I had to wake up at 5am in order to get the first train to get to the bus terminal in time for 7am bus to the Cambodian border. I arrived 20 minutes before the scheduled departure time to find the bus was almost full already. I scrambled on board and squeezed into my assigned seat (literally, the seats were tiny). Despite being only 5’3″ I found myself almost unable to move my legs due to the near non existent leg room. The sun may have only just risen but I knew it was going to be a very long day. There is also a train that goes from Bangkok to the border but after lots of internet research I decided to fork out the extra 150 baht for the bus instead as it was supposedly faster and more comfortable.
It turned out to be quite a strange and eventful bus ride, due to my considerable lack of Thai language skills I wasn’t able to find out what was going on most of the time, 30 minutes before the scheduled arrival time of 11.30am we stopped for a break at a petrol station. It took about 5 minutes of trying to ask various people if this was the border or how long we would be stopping for. I eventually managed to find out we were just stopping for about 15 minutes and that the border was still another 2-3 hours away. I joined the extremely long toilet queue and by the time I got out I turned to see my bus slowly driving away in the direction of the road. Panicking, I bolted back and virtually had to throw myself in front of the bus to get them to stop and let me back on. About an hour or so later the bus was stopped by two men in army uniforms on the highway (in the middle of nowhere), they boarded the bus and wanted to check everyone’s ID before escorting a middle aged women with a small baby off the bus (still no idea what that was all about).
At 1.15pm (2 hours after the scheduled arrival time) we finally reached our destination. I’d read that there was a lot of corruption in this area with many immigration officials trying to rip off tourists so to be on the safe side I got my visa online several weeks prior to my trip. Next to the bus stop is a white building where you are herded into to get your “Cambodian visa”, this from what I read was the place to be avoided as you have to pass through Thai immigration first before you can officially enter Cambodia. I walked a few hundred metres down the road to the Thai passport control then proceeded to the Cambodian immigration office to get my visa stamped. This whole process took around 2 hours, after which I was finally officially in Cambodia. By this time it was too late to get a public bus to my final destination of Battambang, so I walked passed the “free tourist shuttle” to the bus station (apparently taking unsuspecting tourists to a bus station with extremely inflated bus ticket prices). Instead, I continued walking down the road through the hideous border town of Poipet.
Although it was hot, humid, dusty, smelly, noisy and full of people hassling me I was glad to be getting some exercise and have the opportunity of moving my legs again after the arduous bus ride. All the bus companies operating in Poipet have offices along the main street, so to find a bus you have to walk along the road and stop in at all the small desks in every office to check on bus times and prices. There weren’t any buses going to Battambang for several more hours so I walked back towards the beginning of town to where I’d seen a shared taxi office. It cost $8 for the 3 hour journey and we left straight away, picking up and dropping off other passengers along the way.
At 6pm, 11 hours after leaving Bangkok I finally arrived in Battambang just as it started to get dark.
Despite Battambang being the second largest city in Cambodia it has a very laidback, non touristy small town vibe and is easily small enough to walk or cycle around. There are two 100% vegetarian restaurants in town so after a well deserved sleep in I ventured out to check them out and explore the area.
TE KUCHA A RESTAURANT
In Battambang they’re not really into naming streets or having street signs for that matter, so to find particular places requires you to count how many streets away from the river you are and then find a landmark or prominent building in order to figure out where you are. Thankfully this was quite easy thanks to the town’s small size and the fact the two veg restaurants were both located across the road from each other near a well known hotel.
Te Kucha a is the better known and slightly classier of the two, it was the first one I found so decided to stop in for breakfast/brunch. The menu had lots of pictures and was written in English and Khmer. Enough English was spoken by the friendly staff for me to find out which items were egg and dairy free. I ordered a fresh watermelon juice and the teppenyaki tofu with rice. I wasn’t really sure exactly what teppenyaki was but it turned out to be a good choice. It’s a sizzling stir-fried tofu and vegetable dish with black bean sauce, very tasty and quite a lot of food for $2.
La Ha rd (opposite Asia Hotel, street has no sign but it runs diagonally north from Phsar Naht market).
I spent the remainder of the day exploring the town and chilling out at my hostel. Whilst walking around one of the more residential areas and trying to find a shop where I could buy some snacks as I was starting to get hungry, I saw a small street stall selling banana kebabs so walked over and bought a couple for my lunch. They were the best banana kebabs ever, they’re were lightly sprinkled with brown sugar, then roasted on an open fire until they became crispy and caramelised on the outside and mushy on the inside. Each kebab has 4 small bananas on it and cost only 1000 riel (25 cents), total bargain.
