|Map - Phnom Penh touring map,
Cambodia (click to enlarge)
Touring Central Phnom Penh
For a more intimate experience of Phnom Penh consider touring the city center by cyclo or even foot. The city center near the river is the oldest part of town, densely populated and abuzz with activity. The tour marked on the city center map is designed to take in some the highlights and offer a look at Phnom Penh off the beaten path, not the prettiest (or the cleanest) streets, but the living city - busy street life, local shops and cafés, typical Phnom Penh architecture, colorful pagodas and pungent traditional markets. Bring your camera and a sense of adventure. As you tour, take time to explore the pagodas and markets and stop for a coffee or a snack at a local cafe.
Touring by cyclo is the easier than foot and even a romantic means of seeing the city. Walking the tour provides a more intimate, interactive experience but can also be a bit daunting. People are friendly and security is good (during the day) but the chaotic traffic and clogged sidewalks can be challenging. If you tire pick up a motodup or tuk-tuk anywhere along the route. When walking, keep an eye on traffic (it does not yield to pedestrians,) walk on the shady side of the street and, for sake of security, carry your bag/camera on the inside shoulder away from the street.
Beginning at the National Museum, the area has a few colonial-era villas as well as a string of local art galleries along Street 178. As you zig-zag up Streets 13, 172, 19 and 154 you will pass along typical shophouse apartment lined streets and past a couple of pagodas offering some good photographic opportunities. After turning north onto Norodom Blvd note the classic, yellow, early-20th century colonial villas on the east side (A8.) Cross at the traffic light at Street 130 and continue to Phsar Thmey, the distinctive domed ‘Central Market.’
Phsar Thmey was built 1935-37 and most of the surrounding structures were built over the following couple of decades. The corner shophouse at the south east corner is probably the oldest on the square.
At the corner of Norodom Blvd and Street 108 take notice of the naga-adorned faux bridge crossing the boulevard park. Until the 1930s a canal ran where the park now sits and was spanned by a naga bridge.
Wat Phnom is another must see - the legendary founding place of the city. Enter from the east entrance ($1) and take some time to climb the hill and explore the temple. From Wat Phnom walk back toward the riverside through the Post Office Square. Many of the buildings on the square, including the Post Office and the old Police Station next door were constructed in the 1890 and 1900s. The old Police Station next to the Post Office was used as a set location (as the hotel) in the Matt Dillon movie, ‘City of Ghosts.’
Instead of walking directly though to the riverfront, turn south along Street 13. The street is crowded, chaotic, dirty and a bit difficult to walk, but has a very active street life, dozens of busy local shops and cafés (stop for a coffee or a saté) and passes by two bustling traditional markets - Phsar Chas and Phsar Kandal, neither beautiful or geared to the tourist, but both a whirl of colorful activity. Cut through the food section of Phsar Kandal on Street 148. From there it’s just a block to the riverfront, restaurants, bars and a cold drink. .