignoring the desperation in their voices but knew that buying from them was not the most helpful thing to do.