A few of our favorite “3-month-in” things in PP:
1.The foodie finds! Khmer fish amok, Indian tikka masala, Chinese dumplings, Italian pizza (of course), French plancha, Vietnamese pho, Korean Thor Buns, Japanese Udon (from Green Bowl) or Miso Spicy Raman (from Ninja) and Taiwanese coconut cakes are all just a few of the things we have found on our culinary escapades. For me (Jax), finding and trying new dishes is an adventure in it of itself and I love the thrill of discovering cheap hidden gems around every corner (or alleys) of these chaotic streets. Our favorite spots so far are Pho Fortune (on street 178) for yummy but cheap vegetarian or beef pho, Mama Wong’s for the fried dumplings, sushi from The Sushi Bar (St. 302, BKK1) and our go-to for consistently good Khmer/Malaysian food Mok Mony. They totally know our voices on the phone now when we call for free lunch delivery – Awesome or embarrassing?! Farm to Table for a healthy veggie bowl (ask for a side of soy sauce and chilies if you like it spicier) and outdoor chill Friday night music. Chocolate croissants from any of the bakeries but we especially love the ones from The Shop. Basaac Lane for posh cocktails and surprisingly Seibur for their awesome sandwich wraps and veggie burger. Taste of the Middle East for yummy Iraqi hummus and middle eastern food (and homemade baklava!). And of course, every once in a while, we just crave some good western style sandwiches or salads in which case we go to Gerbies Salad and Sandwich (in Bkk1 right near Wat Langka). For around $3 you can get half a baguette with bacon avo, chicken and all the fixings you want. Mmm…baguettes! For street food, we can’t get enough of the $1 pork and rice for breakfast, It’s A Wrap for $3 burritos and free lemonade (and we have high burrito standards!) and hole in the wall locals only spot Chinese Noodle (handmade noodles). Totally worth the tummy trepidation! I promise you will not regret it. UPDATES: PP is always changing and evolving. Its an out with the old in with the new kind of time for restaurants and the food scene. With that said, here are a few new spots worth trying. Bistrot Langka for French Khmer. Not bad prices for lunch. There Bo Bun salad is so yum! The Tiger’s Eye for fancy din din or just a “slice” of fancy with dessert. Ocean for a romantic dinner or decently priced $6 set lunch menus.
2. The amazing expat community! Man, people are doing mind-blowingly cool stuff here. One friend, Cynthia, is an epidemiologist tracking down and researching a new resistant strain of malaria. Another is trying to get children falsely placed in orphanges back with their biological families (did you know that many orphanges are set up for tourists here?!) And others have retired from their “saving the world” jobs or just save the world on the side while they start businesses like Crossfit Amatak or awesome foodie spots like the Lemon Tree.
3. The Khmer people! From the moment we arrived, I found myself a little surprised at how safe I felt in this foreign city. Granted while I am certainly adding early onset wrinkles every time I get on a moto taxi, I do NOT feel unsafe as a women walking down the street at night as I would in parts of NYC. I think a large part of this is due to the authentic niceness that I consistently feel when interacting with Cambodians. There is a warmness to their being. While I am sure there is much more psychologically going on under the surface, their culture at face value is one of openness and jovial laughter. It is odd that I feel more comfortable here saying “Bong chom reap sor” or “Sue-sa-die” (Cambodian formal and informal hello) when I walk down the street in the morning than back home in California.
4. Custom made ANYTHING – I have been introduced to a whole new world of custom tailoring, shopping, creating, etc. The Cambodian people are very talented and have such strong skillsets in the art of MAKING. I have gotten a shirt tailored specifically for me, handwoven water hyacinth baskets and pillowcases made with ikat fabric of my choosing, without the bash of an eyelash. Literally, you can just take a picture from Pinterest over to Monika the tailor, pick up three days later and it’s the wham bham thank you mam of shopping. Pretty incredible but also makes me wonder how it is they can have such artistry here but yet be paid so little. Has me thinking more about the way I shop back home and trying to support more ethically made and appropriately paying clothing lines when I go back to the States.
5. The lush VEGETATION: I had a love affair with Bougainvillea back in Santa Barbara and I was completely shocked to find them here as well. They, amongst old wise trees, palm fronds and all kinds of water landscaping, are strewn amongst the chaos of the city in the most unlikely of places. It is one of the continuing themes of Phnom Penh and Cambodia in general – it might be rough around the edges at face value but if you spend enough time here you will stumble (sometimes literally) upon beauty.
To finish this post off here is a little inside scoop with our 1 second everyday videos of the first 3 months here in PP:
“You have to live spherically – in many directions. Never lose your childish enthusiasm and things will come your way!” – Federico Fellini