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Phnom Penh With Kids

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Perhaps you haven’t considered Phnom Penh as a suitable destination for a long weekend? Siem Reap (the one with the temples) gets all the accolades but there’s so much to do in Phnom Penh too!

 
When to go?
The ‘Dry Season’ runs October to April. However temperatures from March start to get hot hot hot!  We visited at the end of the rainy season in early October and experienced several hot sunny days and one evening rainstorm.
 
Do I need a visa?
The Kingdom of Cambodia now has an e-Visa service, which was easy to obtain online. You need to upload a passport photo for each applicant and pay USD 37. I was really impressed with the process and they even helped me when one of my pictures needed some editing.  You can buy a visa on arrival but organising the e-visa in advance saves you extra hassle.
 
How did we get to Phnom Penh?
From Hong Kong, you can fly either with Dragonair or Hong Kong Airlines (3 times per week). We booked our Dragonair flights through Daryl at Concorde Travel.  We took KA208 which had us landing in PP by 10.25am and KA209 for the return, departing PP at 7.15pm.
 
Where did we stay?
Accommodation in Phnom Penh is highly affordable. You can stay at a luxury hotel for a fraction of what you’d spend in Singapore, Bangkok etc.  After trawling family travel blogs, including the fantastic Baby Globetrotters, I eventually decided upon the Kabiki.  I was sold on their ‘Deluxe Family Room’ which housed two double queen beds and bunk beds!
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What did I think of The Kabiki?
 
The Kabiki (part of Cambodian hotel/shop operators MAADS) were very easy to deal with. I also organised our airport transfer through them.  It took about 40 minutes to get to the hotel, which is adjacent to the Prime Minister’s house! This means you can’t actually park outside, you get dropped off at the corner and have to walk down a side street (important to note if you’ve got lots of baggage).
pp-kabiki-hotel-pool
The Kabiki is a beautiful oasis in a bustling Asian city.  The building is an old colonial villa and they have planted lots of trees throughout the property. The staff are hugely welcoming and presented my daughters with toy elephants on arrival. Our room was nice, two double beds with draping mosquito nights and bunk beds, partitioned off with a curtain. The bathroom was fine, with one shower.  I wouldn’t rate the place as ‘luxury’, rather ’boutique’ and tastefully decorated with thoughtful touches. They even had essential oils burning on arrival.
 
One of the main draws for the Kaibiki is its lovely pool, in the middle of the property surrounded by trees. There’s also a smaller kids pool to one side. There are numerous friendly cats, looked after by the hotel, strolling around which my kids adored.
 
The Kabiki is in a great location, a 10 minute walk from the Royal Palace and neighbouring streets are filled with cafes and boutiques. We paid $120 USD per night which I thought was decent value.
 
What did we do in Phnom Penh?
  • I don’t normally book private tours but have actually realised that this is an easy way to see a city when you’re traveling with young kids. Yes it will cost extra than doing it yourself but you receive the added benefit of a Guide with local tales and knowledge and also ease of your own private car.  I booked a ‘Good Day Cambodia Tour‘ through Mango Cambodia.  We started our day with a trip to a local market and temple.  pp-local-marketOur guide was very informative and patient with my girls. They loved listening to his tales of Buddha.  For my husband and I, we listened to his stories of life under Khmer Rouge and so thankful he shared this personal tales with us.  After the temple, we heeded to the Silk Factory for a demonstration on the life cycle of the silk worm. We then watched the amazing weavers and bought some trinkets.  pp-weaving-silkThe highlight of the tour for the girls was a horse & cart ride through the village and paddy fields. We then ate lunch at a local village house and had the chance to dole out sweets to local kids. I would definitely recommend doing this tour. It’s not cheap (we paid approx. $89 per adult, although kids under the age of 9 go free). However, you can move at your own pace and it’s a comfortable way of seeing another side to Phnom Penh.pp-village-kids
  • The Royal Palace is where the Royal family currently reside. Although you don’t get the chance to see them, you can stroll through the colourful pagodas, temples and coronation halls.  Be sure to dress modestly (you can purchase cover-ups if you don’t have on you).pp-royal-palace
  • Opposite the Royal Palace is a small park and  playground with a kiosk selling ice cream. Useful for Royal Palace visiting bribery!
  • The Night Market is lots of fun.  Super touristy but there are great food stands at the back and this is a good place to buy your souvenirs and cheap clothes.
  • You can’t visit Phnom Penh and not take a boat trip.The Tonle Sap and Mekong River winds through the city. We chose a Sunset River Cruise and booked through the Kabiki on their boat, Le Tonle. We were incredibly lucky to be the only guests booked on to the beautiful teak junk that night.  Drinking beers whilst we meandered along the Mekong will be one of my favourite memories from the trip.pp-le-tonle-boat
  • Our prime reason for visiting Phnom Penh was to see Vichera, the girl we have been sponsoring through the Cambodian Children’s Fund for the past 3 years.  The Cambodian Children’s Fund is an incredibile charity set up by a Hollywood Executive,was founded in 2004 by Scott Neeson to aid the most impoverished of Cambodia’s children.  As sponsors, we contribute towards Vichera’s English education, nutrition, medical and social welfare.  img_0247There are strict guidelines as to how much time you can spend with your sponsored child. We were allowed 3-4 hours, with a translator, Vichera and her friend.  Our first stop was the market to treat Vichera to some new clothes.  We then headed to Kids City, an absolute must if you are visiting PP! This is a house of fun for kids with bumper cars, climbing walls, soft play, laser quest and more.
    pp-climbing-wallThe girls had great fun and it was beautiful to watch them hold hands and giggle together.  We finished off our visit with Vichera with a trip to Lucky Burger, the Cambodian Mcdonalds!
  • We also got the chance to tour the Cambodian Children’s Fund. They have 5 sites in Phnom Penh and we visited CCF 5 their biggest property. Not only do they provide education but also medical/nutrition support for the local community.  If you are interested in learning more about the work of the Cambodian Children’s Fund, please do click here!
    img_0249Where did we eat in Phnom Penh?
  • The Kabiki provides a good continental breakfast included in the room rate. We also had lunch one afternoon at their restaurant next to the pool which was very nice.
  • Khmer Surin is an atmospheric restaurant in a traditional Khmer building.  We enjoyed dinner sitting on low cushions listening to Khmer music.  The food is good (some thai dishes mixed in with Khmer food).
  • Our standout meal was at Malis. We ate in the courtyard which was beautiful and the food was outstanding, especially the ‘fish amok’.
    malis-dinner
 
Overall
Phnom Penh was a really easy weekend from Hong Kong.  There’s not huge amounts to see which means you can enjoy the city at your own pace.  Cambodia does have a dark history and I felt on this trip, with my daughter’s age 7 and 5, that sights such as the Torture Museum and Killing Fields were not appropriate.  
 
We will definitely be back to visit Vichera and donate more notepads and stationery to the Cambodian Children’s Fund directly. I would also love to extend the trip and head out towards the seaside town of Kep. Or if I win the lottery, Song Saa!

3 comments

  1. Tammy

    Oh fab Nic. So glad you went to see your sponsor child. You should send your article to CNCF Hong Kong they’all be delighted! I wish I’d have known as i would have got you to say hi to Srey for us. Big hugs xx

  2. Mary

    Just discovered your great blog! We can recommend Kampot and Koh Rong if you return and have a bit more time (7-10 days for both). Spent some very nice days there in March this year with our 4-year old son. Feel free to browse our (German) blog for some pictures!

  3. Keri

    Thanks very much for the mention! The Kabiki still one of our fond memories of Cambodia

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