IN & AROUND PHNOM PENH

PMGY volunteer in Cambodia participants are based 90 minutes away from central, exotic Phnom Penh. Set along the banks of the mighty Mekong, Cambodia’s capital is the Asia many dream about as well as an attack on the senses. And that’s all part of the attraction!

 

From the glimmering spires of the Royal Palace to the trendy café culture, the city is one of the hippest in the region and fast becoming an essential feature in the itinerary of anyone travelling to South East Asia.

 

PMGY’s volunteer programmes in Cambodia allow you to engage with some of the most disenfranchised members of the community and see a side of this magnificent country to which the average visitor will be totally oblivious. Whilst you’re not volunteering there a number of wonders throughout the whole country that will keep you entertained.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum S-21 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

S-21 (TUOL SLENG) PRISON

This prison was the Khmer Rouge’s primary interrogation and extermination centre, designed to purge anti-Khmer Rouge elements from the new society Pol Pot and his henchmen began ruthlessly creating. Before the 1975-79 regime, the building was a school. The prison cells contain a variety of information about the history of the Khmer Rouge, victims of the S-21 prison and an insight into what went on behind the prison gates.

KILLING FIELDS

Choeung Ek, commonly known as the ‘Killing Fields’, is the site where thousands of Khmer Rouge prisoners were executed and subsequently buried. It is particularly harrowing when you discover the sheer scope of the atrocities that took place. Located around 30 minutes from central Phnom Penh, you can hire a tuk-tuk to take you to and from Choeung Ek.

 

We suggest that you watch the film ‘The Killing Fields’ by Roland Joffé and/or read one of the following two books: ‘First They Killed My Father’ by Loung Ung or ‘Year Zero’ by Francois Ponchaud. These will definitely give you a good background as to what happened in Cambodia during these torrid years and heighten your experience of visiting Tuol Sleng prison and Choeung Ek.

A display case exhibits recovered clothing of execution victims at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, commonly known as the Killing Fields
Royal Palace complex, Cambodia

ROYAL PALACE

The Royal Palace is located opposite the ever present Tonle Sap River. Although not as large and impressive as the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace is still a point of immense beauty. The Silver Pagoda is simply brilliant and the surrounding gardens are extremely beautiful.

 

It’s best to visit the temple first thing in the morning whilst it’s cooler and before the large tour groups overwhelm the place and creep into every photo you take! Be warned you must cover your shoulders and knees in order to gain access.

NATIONAL MUSEUM

Located just opposite the Royal Palace, the museum has a large art collection, statues of Hindu gods as well as two magnificent statues, one of king Jayavarman, the other of Yama, the Hindu god of death. No photos are allowed and it is a must visit to get the vibe of the city and country, for any visitor.

National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh
Sunrise by the Tonle Sap

SUNRISE BY THE TONLE SAP

If you’re not out too late the night before and fancy a bit of exercise, then head down to the Tonle Sap river front and join the masses of early morning Cambodian exercise enthusiasts. From as early as 4am you will find literally hundreds of local residents carrying out a whole range of exercises by the river front. These include group aerobics, badminton, football and general stretching. The atmosphere is brilliant, the weather is mild and to top it off you will see the majestic sunrise over the Tonle Sap.

OTHER OPTIONS

A cool thing to do in Phnom Penh is to take a river cruise along the Tonle Sap and enjoy some beautiful views of the city. You can even visit a floating village. The cruises last 1 or 2 hours. Make sure to bargain in advance, as prices are usually negotiable.

 

There are also a number of tours such as bicycle, food and photography tours if interested. Cooking classes are always a fun activity to get involved in, you can get a massage or even watch a movie (flicks movie house is a wooden Cambodian house with a beautiful outside terrace where you can grab some popcorn and watch a movie outdoors!).

The village on the water. Tonle sap lake. Cambodia
Volunteer in Thailand

FURTHER AFIELD

SIEM REAP

If you visit Cambodia, you must travel to Siem Reap to see the magnificent Angkor temple complex. The town of Siem Reap is a fantastic location offering visitors a range of facilities and accommodation options and a buzzing nightlife.

 

The masterpiece of Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s most beloved and best preserved temple. The 500-acre site is one of the largest religious monuments in the world and represents the architectural pinnacle of the Khmer Empire. Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, it has remained a place of worship since its founding in the 12th century. Thought to be a miniature replica of the universe, its composition of towers, moats and concentric walls reveals an architectural sophistication.

Cambodian landmark Angkor Wat with reflection in water on sunset. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Boats in the bay at Sihanoukville

SIHANOUKVILLE

If you are looking to hit the beach and party then Sihanoukville is the place for you. Serendipity beach is the most popular stretch of beach consisting of a number of restaurants and bars across the sea front. There are a plenty of affordable guesthouses in the area as well. Seafood lovers will be spoilt for choice by the countless beach side BBQ’s where you can pick up a barracuda, shrimp etc for only a few dollars a plate! There are a number of places you can go snorkelling and scuba diving and even the option to get a scuba diving PADI license.

 

For a more laid back beach break try Otres beach nearby. Or if you fancy exploring the surrounding area then you might want to check out the Kbal Chhay Waterfalls. The falls are situated on the Prek Tuk Sap River located about 30 minutes from Sihanoukville.

KEP

The sleepy seaside town of Kep is perfect for those looking for some peace and quiet. It’s more of a place to hang out and relax but there is still a few cool things to do. These include Kep National Park, Phnom Kampong Trach Cave, a butterfly farm and some interesting local markets.

 

The main attraction from Kep is Koh Tonsay (known as Rabbit Island). Here you can dive, see the beautiful psychedelic fish or relax on the pristine beaches under a coconut frond. The best thing about Rabbit Island is the superb sea fish, such as crabs and prawns.

The idyllic Rabbit island, Cambodia

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