Cambodia has been on my wishlist for as long as I can possibly remember, but I’d never had the time or the opportunity to visit, and although this trip was short, it was surely sweet, and I am truly looking forward to my next set of adventures here!
Whether you’re only spending 2 days or have more of a leisurely trip planned for Cambodia, I’ve created an adventure-packed itinerary for you, based on everything I did and recommend!
My brother and I visited in June, which is the middle of the rainy season, meaning it is incredibly hot, humid, and can pour down with rain anytime, anywhere. Pack an umbrella, and leave behind your high heels when traveling here. For the rest of your suitcase, I’ve rounded up the essentials for you below.
What to Pack:
- Linen dresses, cotton tops, light shorts/skirts (my go to travel brands are: Zimmermann, Mara Hoffman, and Faithfull The Brand)
- Sunhat (this is my favorite hat, year round)
- Sunglasses (these travel with me everywhere!)
- Sneakers (choose a pair you don’t mind getting wet & muddy, I use these and these)
- Waterproof sandals (I love these in nude)
- Lightweight Raincoat (I love this one, in every color!)
- Umbrella (the hotel most likely has one, but if you have one you love, bring it!)
Where to Stay: The Cambodiana
Located in the heart of the city along the Mekong River, it’s the perfect jump off point for exploring Phnom Penh!
Where to Eat: Malis Restaurant
Upon a recommendation by our local guide, I had the Amok Fish, a traditional Cambodian fish curry dish steamed in banana leaves with coconut cream and lemongrass. It was one of the best meals I have ever had, ever!!! I ate and enjoyed my meal so much, I forgot to even take a picture!
What to Do:
Here are the top 5 things I did while in Phnom Penh, and I’ve detailed it all out for you below!
- Walk along the Mekong River Promenade with the locals after work
- Learn about traditional silk weaving on Silk Island
- Tour the ancient capital city of Cambodia: Oudong
- Explore the local food market
- Visit the workshop of a local metalsmith
I didn’t have the opportunity, but if you have the chance to stay longer than 2 days, I highly suggest visiting Ankor Wat!
Walk Along the Mekong Riverside Promenade in Phnom Penh
Feel the hustle and bustle of the city, pick lotus flowers at the market, get your fortune read, see Wats, watch the sunset over the river, sit in front of the Royal Palace with locals and have a picnic, watch kids play football in the plaza, or take an aerobics dance class in the park. With all the buzzy activity happening here, especially after work hours, this makes for a fun evening walk and sets the tone for the entire city.
Learn Traditional Silk Weaving in a Silk Village
Koh Dach Island a.k.a. Silk Island, is just up the Mekong River from Phnom Penh. To access it, take a short ferry ride across the river and hop on to a tuk tuk for a journey through the island’s beautiful farmland to the silk village. Learn how silk is collected, spun, and woven into beautiful patterns, and watch the local silk weavers in action, each trained from a young age in the art of creating their family’s unique design. The tour leads you to the silk shop (as we were all were secretly hoping it would!) where you can purchase all manner of goodies (like scarves, ties, and tablecloths) and best of all, silk by the meter! Spoiler alert, everyone is getting silk scarves for Christmas!
Visit The Ancient Capital of Oudong
Oudong was the royal capital of Cambodia from 1618-1866, overtaken by the Khmer Rouge in 1974, but still has the remains of beautiful temples, stupas, and buddhas. The Kandal Temple is covered in shimmering gold tiles, very impressive – and you’ll almost have the entire place to yourself. It’s a beautiful way to spend the afternoon. The drive is approximately 1 hour from Phnom Penh, and passes through a muslim village along the way, which looked like it had a fascinating and bustling market! If I went again, I would be sure to stop there along the way.
Explore the Local Markets
For me, the marketplace is the heart and soul of a village, where people spend their mornings and evenings, connected by a common thread: food. No trip is complete without a visit to the local market – taste a new fruit, or discover a new dish! This is one of the best ways to feel what life is truly like in any community. (p.s. If you zoom in closely to what looks like a quinoa salad, you’ll see there are actually hundreds of ants! How’s that for a new dish?!)
Visit the Workshop of a Local Metalsmith
Chea Yuthea is a metal engraver using ancient Ankorian techniques to create beautiful artwork. Stop by his workshop, located just outside of Phnom Penh, and see how he creates his molds and deftly chisels remarkably intricate designs right in front of your eyes. Commission a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece to take home with you – a little bit of Cambodia in your home to remind you of your amazing trip. The banana leaf above is the special artwork I brought home with me!
I hope these few recommendations make your upcoming trip to Cambodia a bit easier, or perhaps even inspire you to visit Phnom Penh in the future! If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message or ask in the comment section below!