Phnom Penh


As I mentioned in my previous post, I went to bed Monday night at 8:30pm. I was too exhausted to try and stay up later and I gave in to an early bed time. My concern was I would wake up at 3am and be ready to start the day and would then continue a weird sleep cycle. But, when you haven’t slept in 35 hours, reason quickly gets chucked out the window for sleep. I slept really good and hard. I only got woken up once by new people getting shown into the room but, ear plugs and my sleeping mask helped me fall back asleep quickly. I started to slowly wake up and checked the clock. I read 12:30pm and was so surprised I slept so long! I typically wake up every day at 5:30am and stay in bed until 7am. Travel does crazy things to the body so, I shrugged it off. I proceeded to meditate, shower and get ready for the day. At one point one of my room mates got out of bed to use the restroom as I was getting my bag ready for the day and I whispered a perky, “good morning!”. I had been tiptoeing around the room because everyone was still sleeping and I kept wondering why the heck everyone in the room was still sleeping so late in the afternoon. Finally ready I head downstairs to take on the day and as I come down the stairs I can look’s pitch black. Confused, I look at my phone and read that it’s 2:00AM, not PM. I straight up woke up in the middle of the night and thought it was day time. HAHAHAHA! Jet lag is very disorienting for me apparently. After chuckling to myself about my mistake, I headed back up into bed to sleep until a decent hour of 7am. I can only imagine what my suite mate thought as I told him good morning at 2:00am.

When 7am rolled around, I was already ready and hit the streets immediately. I again wandered around the river front and stopped at the French cafe I found the day before for breakfast and to plan my day. I decided my first stop would be Wat Phnom. Legend has it that in 1372 a wealthy widow, Daun Penh, was walking down by the river (Tonle Sap), when she found a washed up and hallowed Loki tree on the river bank. Penh was very surprised to discover that inside the tree were five Buddhist statues. Out of respect for such an auspicious find, she created a sancuary for the statues on a small hill, which became known as Phonm Penh. The city that grew around the hill took on it’s name and the sanctuary remains, now with a bustling city surrounding it.


Wat Phnom is high up on the only hill in the city and a beauty to behold. It’s surrounded by lush greenery and all sorts of birds and butterflies are flying around. It’s only $1 to get in and if you forget to buy your ticket or don’t realize you have to buy a ticket, a guard at the top of the stairs will let you pay your $1 straight to him. Once at the top, shoes are discarded (I put mine in my backpack as to not have them wander off with new owners) and then one enters the sancuary or vihara. Inside the vihara are beautiful paintings adorning the ceiling and walls of Buddha in differetn situations. A large statue of Buddha rests in the center and many smaller statues surround him. There is a haze of ever present incense and families sit on the plastic mats beneath Buddha to tell stories and pay respects. It’s a sight to behold and feels very holy. I took time to meditate in the room as it seemed weird to not with all those Buddha’s present. I think I made him proud. 


After I had my fill at Wat Phnom, I continued to walk along the riverfront is search of a store and cafe called Daughters of Cambodia- The store/cafe exists in effort to help pull girls and transgender girls (they are referred to here in Cambodia as lady boys) out of the sex trade by offering them classes in life skills and a safe environment to work. It’s a cute store full of sweet knick knacks and hand sewn goodies. Upstairs they have a cafe where the jasmine tea is iced and the air conditioning hits the spot. It was a nice place to take a break from the hot sun and recoup. I love supporting women run business especially ones who are looking to a make a positive impact in the world. 


I continued on down the river to see the National Museum, Royal Palace and Silver padoga but, the first two were closed. Many of the museums and tourist sites are open 7am-11am and then take a break until 5pm. A very nice tuk tuk driver informed me of the hours and offered to drive me around to the rest of the sites I wanted to see, wait for me as I poked around and then take me back to my hostel. He took me first to the Toul Sleng museum and the killling fields but, I’ll discuss those in another post as the subject matter is heavy.


After those historic and intense sites, I wanted to lighten the mood and headed to brand new vegan (and gluten free!) spot called Vibe Cafe- Located right next to the Russian markets, Vibe cafe is quiet heaven from the hustle outside it’s doors. Painted all white with wood accents and lush green plants, the beauty of the interiors match the purity of the food. Vibe sources all their ingredients ethically and has created a nourishing menu of 100% plant based delicacies. I started with a reishi latte, made with cashew milk that was creamy and earthy. I had the hardest time narrowing down my lunch choice but finally settled on the ritual bowl which had GMO free tempeh, beet hummus, sprouts, quinoa, sauerkraut, fermented beets and cashew ricotta.

It was heavenly! I will say for Cambodia, the prices are high for food. But, it was totally worth it! One of the things I loved most about Vibe was their lack of plastic. All of their takeout juices and smoothies were in glass jars and their açaí bowls come in a hallowed out coconut shells. They also sell reuseable straws and water bottles that lists filtered water refill stations as to help cut down on the plastic consumption of Cambodia. I will say, there is a lot of plastic littering the streets and river here. I hated the idea of adding to it with buying plastic water bottles but, didn’t see what choice I had if I didn’t want to drink contaminated water. I was overjoyed to see their water bottles and bought one to use for my trip. 


Feeling full, and happy, I walked down the street to the Russian markets for my last stop. I hadn’t read much about the Russian markets and showed up not knowing what to expect. The market is a labrynth just begging you to get lost. It is literally a maze of vendors selling everything from jade elephant statues to Nikes. The Nikes seem real too! I’m imaging they are knocks off but, they fooled me. Unfortunately, as I walked in most vendors were closing for the day but, it was a good first taste. I’m going to head back tomorrow and take a closer look at their running shoe collection!