Phnom Penh is known as the “Charming City” for good reason.
Expats are increasingly attracted to Cambodia‘s capital city because of the low living costs, simple visa requirements, and foreigner-friendly local population. But what exactly do expats do to keep busy and have fun once they have arrived?
Here are five activities that have been suggested by a variety of expats who are happy to call this vibrant mini-metropolis their home.
1. Shop ‘til you Drop
Phnom Penh is a great place to go shopping regardless of your budget. You can head to the Central Market or Russian Market if you fancy buying both authentic—as well as bootleg—brand name clothing at rock bottom prices, the latest movies and TV series on DVD, or even a fake Rolex for less than $20. If you are more interested in the “real deal”, then go to the official Rolex store in Nagaworld Hotel where you can buy a genuine version for upwards of $5,000.
A lot of expats prefer visiting one of about 10 modern air-conditioned shopping malls around the city which offer a selection of shops selling everything from TVs to tennis rackets, as well as having food franchises ranging from Burger King to Starbucks.
2. Eat With the Elite
If food is your “thing” then Phnom Penh is the city for you. There are hundreds of restaurants specializing in every kind of cuisine imaginable. French, Japanese, Vietnamese, Italian, Russian, Chinese, and even North Korean restaurants can be found on almost every street.
You’ll find exquisite dishes on offer for incredibly reasonable prices at the most exclusive places in the city such as Topaz, Van’s, or Malis. If you’ve ever dreamed of dining out on foie gras, smoked salmon, and sirloin steaks with a glass of champagne, then $60 to $100 is more than enough to cover the bill for a table of two. At those prices why wouldn’t you indulge every now and then?
3. Party Like a Cambodian!
With 28 public holidays a year (the most of any country in the world) there is always a party going on in Phnom Penh. A great way to integrate with your Cambodian friends, co-workers, or neighbors is to join any one of the countless parties you are guaranteed to be invited to at some point. All good Cambodian parties tend to include a traditional eight course dinner, copious amounts of drinking, and a good session of Khmer dancing revolving around a table filled with fruit. Just go with the flow and enjoy the party. Your local friends will really appreciate it.
4. Learn to Meditate
Twice a week at the picturesque Wat Lanka temple, located at the corner of Sihanouk Boulevard and Street 51, free meditation classes are held for the public. The one-hour sessions are quite popular and attract a mix of Cambodians and expats who are looking to get away from the stresses of daily life. Held inside a temple hall with around 30 mats available, this is a great entry point for expats with an interest in learning how to meditate or gain more insight into the local Buddhist practices. The simple breathing meditation techniques are easy to pick up and provide many people with a social activity that doesn’t revolve around shopping, drinking, or eating. Instead the meditation classes help participants take a break from city life, de-stress, and clear their minds in peaceful silence.
5. Go Ice Skating!
In a country with year-round tropical weather, the last thing you would expect residents of Phnom Penh to be doing is ice skating. But, the opening of the massive Japanese funded Aeon Shopping Mall in 2014 introduced the most modern retail and entertainment offerings in the entire country, including an extremely popular ice skating rink. While many expats will have experienced icy and snowy winters in their home countries, the concept of ice skating is mind-blowing to the average Cambodian, who flock to the rink to experience their first time gliding (or falling over) on the large indoor skating rink.
For expats with families this is a great attraction and is worth a visit just for the people-watching opportunities alone, as locals take their first fun-filled steps across the ice. Considering that Phnom Penh often hits as high as 100 F in the hot season, a visit to the Ice Park is a cool activity that appeals to people of all ages.
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