Phnom Penh Transit Itinerary

Many travelers ignore Cambodia’s capital city when traveling to or from Saigon to Siem Reap. Most would say that there’s nothing to see in Phnom Penh so they just skip it on their itineraries not even doing a pit stop for a night!

Unknown to many, Phnom Penh actually holds a lot of Cambodia’s history, specially its most recent events. So I’ve came up with most information that I can so can get to see a bit of Phnom Penh when you decide to stop for a night or two.

 

What To See In Phnom Penh

Wat Phnom

They say that this is where the entire city of Phnom Penh was founded when a temple was erected by madame Phnom. There’s actually an interesting story about it and how it became the heart of the city.

 

 

Phnom Penh Post Office

One of the buildings left built during the colonial French times. Mail your post cards  from here to your friends and love ones back to your home country!

source

 

Riverside Walk

Walk along the promenade leading to where the Grand Palace is and where the Tonle Sap river and Mekong River meets. There’s  a couple of shrines right across the Grand Palace and if you are lucky, you can catch local musicians indigenous instruments. You can also stand in front of your country’s flag flying proud along the river walk along with all the nations.

 

 

 

Russian Market

Looking for souvenirs? The Tuol Tom Pong or more popularly known as Russian Market is the best place to find them. While you are at it, you might want to eat authentic Cambodian food at their cooked food section.source

 

 

Central Market

Find street foods and snacks while looking at Central Market’s awesome architechture. While it is nice to visit, prices here are quite jacked up for the common tourist.

source

 

S21: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

One of the many former concentration camps established by the Khmer Rouge, this former high school is now a museum that serves as a reminder of the dark past of Cambodia. When visiting, it is best to rent an audio guide that will walk you through the halls of the museum with stories from the Khmer Rouge era.

 

Read More: S21 Cambodia’s Concentration Camp

 

 

 

 

Killing Fields

A few kilometers off of Phnom Penh, a grave site was found where people have been murdered and buried during the Khmer Rouge era. The Killing Fields is a huge place with a tower housing some of the bones discovered. It is believed that there are more remains that is to discovered in this place. I do not strongly recommend visiting both (S21 being the other) in a day as they have really dark stories. For me visiting one is enough (with S21 as my choice since it is in the city proper). However, if you choose to visit this make sure to rent an audio guide to help you walk through the site.

 

 

Grand Palace

Known for the Silver Pagoda, the Grand Palace is Cambodia’s current monarch’s residence. The entrance fee for this is reportedly at $10 ( yes you can pay in USD). I decided not to go inside anymore because…. honestly, I didn’t think it was worth it specially that its price is as much as the Royal Palace in Bangkok which is far more extravagant. Not bashing the the Cambodian Palace here, I just want to spend my money where I see more value. I am not that rich.

 

Where To Stay In Phnom Penh

The Billabong Hostel

Probably my favorite hostel in Phnom Penh. This hostel has a hotel feel. The pool is perfect for when you travel in a hot summer’s day. The hostel is also located near food options that open really early in the morning and closes late at night. The best part of it is that their dorm rooms only cost $5 when I booked them!

Read More: The Billabong Hostel Review

 

Book The Billabong Hostel Here

Base Villa 

Another hostel that I think is worth considering is Base Villa. I found this hostel while looking for a different hostel on my upcoming trip to the Indochina region. The hostel has a swimming pool (value added amenity I always look for) and cheap beds at $5 per person. They also have good reviews in Booking.com which I trust mostly when it comes to backpacker experiences.

Book Base Villa Hotel Here

Itinerary

Here’s a quick Itinerary to give you a glimpse of Cambodia’s capital city. You may notice that I didn’t include some of the places/activities here. I think these are the bare essentials that you must try if you have a really short time to spend in Phnom Penh. I’d rather go to the S21 than spend more time traveling to the Killing Fields. I also wouldn’t do both s21 and the Killing Fields in the same day coz it’s just too depressing.

Getting to Phnom Penh

You can also see that I included Giant Ibis on the itinerary. No this is not a paid post. I’ve experienced both Mekong Express and Giant Ibis going to the from Ho Chi Minh or Phnom Pneh and I was disappointed with Mekong Delta. I don’t care what western people say about how good Mekong Express is, for me as an Asian I’d rather be with Giant Ibis. It’s a bit more expensive but it’s worth it. Now if you are coming from Bangkok, you can take either Virak Buntham if you are on a budget (they’re not bad at all) or if you have some more cash to burn take Giant Ibis.

