Phnom Penh 2 Day Itinerary

We visited Phnom Penh as a two day side trip from Siem Reap, travelling by bus. It’s quite a long journey; the 200 mile trip took us around 7 hours each way including all the stops. But I’m a history nerd, so always intrigued to see places I’d read about in history lessons. So I though it was well worth it. Phnom Penh is very hot and humid, so if you can afford it, I would recommend splurging a little and choosing a hotel with a pool!

Itinerary

Bus to Phnom Penh
Plantation Urban Resort
Drinks and Dinner at Panorama Mekong Hostel
Day 1The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
The Royal Palace
Day 2National Museum of Cambodia
Walk along the Mekong
Bus to Siem Reap

Attractions

1The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
2Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
3The Royal Palace
4National Museum of Cambodia
5Walk along the Mekong

Bus to Phnom Penh

It seemed like a good idea at the time; a six hour bus trip from Siem Reap to the capital, Phnom Penh. It’s only 199 miles, so that’s an average of 33 mph. The old man and I reach the bus terminal. It’s rather chaotic, child no 1 has booked the complimentary pick up service and is nowhere to be seen, finally arriving a couple of minutes before the bus is due to depart.

Cambodian Service Station
Cambodian Service Station

We are late leaving; some American kid has his ticket on his phone which he forgot to charge. Then we have to make an unscheduled stop after a few miles; some American kid needs to pee and can’t wait. It’s going to be a long day.

Cambodian Service Station
Cambodian Service Station

The road is less rural than I’d expected; it’s lined with townships for most of the route. And litter – lots and lots of litter. The verges are thick with plastic bags and bottles.

Cambodian Service Station
Cambodian Service Station

After six hours, three scheduled stops at service stations on stilts and two unscheduled stops (Mr ‘I need to pee’ demands to be dropped off when we pass a brewery) we reach our destination.

We take a Tuk Tuk to the hotel. We climb in, but the driver has parked over a tree root and can’t push the Tuk Tuk back onto the road, so we have to get out again. Still no success, so we have to help push. Then he asks me to stand in the middle of the busy road and stop the traffic so he can reverse.

Tuk Tuk ride
Tuk Tuk ride

Plantation Urban Resort

We make it to the hotel; Plantation Urban Resort, but are greeted by guests making a run for the door, followed by staff. They are spraying insecticide round the pool.

After a brief wait outside, we are issued with masks and allowed to check in. (Ironically, when I wrote this blog in 2018, this was the first time I’d ever worn a face mask – little did I know what the next few years had in store!)

Plantation Urban Reseort foyer
Plantation Urban Resort foyer

The hotel is amazing – like a calm oasis in the middle of a bustling city. Our colonial style room overlooks a huge pool surrounded by greenery and is just what we needed after a day spent on a bus.

Room at Plantation Urban Resort
Room at Plantation Urban Resort

Drinks and Dinner at Panorama Mekong Hostel

Child no 1 is staying in less salubrious circumstances at the nearby Panorama Mekong Hostel. However, it does have a 4th floor bar overlooking the Mekong River. And sells cocktails at £1.35 each, so we join her by the river for drinks and (finally) dinner.

Beer by the riverside
Beer by the riverside

It’s a popular area, the river is full of boats and has a footpath lined with palm trees full of walkers and runners. As it gets dark, the boats light up and there are red and blue fairy lights on the palm trees which match the Cambodian flags along the street. It’s a magical sight.

Cocktails by the riverside
Cocktails by the riverside

Walking back to our hotel, we pass the Royal Palace, also illuminated at night.

Royal Palace at Night
Royal Palace at Night

Phnom Penh Day 1

The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

Some may think it a macabre way to spend a day, but I studied history at university, so the first stop on today’s itinerary is a visit to The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. In a site a few miles out of town, are the mass graves of up to 20,000 victims of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.

Choeung Ek Memorial Centre
Choeung Ek Memorial Centre

An audio tour takes you round the site of the graves. Some have been excavated, leaving huge dents in the ground, others left untouched, meaning bone fragments and teeth are randomly scattered around.

Killing Fields - Rags of Victims' Clothes
Killing Fields – Rags of Victims’ Clothes

The tour finishes at a Memorial to the victims, which contains over 5000 victims’ skulls.

Killing Fields Memorial
Killing Fields Memorial
Killing Fields Memorial
Killing Fields Memorial

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

After this, we move on to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This former school became a prison (Prison S21) during Pol Pot’s regime. The four main buildings can be visited.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Prison S21)
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Prison S21)

Building A was used for interrogation. Each former classroom contains a bed. Just before the regime was toppled, the final 14 prisoners were tortured to death and left in situ. There is a large photo in each room showing how its final victim was discovered, lying on the bed, covered in blood. You can still see traces of blood on the floor.

Building B contains thousands of mug shots of those who were detained here. There are photos taken when prisoners arrived (plus a gruesome set of photos taken post torture).

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Building C houses the mass cells where inmates were shackled to the walls.

Prison rules

Building D displays many of the instruments and methods of torture utilised to make prisoners confess to crimes or give names of CIA/KGB agents. One survivor explains that he’d never even heard of the CIA yet managed to name over 60 agents under torture.

Tuol Sleng Memorial
Tuol Sleng Memorial

It’s a long and draining morning, both emotionally and physically; we have spent four hours walking round the sites with temperatures in the mid 30s. So we return to the hotel and cool off with a swim.

Plantation Pool
Plantation Pool

The Royal Palace

Suitably refreshed, we set off to visit The Royal Palace – a huge complex containing many grand buildings.

Royal Palace
The Royal Palace

Most opulent is the Silver Pagoda which is named for its silver tiled floor.

Silver Pagoda
Silver Pagoda

There are rooms full of treasures on display. It’s a strange feeling, viewing so much ostentatious wealth surrounded by so much poverty.

Servants' Uniforms
Servants’ Uniforms

We round off our last evening in Phnom Penh with anouther round of riverside drinks and dinner.

Final night in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh Day 2

Today is poorly planned. Our onward flights are from Siem Reap, which means a six hour coach journey this afternoon to catch a plane in the morning.

National Museum of Cambodia

First, just enough time to visit the National Museum of Cambodia. It houses a collection of Khmer artefacts but isn’t really worth the $10 admission fee (plus a further $5 for an audio guide).

National Museum of Cambodia
National Museum of Cambodia

Plus there’s no air conditioning, so we only manage an hour before we are so sweaty our clothes are stuck to our bodies and we go in search of cold drinks and a cooling breeze.

National Museum of Cambodia
National Museum of Cambodia

Walk along the Mekong

Then it’s time to say goodbye to child no 1 who is flying home, check out and begin the long journey back to Siem Reap.

Walk along the Mekong
Walk along the Mekong

We take along the banks of the mighty Mekong which is lined with flags and statues.

Walk along the Mekong
Walk along the Mekong

Trip Taken: April 2018

Updated: September 2022

Author: Jane's Midlife Journey

Stopped work, started travelling. Sometimes I run - combining the two with some parkrun tourism.

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