Jewels of Phnom Penh

I've been poking about the internet recently and I came across the Phnom Penh City website.  There's some interesting stuff on the site, including the Jewels of Phnom Penh.

Basically the Jewels of Phnom Penh is a list of 20 historic Phnom Penh buildings.  The information included is pretty basic: year constructed, purpose and address, but the reason I liked flicking through was that for each picture they have a vintage photograph and a current photograph.  

I think it would make a good starting point for a little walking tour of Phnom Penh.  

I haven't done the full tour yet, but here are some shots of one of the 'Jewels of Phnom Penh', the mostly disused (although maybe not for too much longer) and recently restored, Phnom Penh Railway Station.

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Snapshot - Barber's Shop

Just a snapshot, a Local Barber's Shop, near Wat Langka.

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Shop: Monument Books

I love books, I love reading them, I love holding them, I love the smell of them, I love looking at them.  As evidenced by the fact that I've hauled 80 or so of them 7,000 km around the world.  So, naturally, I love bookshops.  

That's why when I'm at a loose end I like to while away some time somewhere like Monument Books.

There are some truly lovely books here.  As you might expect, there's a good selection of books on Cambodia.  There's also a good range of fiction.  I think the prices are pretty reasonable, and there's normally a discount table at the front.  Oh, and there's a pretty good range of foreign magazines.

My only complaint is that, as many of the books are wrapped in plastic, you can't flick through them before you purchase.

The other great thing about this place is there's a Blue Pumpkin cafe upstairs, so you can grab a coffee and enjoy your purchases straight away.

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Go: Sea and Sand, but no Sun, at Sihanoukville

I don't know if, like me, you've been studying your calendar recently, but October and November are very good for public holidays here in Cambodia.  The best thing about Cambodian Public Holidays is they tend to come in groups of three (so much better than this one day here and one day there business).  So my current project is to figure out how I am best going to take advantage of these days off.  

In search of inspiration, I've been flicking through photos of our last few trips, including a flying visit to Sihanoukville one weekend a few months ago.  We only went for a night, just to get a bit of sun, sand and sea.  Unfortunately, as it was the beginning of wet season, there wasn't much sun.  But we did enjoy the sand and sea.

We set off early on Saturday, stopping at a market along the way to pick up supplies.

The Rambutans were especiallly delicious, freshly picked from the orchard across the road.

We spent most of out time at Otres Beach.  Being a little way out of town, Otres Beach is lovely and quiet, and, relatively, clean.   Its about 10-15 mins drive from Sihanoukville, but worth the trouble, I think.

We bought a seafood feast at the market, which we brought with us to the beach (although there are plenty of places to eat at the beach).  The barbequed calamari was delicious! 

We weren't the only ones excited by this feast.

We didn't spend much time in town, apart from dinner at one of the BBQ restaurants on Tola Street, where you can get freshly barbequed seafood, potatoes and salad for a few dollars.  

I am not a fan of Occheuteal Beach (the main beach) although we did stroll down there one evening to watch the crowds setting off their fireworks.

We stayed at at Sea Sand Guesthouse, mainly because you can get an AirCon room for $12 per night.  The rooms are basic, but clean and come with TV, hot shower and AirCon, which was all we needed.  It is a bit of a hike from the beachfront  (that's what tuk-tuks are for), but it is just around the corner from the market (Psaa Leu), which we found very handy.

If you want somewhere closer to the action, you could try Orchidee Guesthouse.  Or, if you want something more upmarket there's the Independence Hotel or Sokha Resort, both of which have private beaches.

We had breakfast at Douceur du Cambodge, a cute little French bakery just down the road from our guesthouse (and the  market).  We got the last little table available and has one of the best value breakfasts I've had.  For 10,000 Reil ($2.50) we got a cooked breakfast with eggs, baguette with butter and jam, and a espresso coffee.  I didn't take a photo, but here's someone else's:
Image from here
On our way back to PP we stopped by a 'waterfall'.  Not exactly my definition of a waterfall, but still a nice spot to stop and eat.  There are little bungalow type things you can rent and we brought our own food.

If you're looking for other ideas down the coast, check out my post on Kep.

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Eat: Ice Cream at Blue Pumpkin

The Blue Pumpkin is my happy place.   

It used to be one of my favourites in Siem Reap.  Whenever we went to Siem Reap we would stop into Blue Pumpkin every evening for dessert and to pick up pastries for the following morning.  Fortunately we don't have to wait til we visit Siem Reap these days.  There is a Blue Pumpkin on the riverfront.

I personally think that this is the best ice cream in Cambodia.

This is only about half the selection.  I personally recommend the Honey and Star Anise and the Green Lemon and Kaffir Lime flavours (the Green Lemon & Kaffir Lime has just the perfect amount of tang).  The Passionfruit is also lovely.

On this particular visit The Boy had a Passionfruit and Chocolate Mouse.

I was very restrained and had just one scoop of ice cream (Baileys), in a delectable waffle cone.

You can also grab take home packs of ice cream (1 litre from $6.50).  

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Eat: Bagels at the Vego Salad Bar

Okay, so this is the last installment of my vegetarian week. The Vego Salad Bar.

This funky little bar is not technically speaking vegetarian, but veggies do feature very prominently on the menu. Your basic choices are salads, wraps or bagels.

I got an “Australia” Bagel. I'm not exactly sure why it got that name, but it was one of the best bagels I've had in PP, stuffed full of roasted veggies and goats cheese. So good.