Book Your Tickets Here
Bangkok – Siem Reap
Siem Reap – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh – Phnom Penh 
Siem Reap – Bangkok (Khao San)

 

Departure time from Phnom Penh to Ho Siem Reap is actually at your own disposal. There are buses leaving later during the day. I personally prefer using Virak Buntham when traveling around Cambodia. But for times that you want to travel and there are no scheduled departures, there’s always Larytta. If you are bound to Ho Chi Minh, take the early morning bus, you’d have to go through immigration so you have limited options here.

 

When I get the opportunity, I always tell people who ask for advise to make a stop in Phnom Penh. This city isn’t something that you would go out of your way just to visit like Siem Reap, Bangkok or Saigon. That is why you should at least give it a day or two to see the city. Make it a pit stop on your way in between countries.

 

 

 

 

Travel Guide: Best 1 Day Angkor Wat Tour Itinerary Tips

One of the most amazing complex of structures made man, The Angkor Wat is truly a must see when in Angkor Wat. However, if you are on a budget and only have a day to do the tour, this is the best way to see the temples.

  1. Hire a Remorque

    Yep those vehicles that everyone calls Tuktuk isn’t really one, lol! Anyways get your self one and make sure to haggle. Most will offer about $15-$18 for the small circuit. Do not try to outsmart the drivers and not tell your entire route/itinerary or you’ll end up paying more. Your day will start at around 4:00 AM to buy the tickets, be sure to be early as the line gets long quickly as early as 4AM. The tour ends with the Sunset view from Phnom Bakheng, returning back to the hostel 7:00 PM. It costs me about $23 to hire him for more than 12 hours. I like hiring this guy because he speaks enough English and always makes sure that my friends are comfortable just like how he was the first time I hired him.You can contact Som through +855-9365-9332

  2. Take the Small Circuit tour.

    Many would chose to take the Big Circuit tour thinking that there are more to see and experience with it. But the thing is, most of the temples in the big circuit are still in ruins. If you want to touch, see and experience more the small circuit is ideal. You can also request your hired driver to go counter clockwise on the circuit to avoid crowds. source

  3. Bring food.

    Although most drivers would provide you water during the trip, finding reasonably priced food inside the complex can be a challenge. If you can, bring a packed lunch and some snacks; Picnic under the shade of trees overlooking the temples isn’t a bad idea after all.

  4. Clothes to wear.

    Most if not all structures in the Angkor Complex are temples, hence respect is expected from everyone. Make sure that your shoulders (especially for girls) and knees are covered to avoid any inconvenience. You may also want to wear something bright and light colored clothes so that you stand out against the dark colored stones of the temple in your photos.

  5. Respect.

    The structures that you will be visiting are not just mere tourist spots, they are all working temples that people go to pray. Not just because they opened it to tourists means that you are given the license to do whatever you want. It is expected of you to know what are the things that you should and shouldn’t do while inside these sacred structures.

  6. Be Alert

    Make sure that you are always attentive of your surroundings. Be cautious of people trying to sell you something or trying to take your attention to your belongings. Be careful of your belongings don’t just leave them lying around or just sitting unsecured in your bike’s basket. Coming from locals, I’ve been warned that there are people who will try to snatch you things while driving round with your bike or walking around.

To be honest spending just one day to see the temples can be really tiring. I would actually recommend getting a multi-day pass then renting a bike or moped to go around at your own leisure. Then again, there’s this guide if you only have a day to burn. Hope this helps some of you. If there you have any question or something that I forget to cover on this guide, please do let me know. I’ll do my best to update this guide.

