May 12, 2011

Travel 101: Phnom Penh: How to spend S$101 (you big spender, you) in a day


WHILE sister city Siem Reap has the ancient wonder of Angkor Wat, Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh holds a rich history of forgotten French colonial charms and tragic Khmer past. But as the city tries to forge a brave new future - even with bulldozers and shiny new buildings seemingly determined to ignore the endemic poverty on the ground - take heart that you can contribute to the country in some small ways while you're here. Serene Lim

Visit to Royal Palace: S$14.15

You can't really skip the most visible and important landmark in the city. This complex square of buildings includes a cast iron pavilion presented by Napoleon III to the King of Cambodia. It was sited at the opening of the Suez Canal in Egypt before being shipped to Phnom Penh. Don't forget to get your requisite shots at the exquisite Silver Pagoda, too. Entrance fee is US$6.50, and additional charges for cameras and visiting the Silver Pagoda apply.

Day trip to Phnom Tamao Zoo and Wildlife Rescue Centre: S$40.62

Betelnut Jeep Tours ( offers exclusive tours to PTWRC, which was set up by the Forestry Administration of the Cambodian Government to rescue wildlife from poachers, markets and traffickers. The informative guided tour is done onboard an open-air jeep. It costs US$33 and comes with a traditional Khmer lunch and even a betelnut chewing lesson.

Dinner at Friends Restaurant: S$30.77

Opened by Friends International - the non-governmental organisation that provides food, shelter, medical care, training and educational facilities for more than 1,800 homeless, vulnerable or abandoned children each day - the restaurant (House 215, Street 13, Tel: 012 802 072) is run by former youths at risk, and profits are reinvested into projects helping street children. Spend big here - say about US$25. The delish tapas, lemon meringue pie and daiquiris never tasted so comforting.

Shopping at Friends 'N' Stuff: S$15.46

Pop by the store next to the restaurant to pick up souvenirs. It stocks second-hand items like lamps repaired by students, as well as knick-knacks, jewellery and bags designed and hand-crafted by students in sewing and welding training. Finish off the last of your dollars here.

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