Delicious banana kebabs
For dinner instead of going to the other veg restaurant which was more of a breakfast place I decided to try a veg friendly restaurant near Phsar Naht market that I’d checked out earlier in the day. I’d chatted to the friendly owner a bit while I was looking at the menu after my breakfast who was a vegetarian herself and spoke quite good English, I explained that I was vegan and didn’t eat tomato. She was very happy to accommodate these requirements and offered to customise whatever I ordered off the menu. For dinner I ordered a mango shake and the masala veggie wrap with side salad, which I expected to be just curried veggies in a baguette etc. So I was quite surprised to discover in was in fact a savoury stuffed pancake somewhere in between an Indian dosa and a French crepe but with a SE Asian twist. Although it was a little on the oily side the wonderful flavour more than made up for it, even the salad was full of flavour.
Masala veggie wrap
opposite Royal Hotel west of Phsar Naht market
My last full day in Battambang already, for breakfast I went to Café Jirah, they didn’t have many vegetarian options on the menu but when I enquired they, like most of the other restaurants in Battambang the overly friendly staff were only too happy to accommodate my dietary needs and change anything on the menu to suit. I ordered the sweet potato noodles with stir-fried veg and no egg or meat.
Sweet potato noodles with a side of rice
It was very nice but not amazing by any means, I was a little perplexed as to why a noodle dish would come with a side of rice though. I think they just wanted to make sure I had enough food since I didn’t want the two main ingredients, it also came with a small plate of pickled veggies that I wasn’t that keen on.
street 3 south of Phsar Naht market
For the afternoon I had booked a sunset and bat caves cycling tour through a small local company called Butterfly tour. Started up just a few months ago by a lovely university student named Sopheap. I was picked up by tuk tuk surprisingly on time (I was expecting Asian time) and taken to the office down a very picturesque rural laneway to get our bikes. Myself and another girl from Belgium and our guide Sopheap then set off for the relaxing 11km ride through farmland and rice paddies.
We had a short stop about half way for a drink and then continued on until we reached a very steep hill/cliff jutting out from the otherwise flat landscape. It was a 10-15 minute walk up to the top of the hill which has a Buddhist temple and a number of caves. We found a spot to sit in the shade whilst Sopheap told us a little about Cambodia’s history and current political situation which was very interesting to hear about from a locals perspective. Afterwards we had a look around some of the caves, many of which were used as prisons and torture chambers during the Khmer Rouge era, which although was shocking and rather depressing it is also important to better understand the current political situation and the issues Cambodia faces today. We took a few photos of the large gold statue of the sleeping Buddha and then walked back down the hill towards the bat cave just in time for sunset. We stayed for around 15 minutes and watched the thousands of bats flood out of the cave before grabbing our bikes for the ride back into town.
Bats, bats and bats
The whole tour was very well organised and professionally run, Sopheap is a very lovely guy with a genuine passion for making Cambodia a better place for everyone and educating foreigners and tourists alike on the history and politics of the country. The 5 hour tour cost $11+ a $3 cave entrance fee which was fantastic value for what you get and well worth the money. Tours can be booked in advance on their website.
Before my midday bus ride to Siem Reap I went for a walk around the corner from my guesthouse to the less touristy part of town for breakfast at a café called the Green Mango. I ordered the Asian salad with sesame dressing and the trio pita small plate which consisted of some freshly baked pita bread with hummus and black bean hummus and pesto (I did ask for mine to be pesto free with more of the other two instead but that request got lost in translation somewhere I think). The salad was much larger than I expected and fairly tasty. The black bean hummus was very nice and although the hummus was very hard and crumbly making it difficult to spread it did have a nice flavour.
Trio pita hummus plate
The Green Mango had quite a large and varied international menu with plenty of veganisable veg options (if you can get that point across to the staff) and also serves as a training school for impoverished girls from the area to give them a start in the hospitality industry.
I arrived in Siem Reap on New Year’s eve in the early afternoon after a 5 hour bus ride. After checking in to my guest house I grabbed a map to see where the closest place for lunch was, Peace café turned out to be just down the road and since it was one of the top picks on my list I wasted no time in getting there as I was pretty hungry by then. My guesthouse were all out of rental bikes so I went to the one across the road, which were surprisingly laid back about the whole rental process. They didn’t want a deposit, nor did they even ask me for I.D or my name etc and they said I could pay the $1 per day hire fee when I brought the bike back. So off I went, arriving at the tranquil garden setting of Peace café just 5 minutes later.