Phnom Penh Hostel: The Billabong Hostel

Off from the main street we took a turn to a connecting alley where the hostel is nestled. I have five friends with me booked in an eight bed dorm room all paid for by us. We were kinda excited about this Phnom Penh hostel property because they have a pool and good reviews in Booking.com and Agoda.com. We were trying to manage our expectations though, so we don’t get a broken heart. Many sites try to pull the better reviews up on the ranks so that people see them first and sometimes can be rigged by the hotel them selves, but this time I think we hit jackpot and found the best Phnom Penh Hostel!

phnom penh hostel

Location

The Hostel is just walking distance from the Phnom Penh Central Market where you can explore a lot of Khmer products, food and souvenirs. If you are coming from Viet Nam via MekongExpress, you will be dropped off at the Orussey Market 500 meters away from the best Phnom Penh Hostel, The Billabong Hostel.

There are restaurants near by where you can dine out and drink with friends over good food at night. In the morning if you don’t fancy the hotel breakfast, you can roam around the area and find great street food that offers grilled port and chicken with rice.

phnom penh hostel

Rooms

I learned that the hostel was formerly branded as a hotel. Hence, they have enough private rooms and with the expansion of their brand to the hostel market they were able to add more rooms into their inventory. This could be the reason why it felt like I was staying in an upscale property during our stay. I mean the rooms are incredibly clean and sound proof!

The dorms have wide beds, enough space for your to roll over and over (LOL), and has nice support to the back giving you a good night sleep. Climate control inside the room (air conditioning) is also nice and cool the whole day so if you decide to have a lazy day you’d be tucked in a nice and cozy bed.

The Billabong Hostel also have the bathrooms inside the dorms so you don’t have to go out and travel back wet along a corridor. This is what my friends love the most about this hostel.

phnom penh hostel

Amenities

The pool, that is what got me the first time I saw this property. I looove pools! Specially when traveling around Southeast Asia where temperatures can sometimes be unforgiving. I had to manage my expectations at first because for the price that wee pay per head was unbelievable. I was hesitating thinking how can a property this good be so affordable! But I was wrong the property did proved to be what its reviews are saying that it is the best Phnom Penh hostel.

The pool was clean and clear without that strong smell of chlorine where  guests can just soak under the Sun by the pool and take a quick dip when it becomes a bit too hot.

phnom penh hostel

Next to the pool is the restaurant where you can order food and refillable coffee. Yep refillable, that one got my heart hahahaha! they have a good menu that offers light and heavy meals good for both westerners and Asian guests. If you are staying in a private room, breakfast actually is included in your room’s price.

Billabong Hostel also provides towels and padlocks for lockers ($10 deposit required) that are big enough to fit small luggage. I really appreciate that they provide these since it takes away the burden from me in packing up wet towels in my backpack.

The Verdict 

Even if we only stayed for one night, I would give The Billabong Hostel 5/5 rating. Value for money incredible and location is just perfect! Their staff speaks really good English and doesn’t need to be called for them to assist. My friends were so happy with the time we spent their even if it was a short while in the best Phnom Penh hostel. I just delighted to have discovered The Billabong Hostel. Now I don’t have to think of anywhere else to bring my guests whenever in Phnom Penh.

 

The Billabong Hostel 
No. 5 Street 158, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
www.thebillabonghotel.com
Contact Info
+855 (0) 23 223 703
+855 (0) 92 229 306
info@thebillabonghotel.com
FB: @billabonghostelphnompenh

Tagaytay Hotel: Taal Vista Hotel

Over the last half a decade or so, development over the Tagaytay ridge has been aggressive.  Sometimes, leaving behind the atmosphere and nostalgic experience that Tagaytay use to be. But there are things that has thankfully there are places that seem to have stood still in time that you can always go back to and relieve the Tagaytay that you or parents knew on their younger years, the Taal Vista Hotel

 

 sweet welcome confectionery  

Built during the 1930’s president Quezon ordered Manila Hotel Company to buy a parcel of land from to be developed as a destination for rest and relaxation. By the 1939 construction of the Taal Vista Lodge commence and was soon completed and inaugurated by the same year. Today the same establishment is now known as the Taal Vista Hotel has retained much of its old world charm, bringing you back to the pristine Tagaytay that people knew about.

As I entered the lobby, I was warmly greeted by everyone at their front desk. The lobby was classy yet not that intimidating giving that homey feel like how it was at grandma’s place.

After checking in, I was lead to my room passing through a corridor adorned with memories of the hotel’s colorful history. The secondary lobby opened up to a beautiful veranda, albeit filled with fog because of the weather.

