We awoke early to feast on Thai cabbage and rice for breakfast with a good, strong pot of coffee. Outside the gate, three little boy monks in orange robes passed by with their collection pot. The birds were still singing their morning call when the ever-faithful Sokna arrived.
Once again, we cramped the tuk-tuk with our backpacks and bodies. As the wind blew over my shaved head, I took in the last scenes of Siem Reap. I knew we would be back before long – besides, I had promised to attend the weddings of my colleagues. They just had to find partners first!
A short flight and we were in the bustling Phnom Penh, the modern capital of the Kingdom. The contrast between the two locations was immediate. To begin with, the tuk-tuks are bigger and caged to avoid opportunistic bag snatching as you sit in traffic on the big wide streets.
As we had a lot of bags (including the gifts we had accumulated in Siem Reap), we decided to take the safer but more expensive means of travel – a taxi. The price was negotiated before we hopped in and the driver took us into the heart of the city by the Tonlé Sap river.
We had snapped up an online promotion to stay at the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club). The Club and hotel is located in the tourist zone but it was worth it, even just for the experience of sipping Kampot pepper infused cocktails from the art deco balcony or for the room’s waterfall shower head with actual hot water (not that we needed hot water – it being so hot and humid all the time).
The colonial-style building of the boutique hotel is older than the establishment. Just after Cambodia signed its peace agreement in the early 1990s, the bar was opened and became a haven for the new influx of journalists, diplomats, movies stars and travellers – a place where they could swap secrets and strategies, and have a stiff drink to get through the day.
Unfortunately, journalism in Cambodia is in deep waters at the moment, with publications and journalists being shut down by the Government. If you ever go to the FCC in Phnom Penh, take a moment to remember the continuous struggles Cambodian journalists face in their fight to get the truth out.
Transport: as we didn’t have a lot of time, we travelled with Bassaka Air. They offer cheap flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Make sure you provide the correct details though, because they don’t give refunds or allow you to make changes. We learnt that the hard way.
Note: We bought our tickets online but you can also buy them at a travel agent in town (I recommend Sopheak Na Tour & Travel in the centre of Siem Reap).
There are several other ways to get from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh – it just depends on how much time you have and how much money you want to spend. The cheapest but longest method is by coach. You can also hire a driver and private car, share a car, or take one of the other airlines (Cambodian Angkor Air or Bayon Airline).
Travel time: 40 minutes.
Accommodation: we stayed at the colonial-style FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club), which is about five minutes walk from the Royal Palace and faces the Tonlé Sap river. We booked at a discounted rate via Agoda.
The boutique hotel offers great a la carte breakfast. It can be expensive (comparatively) for dinner so I would suggest going elsewhere, such as the nearby Friends the Restaurant.
Photo: The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, just five minutes from where we were staying.