Phnom Penh is a backpacker’s paradise. It is a compact city, with surrounding areas packed full of fun activities and adventures geared towards the travelling crowd. Here are 10 of the best backpacker activities in the Cambodian capital.
Snack on street food
Sampling the diverse range of street food available across Phnom Penh is a must on every visitor’s list of things to do. However, fear of spending the next few days glued to the loo puts many people off. Leave it to the experts and sign up for a street food tour. Phnom Penh Food Tours is a top choice, offering a morning jaunt across the capital or an evening of scoffing some of the finest street food in the city.
At dusk, the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers in Phnom Penh are dotted with boats taking tourists on sunset cruises along the capital’s waterways. There is a wealth of tour operators offering cruises in a varying degree of budgets, quality and styles. If you want to party on the water, the best way is to gather a group of friends, head to the pier on Sisowath Quay armed with bags of beers and food, and ask to hire a boat for a couple of hours.
After spending a few weeks in Cambodia, backpackers should have picked up a few essential phrases. Put them to good use with a trip to the market to haggle for souvenirs. Toul Tom Poung and Phsar Thmei (Central Market) are popular with tourists, with Orussey Market the go-to place for locals, where more bargains are to be had.
If you’re in the mood for a duvet day of feasting on films, then head to The Flicks, which screens a selection of independent movies, documentaries, box office hits and foreign films. For $3.50, you can snuggle into the beanbags and set up camp there for the day. Meta House also screens free documentaries and films every evening.
Top backpacker hangout Top Banana doubles up as a guesthouse and bar, and can get lively in the evenings, especially at weekends when live music, DJs and performers provide the party energy. Beer pong is a popular game played here, and a great way to meet fellow travellers and forge friendships in a fun environment.
A great way to spend a Sunday is to hail a tuk-tuk and head slightly out of town to the CTN TV studios, about six kilometres along the Tonle Sap River. From about 1pm, the studio welcomes free visitors through its doors to watch the Kun Khmer (Cambodian boxing) matches that are screened live across the country. Bring along a few beers and prepare to get sweaty and be deafened in the packed crowd. If you fancy pulling your privileged traveller card, then foreigners are invited onto the less crowded stage along with more affluent Khmers and guests.
Eighty8 Backpacker Hostel has a reputation as the traveller party spot, with the spacious bar and guesthouse hosting parties pretty much every night. During the day it’s chilled, with guests relaxing on the many sofas and seats that dot the space, updating social media or making new friends over a game of pool. However, in the evening the atmosphere changes as the energy steps up a gear and the crowds start to trickle in. Live music and DJs commonly get the party started, with the swimming pool often at the centre of the booze-fuelled action.
Wat Langka is one of the country’s most famous pagodas, with the grounds full of ornate buildings, a sprawling temple and golden Buddha. It is also home to hundreds of monks, who are happy to welcome – appropriately dressed – visitors to explore the grounds. Every Monday, Thursday and Saturday, from 6pm to 7pm, and Sunday, from 8.30am to 9.30am, monks lead free meditation sessions, which anyone is able to join.
If you happen to be in town on the first Friday of the month, then spend the evening at Kingdom Breweries. Its famous Thank God It’s Friday nights take in a tour of the brewery, polished off with a drinking session of Kingdom draft beer in The Taproom and burgers and fries from Mike’s burger. The event runs from 6pm to 11pm and costs $13 USD.
Join the Mad Monkey Hostel crew for an adrenaline-charged adventure on the back of quad bikes. Petrol heads can choose from a range of tours, including driving though pristine paddies that dot the outskirts of the city at sunset and exploring the outlying countryside and villages. A fun-filled way to spend the day.