There’s live music every night of the week in the capital when you know where to look (and most of it’s still free)
Phnom Penh’s music scene has experienced quite a shake up since I last wrote on the subject. Pandemic-induced restrictions saw venues closing their doors or no longer able to justify the cost of putting bands on, so it’s good to see that the capital’s many accomplished music makers are back in action with a roster of new places to play and audiences eager for some great gigs.
Geography of the Moon go acoustic at The Vine.
A new destination to know is the vibrant enclave of bars and eateries taking shape in the Wat Botum neighborhood not far from the Royal Palace, with regular live music as a big part of the draw. Popular cocktail and burger joint (and hairdresser!) The Vine has moved from the less salubrious Street 172 to cool new premises on Street 244 next door to Villa Grange. This friendly hangout hosts regular gigs in the bar on Wednesdays and early evening acoustic Sunday Sessions in the small courtyard out front. Continue reading →
Sleepy Kep. Kep Sur Mer. The quiet little town on Cambodia’s coast famous for its crab market, accessible national park, and the graffitied shells of luxury 1960s villas destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. Kep, the coastal alternative to nearby Kampot, with fewer restaurants but better-value accommodation set among trees and colorful bougainvillea. The Kep of breath-taking sunsets at The Sailing Club, with the sea breeze and lapping waves a constant reminder that one isn’t in Phnom Penh anymore.
Luxury at Kep’s Villa Des Palmes is just like the old days.
That Kep is now largely gone and is being rapidly replaced by a new Kep; less tailored to expats and Western visitors and more accessible to local tourists, a Kep that in time might be just as charming as the previous iteration.
Everywhere changes, and change can often be good, offering improvements in standing of living and employment, and may even improve environmental conditions such as clean water or waste management. However, rapid change can be scary, and the lack of transparency in Kep about plans, intentions, and environmental impact doesn’t inspire confidence.
The capital’s contemporary art scene is on a roll — and it’s a far cry from apsaras and sunrise over Angkor Wat
As the city’s cultural venues burst into post-pandemic life, a spate of new gallery openings and a burgeoning number of innovative multi-arts spaces are inspiring, promoting, and supporting creativity in Phnom Penh like never before.
The upmarket Gallerist, Phnom Penh.
In a city that still, disappointingly, lacks any national or state art galleries, it’s left to independent galleries and private institutions to grandstand a growing array of talent. The most exclusive newcomer to the fold — a sign of the increasingly sophisticated nature of the Phnom Penh arts scene — is The Gallerist on Street 240. It’s owned by the French artist known as Stan, a relative newcomer to the art scene, who is making a mark with his large, heavily-textured abstracts. Whether you’re buying or just browsing, it’s a classy space to view pieces by some of the most collectible local and foreign artists at work in the country. Continue reading →
After a year or so in the doldrums Phnom Penh bars are back in business, and nowhere more so than in the laneways around Street 308 between Norodom and Sothearos Boulevards not far from the Independence Monument. Not only has this idiosyncratic nightlife destination regained its mojo, it’s even acquired a new name. Welcome to the Bassac Quarter, one of the capital’s best-loved after-dark hotspots where punters are genuinely spoilt for choice when it comes to beer, cocktails and a bite to eat.
The bright lights of Bassac Lane
While it’s been hard to watch business owners struggle — and sometimes, sadly, fail — to maintain their livelihoods during the Covid-enforced closures, it’s reassuring to see so many bouncing back, and a raft of new bars and eateries opening in readiness for a post-pandemic influx of expats and visitors. The neighborhood comes alive after five with happy hours at many venues. At the latest count it’s home to some thirty (really!) mostly small drinking and eating establishments, in styles that range from sleek to dive, all sardined into what is little more than one, lively block. Continue reading →
Cambodia watchers will be happy to hear that the Kingdom has finally lifted (most) Covid-19 travel regulations for vaccinated travelers. Find more information on the main points below, and for the notable exceptions.
Visa on arrivals are now available, as before the pandemic. The following visa classes are available on arrival for citizens of previously approved countries: A, B, C, E, T, K Continue reading →
While there are a plethora of activities for kids in Phnom Penh, quite a few of them have admission fees or other charges. But rest assured that even if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of free activities for kids in Phnom Penh, from parks and playgrounds to storytime and picnics.
The riverside at dusk is a great place for a stroll or cycle.
Parks and public outdoor spaces
Compared to other capital cities, Phnom Penh is noticeably lacking in public parks and green spaces in general, but if you know where to look there are some great parks and outdoor spaces in Cambodia’s capital city.
A stroll or bike ride along the riverside is a popular activity that doesn’t need to cost anything, however for some spare change there are plenty of vendors with popcorn, bubble blowers, cold drinks, and snacks, which can make for a lovely low-cost weekend or evening outing. Nearby, the Royal Palace is full of green lawns great for burning some energy, with the added fun of being surrounded by hundreds of pigeons. In the evening, it’s the perfect place for a picnic. Continue reading →
It’s hard to keep up with the number of supermarkets in Phnom Penh these days! There are dozens of supermarkets, grocery stores, and convenience stores all over town, most of them carrying a wide range of imported goods. Phnom Penh’s supermarkets aren’t cheaper, of course, than shopping at a local market, but if you prefer your meats refrigerated, your prices fixed and access to imported products, you’ve got many options in Phnom Penh, and more are being added all of the time including organic options. This updated posts features the ten best supermarkets in Phnom Penh.
Chip Mong is another Phnom Penh grocery store that delivers!
Chip Mong Supermarket
Relative newcomer Chip Mong Supermarket on Monivong Blvd has quickly become one of the most popular grocery stores in Phnom Penh. This modern grocery store carries a wide range of local and imported American, European, and Asian items. They also have a fresh meat, fish, and cheese counter, as well as a wide range of frozen foods. Plus, they have a nice selection of beauty products, including all-natural and K-beauty items. Their website has all of their products listed, and, best of all, you can place an order on their site for delivery by Food Panda, with a delivery charge of just $1.
While Phnom Penh is a pretty small city — its 2 million residents would be quickly swallowed in neighboring Saigon or Bangkok — it manages to contain significant architectural variety, and its manageable size allows for an easy exploration of the city’s history. Two books, King Norodom’s Head and Architectural Guide Phnom Penh, give readers the opportunity to understand more about the city and its unique architecture.
Ever wondered who these two dashing techos are, and why the prime minister so loves their story?
King Norodom’s Head by Steven Boswell is part travel guide, part history book, part ode to a city lost. It includes maps of key locations to assist intrepid explorers looking to follow the stories, or just better mentally placing things seen before.
Architectural Guide Phnom Penh, by Moritz Henning and Walter Koditek, is far more focused on the city’s various architectural stand outs, but has included interviews with experts and residents to try to offer more background where possible.
Together, they provide explanations and background on wide swathes of the capital. Continue reading →