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The talesofasia guide to Phnom Penh

by Bronwyn Sloan

updated August 17, 2004


Phnom Penh index page

Getting there

Staying there
Eating and drinking
Things to do and places to go in and around Phnom Penh


The price range for accommodation is pretty spectacular. For a couple of bucks, you can get a room up on Boeung Kak lake, which has become a bit of a Khao San road in Phnom Penh. Or for USD1500 you can get yourself a suite at one of the big hotels, although realistically this is impossible for most of us, so we will go from budget upwards.

Back at the lake, Number 9 and Number 10 guesthouses have been popular for many years and offer great sunset views, and the Lazy Gecko at the top of the road is a popular place for lunch and advice—the sandwiches are very generous. There is some honest, cheap food to be had in some of the dozens of little places up here, which mushroom so fast it's hard to keep track of them and they all seem to operate on the smell of an oily rag, but despite a few notable exceptions (and yes, the Lazy Gecko is certainly one of these—and there are several others) this area remains to most expats as a place where sad things happen, where human wreckage gets arrested and where strange offerings are made in dark alleys by very thin men with wild eyes. Still, worth a look if you are a budget traveler. If anything, you will certainly meet people. And don't jump in the lake, you'd probably die on contact.

For good budget accommodation inside town limits, The Last Home guesthouse is well known to expats and travelers alike for its home cooking and friendly management, and its rooms, though unspectacular, are often full.

The Capitol off Monivong was once infamous but seems to have become just famous in recent years. Maybe all the people who made it infamous are now either living at the lake or in jail? The Capitol family owns a range of guesthouses in the surrounding streets catering for all types of tourists and the Capitol itself remains, as it always has been, a very good place to grab a coffee and ask for travel and accommodation advice.

Down a little street across the road from the very excellent Teukei bar in the same part of town, the little family run Sen Seckom guesthouse has been around for years and although it hasn't had a lick of paint for ages, it is somewhere you can treat as home with a big balcony and relative privacy if you are thinking of staying for longer than a day or two. There are now a number of other small guesthouses in this area—if they have signs in English and offer tickets for boats and buses, they are tourist-friendly and so worth a look to see what sort of rates you can wrangle.

Then there is Narin's. Narin's is just Narin's—a Phnom Penh classic in its own way. The food is ok when you can find a member of staff to serve you and the rooms are certainly up to the standard of backpacker rooms anywhere in the region. Escape from Narin's may be difficult however, but not as difficult as it will probably be from its sister guesthouse, Mealy Chenda, in Sihanoukville. Both the Capitol and Narin's run their own tour services and prefer that you use no other.

Two blocks from the river and one block from Psah Chas is the popular Dara Reang Sey Hotel. They have mostly A/C rooms from $12, but there are also a few $8 fan rooms. Very popular with regular visitors to Phnom Penh, whether they be international or expats from Siem Reap. Run by a pair of sisters it's a very friendly place - if something isn't right, don't storm off in a huff, take it up with one of the sisters. Coincidentally or not, they are named Dara and Reang Sey. Restaurant is okay, serving up the standard Khmer dishes. Not as tourist oriented as Narin's or the Capitol, but perhaps that's what you are looking for?

Other budget options include Angkor International, which has just opened a dormitory to attract the backpacker crowd as its normal rooms run up to around USD20 a night. I don't know how separate and secure the dormitory is from the traffic that visits their other rooms, so caveat emptor, but the bar downstairs is 24 hours and can offer a good night on occasions.

Indochina 1 and 2 are also both very popular with the backpacker crowd, the strangely spelt Royal Highness behind Wat Ounalom is well thought of, and the Royal guesthouse has been around for years and still attracts an appreciative crowd. The Boddhi Tree, opposite Toul Sleng, is a quiet little place with a beautiful garden setting and a good restaurant and has earned itself a consistently good reputation with budget travelers over a decent interval of time. Recommended, but a little way out in a part of town that gets very quiet at night. Bright Lotus GH 1 is centrally located on the corner of Street 178, a block from the river, and the rooms are newly renovated.

Taking in a niche market, Manor House is a 6-room gay and straight friendly boutique guesthouse in a quiet area near the Independence Monument.

Going slightly up in the world to the USD10-20 range and up, a slew of hotels on Monivong such as the Asia and the Diamond next door will plummet in advertised price for a walk-in rate if they are not busy and offer classic Chinese-style hotel rooms—clean and tiled with air-con, generic bed, fridge and BYO personality. More than one personality if you can afford it. They don't care.

The Golden Gate on Street 278 is another old favorite for out of town locals popping into the Big Smoke and for regular business travelers and is spotlessly clean but certainly not sterile in that it has a more comfortable, lived-in feeling that comes with age.

California 2 Hotel on the riverfront is another favorite with people who spend a lot of time staying in hotels, and the restaurant is consistently good. The Scandic, behind Wat Lanka, is yet another that is well-spoken of in this price range. The Goldiana, which looks like Ghostbusters crossed with the set of a Chinese action movie is another, slightly more expensive hotel that is also well known to drivers and well loved by aid workers and regulars with a per diem to relax with. And then there is the Cathay, near Psar Chas—it has been there since UNTAC, and will probably outlive them all. For USD10 a night, an often overlooked bargain.

Rory's Irish Pub offers rooms from $10-30 and a very convenient location a few blocks off the river on Street 178. And as the name would suggest you won't have to go far from your room to find some grub and a pint.

DV8 is also right off the river on Street 148. Four rooms from $5 to $20, bar downstairs with lots of friendly hostesses.

The next price range is a touch higher again—Holiday International, with swimming pool and an atmosphere a bit like one of those space dramas on AXN late at night, is right on the doorstep of the British Embassy and is surprisingly good. If you are a guy, check out the M2 club. If you are just into surreal, go out, get drunk, then come back and drink more in the 24-hour restaurant after midnight. There should be a directive to waitresses up in there; 'Don't let the patrons get wet, and never, ever, feed them after midnight'.

Billabong, also with a pool, back on Street 158 is earning itself a good rep, and the Bougainvillier Hotel on the river has possibly the most beautifully appointed rooms and location in this price range in the city. The Tonle Sap hotel on Street 104 is about to open a 24-hour bar downstairs by all reports, and have spent a fair bit of cash making the rooms upstairs nice and comfortable. The Walkabout also has a 24-hour bar downstairs and is a favorite with men who don't want to be bothered getting take-out down the road. Nice rooms, very busy bar all night.

And then there are the Grand Bongs of the city's hotels—the Intercontinental, Le Royal, Cambodiana and Sunway. All will offer good walk-in rates compared to their very high advertised rates if they are not busy. Hardened luxury hotel fans have said they like the rooms best at the Intercon and the atmosphere best at the oasis-like French colonial Le Royal, which is not politically correct at present after sacking striking staff, but up to you. However the slightly tatty-on-the-outside old Cambodiana can offer large rooms with stunning views of the confluence of the rivers, and Sunway overlooks Wat Phnom and offers one of the best bruches in the city. Take your pick.

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Phnom Penh index page

Getting there

Staying there
Eating and drinking
Things to do and places to go in and around Phnom Penh

Guesthouses, restaurants, tours and more
Cambodia businesses to serve your every need.



The text appearing on this page is 2004 - 2006 Bronwyn Sloan. For the rest of the website, unless otherwise noted, all text and photographs © 1998 - 2008 talesofasia.com. Commercial or editorial usage without written permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.