Phnom Penh is a hive of activity with plenty going on in and around the city to fill your days and nights with fun. Whether you want to learn to cook Khmer food, or tear it up on the trails, the city has it all.
So you’ve ticked The Killing Fields, S21 and a tour of The Royal Palace off your list and you’re left wondering what there is to do in Phnom Penh. Thankfully, the capital is packed with activities catering to every taste, from the fond foodie to the keen photographer, adrenaline junkie
to the culture fiend.
Those seeking an adrenaline rush can jump aboard an automatic ATV (quad bike) and take a Blazing Trails tour from out near the Killing Fields – a unique way to explore the surrounding paddy fields, woods and villages.
A day spent racing round Phnom Penh’s only premiere go-karting track will also get the juices pumping. Kambol Kart Raceway’s 980-metre circuit is located on the outskirts of the city and takes in lush countryside. The centre’s 6.5hp go-karts hit speeds of up to 70kmph and are often used for team-building exercises, corporate activities and family fun days.
To get a taste for the traditional, dance performances presented by Cambodian Living Arts take place every day from 7-8pm at the National Museum. The vibrant show presents an array of dances from Khmer and different ethnic minorities that reside in Cambodia, ranging from the traditional elegance of Apsara to the folkloric romance of Nesat (the fishing dance) – captivating in its beauty and poise and enhanced by the outstanding colours and costumes.
You can’t leave Phnom Penh without having explored its waterways and there are plenty of operators offering various cruises, from sunrise to sunset and beyond. These vary in price, quality, duration and location so be sure to do some research before settling off on your chosen vessel.
Not one discovery of Phnom Penh is ever complete without a cruise on the mighty Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers. Kanika Cruises offers the perfect opportunity for another glance on the Cambodian capital and to appreciate scenic landscapes along the riversides. The Kanika catamaran, with departures every day at 5pm and 7pm from behind the Himawari Hotel, even offers onboard gourment dining!
Take another stylish trip down the river with Cambo Cruise (Sisowath Quay). Their Silk Island lunch cruise offers a buffet and two-hour tuk-tuk tour of the scenic isle across the Mekong (a great escape from the city’s hustle and bustle) while their sunset dinner cruise features live traditional music, a buffet dinner and plenty of calming atmosphere as you drift along the tranquil Tonle Sap.
Budding snappers can develop their camera skills by signing up to a Nathan Horton Photography Tour. The trips, from one to 10 days, cater to a range in abilities and are designed to enable students to learn while exploring off-the-beaten-track Cambodia. They also aim to encourage photographers to dig deeper into the country’s culture while taking some great shots home to prove it.
There are several independent art galleries and centres helping to promote the local art scene that are well worth a visit. Java Arts Café (Sihanouk Blvd & Tuol Kork) serves up a delectable selection of great tea and coffee to accompany a very recommendable food menu. Each cafe has a gallery which regularly showcases local talent.
Meta House (Sothearos Blvd) is another venue that supports the city’s artists, with constantly changing exhibitions adorning its walls. It also screens free documentaries on both Cambodian and international issues in the afternoons and evenings. But if all you want to do is enjoy a nice film (or a few) on a big screen in the comfort of an air conditioned room, get yourself to one of the three locations of The Flicks Community Movie House (St.95, St.136, St.258). Pay just $3.50 and you get a pass to enjoy as many movies being screened that day as you like. The iconic film ‘The Killing Fields’, about journalists in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime, is shown every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 7pm at the St.136 address.
Co-founded by Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh (who worked with Angelina Jolie on ‘First They Killed My Father’), the Bophana Center (St.200) collects images and sound archives related to Cambodia and gives the general public free access to this unique heritage. The center also trains youngsters in the fields of cinema, audiovisual and new media.