Starting from $3.75 you can design your own salad or wrap. Full of fresh yummy ingredients.  This place is probably my favourite find from my vego week.  

I might have also picked up a Blueberry bagel for breakfast the following day...

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Eat: For a couple of dollars at The Vegetarian

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this week has been all about vegetarian food. So, naturally, I went to The Vegetarian. 

I have passed this place a million times, and finally got around to stopping in. I love how they've made the terrace feel like a garden.  And the table decorations are very cool.

Even better you can get lunch here for less than $2. Why had no one told me about this place?

I grabbed a vegetarian Phat Thai. To be honest, I don't think I ordered particularly well. Too much tofu and not enough vegies. But for $1.75 I'm not complaining!

The menu is varied, and cheap, so if you want a budget lunch in a nice setting, give it a go.

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Eat: Vegetarian at Cafe Soleil

So this week has been all about vegetarian food for me. Not intentionally, but that's the way it's worked out. Yesterday, I stopped by Cafe Soleil. I've walked past this place a few times, and to be honest I had assumed this was a mexican place. I'm not really sure why, given that as far as I know the name is French, but, somehow, in my head it looked Mexican! Anyway, itturns out it's not Mexican (or French, for that matter), but a vegetarian cafe offering Khmer/Thai and Western options (all MSG free). And, you can grab lunch here for under $3 (or under $5, if you want to grab a drink as well).

It's only a little place but there's a couple of tables out front and more inside.

My Passionfruit Soda was as tasty as it was pretty.

And the stir-fried vegetables with pineapple in coconut milk was also tasty.

Plus, I got change from a fiver, gotta be happy with that!

Oh, and I noticed they have New Zealand Ice cream... maybe next time ;)

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Go: Phnom Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary

It's taken me a long time to get around to visiting Phnom Tamao.  For a long time I wasn't sure whether I even wanted to go as I've had some bad experiences visiting zoos in Asia (visiting Phuket Zoo was one of the most depressing experiences I've had).  But I have also heard many good things about the wildlife centre, so, finally last weekend The Boy and I went out to take a look.

Phnom Tamao is 44 km south of Phnom Penh following National Road 2, we got slightly lost and so travelled a bit further (albeit through a very picturesque bit of Cambodian countryside near 'the other' Siem Reap).

A word of warning, I may have gotten slightly carried away with the photos here...sorry!

Phnom Tamao is an interesting zoo.  We began our visit in a walk-through exhibit where deer and monkeys roam free among some smaller enclosures.  There are children selling food to feed the animals, and, as a result, most of the animals are very friendly to visitors.  Although there was one angry bird (a word of caution, take your photo from a distance!)

Phnom Tamao is different from any other zoo or wildlife parks I've ever visited, in that it's a  'drive-through' zoo.   Basically you drive your car or moto from exhibit to exhibit.

The zoo not very well sign-posted, with directions to only the 'big name' exhibits.  Many enclosures have no lables or information at all.  This may annoy some, but for me it adds to the charm.  We enjoyed wandering down lanes and peering into enclosures never sure what we might spy.

I have to be honest the main reason I came to Phnom Tamao was these guys.  (In fact it was this video that really got me motivated to visit Phnom Tamao)

(I love the fact that the bears have hammocks!)

Our last stop was the elephants.  If you're visiting these guys make sure you stand back, we saw the elephants spray a few people!

Overall I was quite impressed with Phnom Tamao.  It's not as well marked and sign-posted as many other zoos and some of the exhibits are basic.  However, most of the animals appeared contented and reasonably well cared for.  

Entry to the zoo will cost you $5 per person.  We spent about 3 hours there but could have spent longer.  Alternatively there are a couple of tours you can do to Phnom Tamao that include extra tours and activities (check out or

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Trip Home: Part 4 - Barossa Valley, SA

No trip to South Australia would be complete without a wander through one of the many local wine regions.  We chose the Barossa Valley.

First stop, Yalumba.

If you visit the Barossa, do yourself a favour and stop off at Angas Park.

This is one of the few places you can buy Australian dried fruit, and it tastes exactly like I remember.  I walked out with delicious dried apricots, peaches and nectarines (which I have been happily munching on since we got back to Cambodia).  Tuesday is senior's discount day, so do what we did and bring your parents!

I also spent a lot of time admiring the gum trees, one of the things I love about home.

We arrived at Saltram just before closing.

When we arrived just 10 minutes before closing the new chef and winemakers were preparing the new menu and doing a tasting, so we were fortunate enough to hear all about Saltram's wines from their two winemakers, we felt very privileged.  After chatting there til well after closing we headed home with our goodies.

If you are doing the Barossa Valley I would recommend both Yalumba and Saltram (but honestly there is no shortage of good wineries in this area).

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Trip Home: Part 3 - Hahndorf, SA

There are some great spots to explore which are just a short drive from Adelaide.  One of my favourites is... 

Any trip to a German town is going to involve a lot of food.  So we got started right away with hot chocolate and cherry streudel, surrounded by cuckoo clocks.

Then off for a wander around the very quaint shops.

We stopped at Cafe Assiette for lunch.  Sitting in front of their open fire on a winters day is glorious.  Their huge German sausage platter is amazing.  We shared it, but it could easily feed three.  Yum!!!

We also noticed a new restaurant.  I love what they've done with the interior, especially the bicycle above the bar.  Unfortunately after our huge lunch there was no chance of us squeezing anything else in so it's on the to do list for next time.

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