Travel to Phnom Penh and you will face the door to uncover every façade of Cambodia, be it the unknown or the already known. Not just becoming aware or standing outside the line just to watch, you have to get a close-up experience with those idiosyncratic identities of Cambodia. Now get ready to experience everything Phnom Penh has to offer.
1. Tour Kingdom Brewery
It all began in 2009 when Kingdom Brewery started with an aim to be the first premium local beer with high consistency and body. You will understand when you taste it, or perhaps when you witness the production yourself.
The Brewery allows visitors to come inside their facilities for the tour, showcasing how their beer are produced right from the brewing all the way until it is ready for the market. It is pretty impressive and beyond expectation to see that there is such a well maintained facility in Phnom Penh, even though Cambodia is not a prominent beer-producing country.
The Brewery sourced their water from the Tonle Sap River adjacent to their facility and other ingredients from Europe in order to maintain their high-quality flavor. It is really interesting to see all the processes inside the Brewery, and not to mention the free flow beers and fresh beers (before being pasteurized) throughout the tour.
2. Try Khmer Boxing
If you’re familiar with Muay Thai then Khmer Boxing might not be so new to you. Khmer Boxing has the same technique and style with Thai Boxing, and it is believed by the Khmer that Muay Thai originated from Khmer Boxing of the Angkor Empire.
Also known as Pradal Serey, it is one of the national sports in Cambodia, and while you can watch a match on television or directly witness a tournament in a stadium, trying the martial art yourself will be a much more memorable experience. There are several gyms that offer Khmer Boxing classes where you will be trained by a professional, from basic proper warm-up to boxing techniques of doing punches, knee and leg movements.
The training session usually begin with a brief introduction on the history of Pradal Serey, so you can learn how this martial art is connected and being part of the local Khmer people. Simply look up on the internet and you will find plenty of activities on Khmer Boxing for tourists.
3. Learn Khmer Dance
From the robust Khmer boxing to the intricate Khmer dance, one major form of the latter that you can learn is the “Apsara” that combines traditional and current popular dances. Usually you will be given a demonstration of the dance moves first, then followed by some guided self-practice with a trainer.
The classes, which are held for one to two hour, will let you have a glimpse on the basic movements of Apsara. The dance itself does not require any special abilities as it tends to be a smooth movement going along with traditional Khmer music.
It might sound easy, but it really emphasize on the correct postures and movements, hence you will need some good concentration to make a fine dance.
4. Explore Silk Island (Koh Dach)
The name itself has got this island pretty much explained – it is the center for silk weaving craft in Cambodia. Located in the Mekong River, it gives an easy access for people from Phnom Penh to go to Koh Dach and you can reach this island by boat in about an hour.
The peaceful environment and slow-paced life there is so different from the hectic city of Phnom Penh, you will forget that you just left Phnom Penh only a while ago. This might be the reason why this island is popular for people seeking an escape from the city.
Wander around the island and you will be captivated by the main highlight of your visit that is silk weaving. You will see line of houses where locals operate on the hand looms delicately to produce scarfs, skirts and kramas, and they will likely invite you to see the weaving with an expectation that you will buy their crafts as well.
Silk weaving is not everything on this island though, as there are also beaches, paddy fields and the majestic Koh Dach Pagoda.
5. Join a Musical Workshop
It is enjoyable to watch a live performance of Khmer traditional music in Phnom Penh, but sometimes observing alone is just not good enough.
There are activities available for learning how to play Khmer musical instruments, and most likely it will be percussion instruments that come in different sizes, shapes and materials, but of course there are also string and wind instruments that you could try on.
Usually guided by a musician, it is common practice that you will also learn about the history of Khmer music, how instruments are used for special ceremony or events, and how they were made.
At the end of the day, you might just unknowingly fell in love with the instruments, after being fascinated by how beautiful the sound and rhythm you can produce using them.
6. Street Food Tasting
One of the many ways to get an encounter with the locals is by exploring the streets, and it will be an appetizing and interesting way to understand the local taste by eating on one.
Finding street food in Phnom Penh is a painless thing to do, as you will see many of them as you roam around the streets. There are many types of food you can devour so better get your tummy well prepared.
One of the must-try street food is their famous BBQ meat, be it pork, chicken, seafood or even frogs for the adventurous. It might feel strange to eat a frog but seeing how the locals enjoy them might convinced you into trying one.
If you are not keen into challenging yourself with what you can stomach, there are also many other delicacies such as pork rice, steamed pork bun, noodle soup and fresh pickled fruits which are easily available as well.
7. Explore Local Markets
Local markets should be on your list to make your trip complete in Phnom Penh, and since each market has its own specialization, we will begin with the famous Central Market.
The building is constructed with French architecture and consists of 4 wings, and the size and splendid design make this market a significant landmark in Phnom Penh. It is well known for selling jewelries, gold, souvenirs, antiques and some food.
Next up is the Russian Market that got its name due to it being mostly visited by Russian tourists during the 1980s, and people usually come here for souvenirs, crafts, jewelries and textiles, especially silk.
If you want to witness local life even closer, visit the Old Market which is kind of a local wet market with no touristy stuffs sold here, and it is here where locals buy fresh produces such as fruits, vegetables, seafood or meat.
Olympic Market, Orussey Market and Boueng Keng Kang Market are some other options you can consider visiting as well.