Phnom Penh is a very sobering destination. There is plenty of poverty around and the place of Cambodia’s capital as the epicenter of the country’s modern history is quite striking as well. It’s hard to fathom the extent of the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities when they stand in such contrast with the warmth of the people of Cambodia, but despite their spirits, the scars remain.
The Killing Fields and the S-21 prison (Tuol Sleng) are two of these salient reminders. Words cannot aptly describe what it feels like walking through the empty rooms of the former prison and the still uninterred mass graves outside the city. They are very tough places to visit but very well worth the time.
I would suggest not to visit the two of them on the same day but tuk-tuk drivers usually package both sites together for around $8. They’ll start you off in the Killing Fields, an hour’s drive outside of town, and finish off with S-21. Two hours at either place tends to be more than enough.
On the lighter side, the Central Market (Psar Thmei) and the Russian Market (not to be confused with the O’Russei Market) are great places to get lost and roam, eat cheap food and haggle for scarves, t-shirts and anything you can think of. And it can be incredibly cheap. A $1-$2 mototaxi ride separates one from the other. And the Central Market is only a 15-20 minute walk from Riverside. (Or a $1 mototaxi ride if you’re short on time/have aching feet.)
The night market riverside is very small in comparison but can be a fun stop. It was the cheapest place in which I found kramas-80 cents a piece. And that was before I threw in a few more for a slightly bigger discount!
Just north of the Riverside area you”ll find Phnom Penh, the famous hill and city’s name sake. If you start late in the afternoon, you can make your way down to the FCC for a few (relatively expensive) drinks or stop at any of the myriad of bars and cafes along the way, just in time for Happy Hour. Riverside is a great place to spend the evening whether you’re having dinner at Friends, happy pizza by the river, watching the masses exercising to the music or getting a foot massage. And you can always take a $3-$4 tuk-tuk ride into The Heart of Darkness to cap off the night.