Also Read Travel Guide: 1 Day Tagaytay Itinerary

 

The Food

My first night’s dinner was the Veranda restaurant. Their menu is collection of cuisines that are familiar from my travels around Southeast Asia and beyond. I asked about how much is a serving good for and was told that it was for one. However, I don’t eat much so I guess a couple can share the food that I ordered, hahaha! I indulged my self starting with the Chef’s salad which is a medley of crisp and fresh vegetables tossed in a special vinaigrette. I love the subtlety of the dressing allowing the fresh flavors of the salad become the dish’s feature.  My main dish was a Nasi Goreng. The Nasi’s flavor reminded me of the *insert Street Name* colorful food scene. The tenderly flavored beef seem to have just transported me back to Malaysia. It was everything I remember. Like they say always leave room for dessert. But no, I made room for dessert. The Brazo de Mercedes was just exquisite, it felt like they know how I wanted my food. The cake wasn’t too sweet just enough for you to appreciate heaven.

 Chef’s Salad

My last dinner was hosted by the hotel’s Taza restaurant. I was sat down in a table and was asked if wanted something to drink while waiting for my food. I asked if they have juices or tea (which they do) but I pushed a little further. See I rarely drink sodas and powdered drinks, so I asked i those were either house brewed ice tea or real fruit juices. Dinner started appropriately with some soup followed by some appetizers. The main star of the night’s dinner table was the Tomahawk Rib Eye. The meat was just heavenly to chew on and cooked to perfection. The juice from the steak was just so full of flavor.

After an entire full 8 course dinning experience, I spoke with the restaurant manager and learned that their meat are locally sourced to as far as Bukidnon for the best ingredients. Something that I feel needs to be commended in a world where everything is flooded by cheap imported goods.

The Room

 

The room booked for me was a premier room at the Lake View wing of the property. The sight of a gorgeous bed was a welcome site for me. Having traveled from the northern part of the metro all the way to the south was a challenge. But after all that hassle, the warm embrace of the comforter and the soft hugs of the bed made it all worth it.

The suite is well appointed with wood furnishing. But the true test for me in any good hotel is the bathroom, and I was not disappointed. The huge bathroom has separate showers and toilet and a good mirror between them. Water pressure was awesome, unlike some hotels where you just want to beg for more water to come out, Taal Vista’s water pressure was just right. The toilet is equipped with a bidet, that’s an extra point no need to touch you tushy.

 

I appreciate that the room smelled clean. I mean yes of course hotels should smell clean but do they most of the time? Though the Taal Vista Hotel was built in the 1930’s the management actually closed it down for a couple of years and had it renovated and restored to its original architecture during the early 2000’s. The furniture are all updated to a modern taste and yes it doesn’t smell mold like any other old hotels. The room also had a big TV that kept me entertained with cable programming. I don’t really watch TV but it helped a lot keep me updated since there was a storm that time and I couldn’t really walk outside of the property.

 

The View

This here deserves a separate insight. Probably the best thing about mornings in Taal Vista Hotel was waking up to an unbelievable view. You know that feeling when you watch movies where the character starts his or her day? They pour in their coffee and open up this huge glass panel door, walks right into their veranda and breathes in the cool crisp air while looking into that awesome view as they drink their coffee? That feeling! I couldn’t just get my self to close that window. My bed was near the huge glass doors and I just spent so much time lounging at the bed, working on my laptop and just giving that view a glimpse form time to time. It was all the motivation I needed to work that day.

The room has a veranda that could have been perfect to spend your afternoons at. If not for the strong winds and occasional rains I would have ordered my self a pot of brewed coffee and just admire that picturesque view.

 

 

The Taal Vista Hotel Property

If you have ever passed by Taal Vista Hotel’s area, you might have the notion that the property’s area is a bit small. Well that was my impression before, at least. However passed the main building and this hill (which was actually a wall) that separates areas of the property. I walked around and explored the property a bit further.

