Phnom

Penh

I visited Phnom Penh for 2 days in 2019. Despite its rapid development in recent years, it has retained a lot of its rustic charm and it is an amazing town with an incredible history and culture. 

I visited Phnom Penh briefly in 2019. We had a 2 day / 1 night stopover during our Mekong Cruise. I will be visiting again in February 2020 and the information below is the result of my Internet search for locally owned businesses and social enterprises that I could use during my trip. Where possible, I have included links to where I found information, so that you can make your own decisions about their value for your responsible travel journey

 

I will update this page after my visit to report my thoughts and feelings about the places and things we do and see.

Learn About Phnom Penh

 

I found it difficult to identify accommodation that is locally owned or run by social enterprises, or eco-friendly establishments in Phnom Penh as many of the websites do not include this information. For example: An article on the Culture Trip website written by Marissa (2018) identifies The 10 best eco-friendly hotels and stays near Phnom Penh, Cambodia. However, I am not sure how she identified these properties as I could find little or no information about eco-friendly or sustainability initiatives on most of the websites. I found Emily's post "Where to stay in Phnom Penh" helpful as she discusses the pros and cons of five areas in the city and includes a handy map.

The properties listed below, do include information about their ownership and/or social enterprise:

  • Home Stay Phnom Penh - #87 St 155 Toul Tom Pong. This homestay is operated by Open Arms, a Christian social enterprise that trains underprivileged and rescued young Cambodians.

  • House Boutique Eco Hotel - This hotel is a social enterprise that clearly outlines its commitment to supporting the local community and how it is minimising its impact on the environment.

  • Mad Monkey (Youth Hostels) - They have hostels in many locations around Cambodia and I met some of their staff & guests that were volunteering at Touch-A-Life while I was in Siem Reap in 2018. Mad Monkey provides fair employment & benefits for their staff & genuine, mutually beneficial cultural interactions between their guests and staff. They also raise funds to help local people & communities through their Clean Water, Education and The Arts projects. They also have hostels in Siem Reap, Kampot & Koh Rong Samleom.

  • Rambutan Phnom Penh Resort - Their community page, clearly outlines how they support their staff & families education, the projects they have contributed to in their local communities and describes their environmental mission. Rambutan also has two properties in Siem Reap.

 

Cambodian food is a thousand-year-old tradition that has been enriched and expanded over time. There is an abundance of local street stalls, locally-owned eating establishments and social enterprise restaurants and cafes in Phnom Penh, too many to list them all. The ones listed below are just a starting point for our responsible eating journey.

Street food stalls:

Cambodian owned or social enterprise restaurants & cafes

 

Book local - You can book tours with local tour operators from your hotel or hire a tuk tuk (us$20-25 for a full day) or a taxi and just pay the entrance fees. More info... Getting around Phnom Penh. On my first visit to Phnom Penh we did a full-day tour that included a visit to the Killing Fields, S21, the Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda and the National Museum. It was a long day and we decided to miss the National Museum and returned to the boat to relax.  So the National Museum is on my bucket list for my next visit.

Beautiful photos taken in Phnom Penh by photographer Bo Kornum

  • Aspara Dances - Mystical dances whose origins can be traced back to the Royal Court of the Khmer Empire. Our boat trip included a dance show on-board our boat and I highly recommend you watch one of these fascinating performances. Experience Cambodian Living Arts is a cultural enterprise with the vision to be a role model for creative and heartfelt Cambodian cultural experiences. They perform a 1-hour show every night in their open-air theatre in the gardens of the National Museum. They also offer a dinner & show package in combination with Friends Restaurant (a social enterprise). Show details, packages & bookings.

  • Kien Svay (18klms) - A "resort" of small shacks on stilts above a river and popular leisure spot for Phnom Penh residents (ref: Culture Trip).

  • Koh Dach (Silk Island) A popular day trip but is also a great place to stay to escape from the city (ref: Culture Trip).

