Tuk-tuk Tour Around Phnom Penh

Me and two guard statues of the main pagoda in Wat Phnom.
The absence of public transport in Phnom Penh resulted in the way budget travelers like us explore the capital city. While driving own vehicle seemed to be most preferred option, we were thinking of renting a bicycle. It was not an easy task to get one, however. After taking a stroll for few minutes, we finally found a place renting bicycles. They asked for too high price so we called off the plan. As we were walking away, a better idea came up in my mind. So, what we were going to do later was to hire a tuk-tuk with driver. But for now, we would just walk to Wat Phnom.

An excellent place to start with, Wat Phnom was historically considered as the central point of Phnom Penh. Established in 1373, this old wat (temple) was built up after a lady found four Buddha statues inside a big tree log floating on a river. The founder's name was Penh, from which the very name of Phnom Penh was taken. Locals could go in and out there for free, but foreigners were charged $1 entrance fee per pax. We faithfully paid the fee though we might have been thought as Cambodians if we just passed through the ticket counter.

Wat Phnom was constructed on an artificial hill so it would need to take stairs to get there. When we were climbing up to the main pagoda, a small snake suddenly dropped from a tree right in front of us! I could tell it was poisonous from its color. Luckily, the snake did no harm to us. It ran away very swiftly, otherwise we would have run away from it :D.

Along with singha (lion), naga (seven-headed snake) are sacred mythological creatures in Cambodia. These two words are not strange in our ears as we've got 'em also in our language. Indonesia and Cambodia are both Indianized countries after all. The statues of singha and naga are usually seen at temples, bridges, palaces, or any other buildings. They are seen as guards not threats. Perhaps that's why Cambodians don't kill snakes (and that's why we encountered a real snake at Wat Phnom!).

Just before we climbed up the main stairway and encountered a real snake (left). The main stupa of Wat Phnom (right)

The main pagoda interior painted with colorful Buddhist stories and Khmer version of Ramayana.
The big clock downhill the Wat Phnom.
Next we walked all the way under the hot sun from the temple to Phsar Thmey (Central Market). Here we bought 'krama', a traditional Cambodian garment. This is a must-buy souvenir when you visit Cambodia! The most attractive thing of Phsar Thmey, however, was not the goods sold there but the building itself. First opened in 1937, the market building had a unique Art Deco architecture which makes it so catching to the eye. In this market and around, there were also many money changers giving USD rate mostly better than 1:4000. So it's better to exchange the USD to Riel here before doing any other transaction.

Nearby the market was Sorya bus pool where we booked our ticket to Siem Reap for this afternoon departure. Now time had come to check-out from the guesthouse and hit the road for the last time before leaving this lovely town.

Through one of the four arms branching out from the market dome with so many stalls of goods on both sides  (left).
The market dome from inside. In this area many were selling jewels and golds (right).
When it got very hot outside then it's a good decision to stop for a while and had cold milkshake since there was 'Buy 1 Get 1 Free ' promo.
Before having a tuk-tuk ride, always negotiate about the price in advance. The passengers have to make it really clear where to go and that the amount of money agreed is the total cost, not per pax. I did that when hiring a tuk-tuk. Language was not a problem but still I had to repeat the itinerary for several times to make sure the tour would be done correctly as agreed before. We brought our luggage with us so later we didn't need to return to the guesthouse to collect them and walk to the bus pool under the hot midday sun.

We tried to make the most of the time we had before leaving for Siem Reap. First, we returned to Independence Monument to take a day picture. Our camera was not good enough to catch pictures here last night. But now the light was much better and also we had our tuk-tuk driver as our photographer. Then, we also went back to the Royal Palace front yard where we met our Cambodian friend at the previous night. It was a nice place actually with greens and birds but the aggressive child beggars there were so annoying.
Across the Independence Monument
At the Royal Palace front yard.
The face of poverty in front of the Royal Palace. Little children were selling small packs of bird food, $1 each. 
Next the tuk-tuk ran along the Sisowath Quay allowing us to enjoy watching the view of Tonle Sap River. The strip across the river was lined with hotels and restaurants. This time we decided to spend more money to have lunch in one of those restaurants. The cheapest set of food in Cambodia cost around $2. It's considered not so cheap though for Southeast Asian standards. In proper restaurants or cafes (like the ones in this area), the cheap but good food would be around $5. We had amok for our lunch. As tom yum in Thailand and pho in Vietnam, amok is such a culinary icon of Cambodia. It is sort of steamed rice with coconut milk poured fish, normally served on a banana leaf.

After lunch, we passed through Wat Phnom but not to revisit the temple again. As we noticed before, there was a water refill machine nearby. Refilling drinking water was one of the strategies to save money when traveling. Moreover, the price of bottled water in Cambodia was not cheap. Lastly, the tuk-tuk brought us to the bus pool and now we just needed to wait for the departure to Siem Reap!
To find the machine, walk away from Wat Phnom crossing the bridge guarded by two naga statues.
With Sonny, our tuk-tuk driver.

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