Tucked away between Vietnam to the East and Thailand to the west, is Cambodia – aka “the Kingdom of Wonder” – an over-looked destination for those trotting around Southeast Asia. So why should you deviate from the usual trek and visit the Kingdom? After 15 months of living here, the perks are obvious.
1. Food is cheap. A decent lunch will cost you about $2.50 to $3.50. Or add 75 cents if you want a fresh coconut to go with it. The street food isn’t as spicy or as creative as in the neighboring countries, but it is edible. A standard breakfast is rice, fried pork and pickled vegetables. That will set you back 75 cents to $1.00. Or $1.25 if you want scrambled eggs to go with it. If you crave a menu that goes on forever and offers consistently good food, head for the Aroma Chef Cafe on Street 172, just north of Street 19.
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2. Alcohol “free” zone. Where else on the planet can you get draught beer for 50 cents a mug? A bottle of Zubrowka – a spectacular Polish vodka with a stem of buffalo grass stuck in it – costs $42 in Australia. At the supermarket in Phnom Penh it is $11.20. In some places happy hour is for all 24. At others it is two-for-one cocktails from about 17:00 to 19:00.
3. Massages by the blind. Blindness in Cambodia is pandemic, judging by the number of blind massage places in town. If you want to be twisted, pulled and pummeled until your body thinks it is going to break, go there for a session and walk away feeling refreshed. A favorite is the one on Street 118, just off Sisowath Quay and to the left. If you want a “happy ending” go to a regular massage parlor.
4. Happy Pizza. It is illegal to smoke marijuana in the Kingdom, even though you can get it from any tuk-tuk driver in town. However, you can eat it because it is classified as an herb and a medicine. So rock up to a happy pizza place and order “happy,” “very happy” or “super happy.” A word of caution is that it takes a few hours to go through your digestive system so you will end up stoned about six hour later. A super happy pizza for breakfast is the best option.
5. Hang out at Harry’s. The Sundance Inn and Saloon on Street 172 is a great local that attracts all sorts of locals, expats, weirdos and tourists. Or as Harry laughs, “I created the bar I wanted to drink at.” The drinks are free pour and go on forever. If you want a Bombay Safari and tonic — $2.00 – ask Collin to make it for you as he is more generous with the shots than Rory.
6. Visit Angkor Wat. It is one of the wonders of the world that deserves to be on everyone’s bucket list. It is overwhelming and you may get templed-out in a day so don’t go the week-long pass unless you are an anthropology student. If you want a reliable English speaking tuk-tuk driver that will find you a decent guest house and look after you, contact Ty-ty. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org and his number is 012-58-22-04.
7. The girls and the boys. The women in Cambodia are among the most beautiful in the world. Unfortunately, so are the boys. They are often even more effeminate than their sisters. So for males it is a great destination. For women, however, it is questionable. Fifteen months without meeting a bonk-able male Cambodian? Enough said.
Jody Hanson is an insufferable travel junkie who has visit 107 countries – 67 on her own – lived in nine and holds passports in three. She has visited all the countries in North, Central and South America except for Venezuela, Guyana, Surname and French Guinea. She wrote this article on behalf of Tucan Travel who offer adventure travel to Cambodia and all over Southeast Asia.