  • National Museum (Entry Fee us$10 adult). You can hire a local tour guide or an audio guide at the entrance. 

  • Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda (Entry fee us$10 adult). You can hire a local tour guide at the entry gate (us$10 per hour). Note: you must cover your knees and shoulders and remove your hats. More info...

  • S21 Prison: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Entry fee us$10 adult). You can hire a personal guide (donation) or an audio guide (us$3) or you can wander around at your own pace, as there is an abundance of signage to help you learn about life and death in this terrible prison. I found this experience more confronting than the Killing Fields as you can see photos of and read stories about the individuals that perished during this terrible regime. You can also meet a couple of survivors and purchase their books. More info...

  • The Killing Fields (Entry fee us$10 adult). Approx. 45-60minute drive from the city. A heart-wrenching memorial.

  • Tonle Bati Lake (30km) - A lake and picnic area that has bamboo shacks built out over the water (ref: Culture Trip).

 

Buy local & ethical products - Like most countries, many of the souvenirs for sale in Cambodia are imported from other countries. However, Cambodia has a wide variety of talented artisans and ethical fair-trade organisations that support them.  Below is a list of some of the social enterprises, and local cooperatives I found.

  • Angkor Bullet Jewellery - A social enterprise located 15-30 mins drive from the city (Google Map Directions)

  • Amboh Espadrille - An ethical shoe shop offering locally made products and caring for their local workers

  • Boeung Keng Kang (BKK) Market - between Street 380 & 392. Same goods as the Central & Russian markets, but a fraction of the cost. Popular with locals and less tourists (ref: Culture Trip).

  • Craftworks Cambodia - Eco-Friendly, Fair-trade organisation providing vocational training to home-based producers. 

  • Daughters of Cambodia & Sons of Cambodia Visitor Center: Cafe | Shop  | Spa - A registered charity supporting young women and men formerly trafficked into the sex industry.

  • Do I Do - A handmade leather giftshop social enterprise supporting university students and people living with disabilities.

  • Fairweave - Ethically made hand-woven items and empowering craftswomen through skill development.

  • Justees - Ethically made fashion products supporting at-risk young men in Cambodian slums.

  • Lotus Silk - Ethical handcrafted traditional silk garments supporting low-income communities.

  • Peace Handicrafts Cambodia - A social-support business that provides training and employment opportunities to landmine victims, disabled and underprivileged persons.

  • PSE Sewing Shop (NGO) - Clothes and accessories made by mothers in dire situations.

  • Rajana Crafts -  A Cambodian non-profit social enterprise helping to develop Cambodian artistic and creative talent by giving rural producers opportunities and training in the production and marketing of handicrafts.

  • Tonle Zero Waste Fashion - A sustainable, ethical, fair-trade organisation (About)

  • Watthan Artisans Cambodia [WAC] - A worker-run cooperative of Cambodian artisans with disabilities, who are trained in handicraft production, including fine wood carving.

 

Transportation options include: Tuk tuk (Remork moto), Cyclo, Bus, Taxi and Train (very limited).

 

For travel between Phnom Penh and other provinces, the most economical mode of transport is by bus or mini-van. There are many bus companies, private taxis and mini-van operators in Cambodia. However, it is difficult to determine who owns the large bus companies, and how safe the locally owned transport operators are. Road safety is an issue in Cambodia so I looked at recommendations from other tourists and ex-pats to help me decide whom to use.  

 

For short journeys, if you are travelling with a small group of people, a private taxi may be a good option as you can share the cost.

 

If you want to book your transport in advance, the easiest way to do it is online:  

For airport-hotel transfers see Access and Parking on the official Phnom Penh Airport website. Also,  many hotels include free airport pickup/drop-off or you can pre-book it through them. 

For journeys within the city, you can take a cyclo, tuk-tuk or air-conditioned taxi. There are lots of them and it is easy to find reviews about them.

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