The Gym

I’m not a fitness freak, but I do try to get some exercise. I just don’t want to gain those pounds again (#paranoid) and it was a good thing that Taal Vista Hotel has gym with ample equipment that you can use to burn those extra fat. Though it was raining and foggy outside, I appreciate that they air conditioning was still on. See when you burn more fats when you work out in a cold environment. This is because your body uses more energy to heat up your self and perform its functions. Now that’s one good fitness tip for you 😉

The Pool

I’m not quite sure if the pool is heated or not, but i tried to take a dip on that gloomy day and the water was just perfect. I admit that I am quite squeamish with cold pools, but the water was just fine! It is also notable that the pool is hidden from plain sight from the public areas. Remember that hill looking wall? This is what was behind it. The pool also has an on duty life guard so kids are safe, still of course don’t leave minors unattended.

Sky Ranch

If you are staying in Taal Vista Hotel, you can also gain special access to the Sky Ranch theme park. The hotel has a special access to the theme park so there is no need to go out and walk on road side. This is also great since your room is easily accessible from the park. May also ask for a special rate for the park.

My Goodbyes

 

 

On my last day just before I check out of the property, I asked for a cup of coffee. It was a good cup. The bitterness just strikes my palate at the right spots with notes of rubbery goodness. Everything that I am looking for in cup of coffee while I gaze at the incredible view of the Taal Volcano one last time. The Taal Vista doesn’t just offer a room for everyone. It offers an opportunity to travel back in time and feel how it was back in the days when the ridge was uncrowded through its wide open spaces facing the lake.

If you have just one day and couldn’t stay, I’d say give the spot a few hours, buy a cup of coffee and just stare at the amazing view of the Taal Lake. Slow down a bit and feel the beauty of life at Taal Vista Hotel. 

Travel Guide: How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia (Border Cross)

Being part of the main land Southeast Asia, Vietnam is one of the usual stops for backpackers. So aside from taking the plane to the country, to save money most travelers actually cross borders via land. If you are wondering how to go to Vietnam from Cambodia via land, you’d be surprised that it’s relatively easy. Let’s check on some things first.

VISA Requirements

If you are a non ASEAN citizen you might want to check Viet Nam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs if you are needing to secure a visa prior to your arrival. You will also notice when you buy your bus ticket that the staff will ask you some questions. This is to determine if you are aware of your visa situation and that you have secured one if necessary.

On the other hand, if you are an ASEAN citizen, all that you’ll be needing is your passport. ASEAN citizens with passports issued by member countries  are currently afforded visa-free entry into Viet Nam for a period of 21 to 30 days.

How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia (Border Cross)

check on google maps here

How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia (Border Cross)

screen cap from google maps

The Journey To Viet Nam

As you buy your ticket, the staff will actually ask you if you have ever been to Viet Nam. I think this is their soft probing if you are aware of the things that you need to know on how to go to Vietnam from Cambodia. They will also inform you if you need a visa, ergo they will not sell you tickets if you don’t have.

Say, you have your tickets already and its time to board the bus. Before the bus leaves, the steward will collect all passports to double check if you have the right documentation. As soon as you arrive at the Cambodian border, all passports will be redistributed. You will have to get off of the bus and line up for your passports to be stamped out.

After everyone has been stamped out and have boarded back on the bus, you will be taken to the Duty Free shop for dinner. Yeah, It’s a bit over priced but the food isn’t that bad and you have no other choice. After about an hour everyone jumped backed in the bus heading to the Viet Nam side of the border.

On the Vietnam side of the border, the bus steward will be the one to process your passports for you. You will actually be asked to bypass the immigration officers booth after handing you back your passport. As you exit the processing center, an immigration officer will then check your passports one at a time. This is to make sure that everyone was processed accordingly.

Your bus will be waiting at the exit of the processing center. Once everyone is back on the bus you’d be on your way to Ho Chi Minh city! There’s one difference that should be noted between the Cambodian and Vietnam border processing. As you exit, the Cambodian border center will just as yourself to step off the bus without your belongings. On the other hand, the Vietnam border will ask you to unload everything and have everything scanned. I guess the later’s immigration process is a lot stricter since you are entering their country.

Your journey ends at the Pham Ngu Lao street where everyone gets off. If you have not booked a room just yet, you are almost guaranteed to find one along the alleys of Pham Ngu Lao.

hopefully this gives you a good idea of what bus company to take and some insight on How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia.

Fare: $14 (as of 11/29/2016)

 

If you have any questions, suggestion or inputs please do let us know on the comments section!