By: Gabi Yetter
In most metropolitan cities, five dollars won’t get you much. A mug of a fancy coffee drink, perhaps. Or a moderately- priced cocktail. Perhaps even admission to a museum or a snack for the road. In Phnom Penh, however, a five dollar note goes a mighty long way. You can even get by for an entire day, if you stick to local places and skirt around most of the expat hangouts.
This may be a bit on the extreme side, but here’s a way to make your $5 last an entire day without being hungry or bored:
- Breakfast at Central Market (less than $1 for a bowl of rice and pork or baguette and noodles).
- Lunch at Russian Market ($1 for a heaping bowl of cold, tasty noodles covered with chopped spring rolls or a plate of steaming-hot, delicious savory chive cakes with a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice).
- Moto from Central to Russian Market: $1 (or a 40-minute walk to save the dollar).
- Dinner at Chinese Noodle House or Lian Rong Dumpling Hall (both on Monivong) or Dosa House near Wat Lanka: $1.50 for many of the main dishes on the menu.
- Movie at Meta House: Free
- And add a cup of Vietnamese coffee from a sidewalk stand for an additional 50 cents along the way.
If you’re not planning on living on five dollars for the entire day, there are plenty of things to do around the city with the same amount.
- Visit the National Museum on the riverfront. It’s a gorgeous building where you can linger for hours looking at more than 5,000 objects including Angkorian statues and Asian artifacts for the $3 admission fee. Housed in an open Cambodian style structure with a leafy courtyard in the centre, it’s a great place to take a book, soak up the atmosphere and spend much of the day.
- At the north end of town, Wat Phnom is a large and beautiful wat (pagoda) which marks the founding place of Phnom Penh. There’s a fee of $1 for foreigners to visit but you can spend hours sitting in the lush grounds, exploring the sanctuary, watching Sambo the elephant and dodging the monkeys bounding around the park.
- It’s not really “recreation” but Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a significant place worth visiting for an insight into the history and resilience of Cambodian people. Admission is $2 and you can pay a couple of additional dollars for a guide.
- If you’re not in the mood for cycling or walking around town, let someone else do the work. Cyclo and tuktuk drivers are everywhere you look (they will find you) and, for $2-$3 a trip, you can ride in a tuktuk from one end of the town to the other (less costly for a cyclo ride).
- For shopping excursions in Phnom Penh, take your five dollars to one of the markets (Orrusey, Central, Russian or Olympic) where you’ll be able to buy several items. Small Buddha figures, yards of silk, placemats, wall hangings, bootleg DVDs ($1.50 each), clothing, jewelry, accessories and home goods – all these and more are colorful, unique and cheap gifts to take home (or keep for yourself).
Health and Fitness
So, make the most of being in Phnom Penh. Treat yourself. Pamper yourself. Dine to your heart’s content. But, if you’re returning to another country, don’t get used to it.