Peace cafe garden
Most items on the menu were vegan aside from the ones listed inside the front cover as containing milk. Peace café is 100% vegetarian and also egg free. I ordered the taro fries, lemongrass tofu with brown rice, a mango shake and for dessert I was excited to discover that the banana and raison stuffed chocolate crepe was vegan so obviously I had to get one.
Very delicious stuffed chocolate crepe @Peace cafe
Well everything was absolutely delicious and it was such a peaceful and chilled area to relax in after the tiring bus ride. They had a book shelf with lots of books that people have donated so I grabbed an old Lonely Planet on Cambodia and found a comfy couch to sit on.
Peace café also run a number of community classes/workshops including yoga, pilates and some language lessons, English and Khmer. most of them are for a donation, the yoga costs $6.
I also returned to Peace café the following day (New year’s day) for lunch after my marathon bike rice around Angkor Wat and ordered the Green Goddess smoothie, the vegetarian shish kebabs, fresh spring rolls and a small Bong Chum salad.
Bong Chum salad
The shish kebabs were very tasty, with about 5 or 6 different vegetables and tofu and had an unusual spicy flavour that I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. The Bong Chum salad was also nice and very fresh but not as quite as good as it sounded on the menu.
My third and final visit here was on my last morning, after a mix up with my bus ticket to Phnom Penh I had an extra hour to spare and as I was getting a little hungry and knowing that I had a 7+ hour bus ride ahead of me raced over to grab some take out for the road. I got stir-fired tofu and veggies and what turned out to be a particularly yummy brown rice salad with dates, raisons, ginger, walnuts and celery. I also had a delicious papaya shake while I was waiting for my food.
st 26 between river rd and Wat Bo rd
After my lunch I cycled into the town centre to check out the touristy area where the majority of NYE celebrations were taking place. I wasn’t really expecting there to be much happening since Cambodia is a mostly Buddhist country that follows a different calendar, but as it turned out Siem Reap is one of the most touristy towns in the country and I arrived on the aptly named Pub st to a sea of people, a mix of tourists and locals filling up several blocks dancing enthusiastically to some very very loud and bad 90′s dance music.
NYE in Siem Reap
I parked my bike in one of the side streets and then spent the next hour exploring all the quaint and very Parisian looking laneways around the night markets and old market areas,then it was time for the circus. I had heard about a Battambang based organisation called Phare Ponleu Selpak which offered free performance and visual arts programs as well as free schooling and medical treatment to under privileged and at risk children and young people. As it so happened they were performing in Siem Reap when I was there so went along to watch their show which was a lot of fun. For further info on this organisation check out their website http://www.phareps.org/
After the performance I went back into town to join in with some of the celebrations, shortly before midnight I decided to head back as I was very tired from all the travelling and was a bit over the crappy music and crowds of people. It took me a while to find my bike since I wasn’t yet familiar with the town and couldn’t quite remember exactly which street I had parked it on, I eventually found it about 40 minutes later and cycled back while watching the midnight fireworks.
The plan was to get a few hours of sleep then cycle the 11km’s out to Angkor Wat in time to catch the sunrise. Unfortunately, though I was kept awake most of the night by the guy in the room next door who’d obviously over-indulged in the NYE celebrations and was up retching and vomiting at an horrendously loud volume for most of the night. Turns out the walls of my $4 a night hostel were paper thin.
I’d literally just dozed off when I was greeted with the joyful sound of my alarm blaring out into the dark silence at 4am. I scrambled out of bed and jumped on my bike heading towards Angkor Wat. It was quite a pleasant and easy ride out there, with hardly any traffic and the cool early morning air gently waking me up. About 30 minutes later I reached the main entrance where I bought my ticket then carried on to the bike parking station under a tree, and followed the growing masses of people along the path to the lake in front of the temple.
The long wait for the sun to rise whilst constantly having to defend my much sort after second row position from the hoards of over excited Japanese tourists that surrounded me was enough to make me consider moving somewhere a bit less touristy, but as the rising sun slowly began to reveal the incredible beauty of Angkor Wat I decided to stay and join in the elbow fight.
Sunrise @Angkor wat
Once it was light I wandered off to explore the inside of this vast temple complex. I spent the best part of an hour walking around the seemingly endless labyrinth of tunnels, staircases and stone carvings, before consulting my map and cycling on the see some of the other buildings and ruins of this once mighty city.
Eager crowds awaiting the new years day sunrise
Unfortunately due to time constraints I only had 1 day to see this area, which although sounds like a long time it isn’t anywhere near enough (a 3 day pass is optimal to visit the majority of sites). At the time Angkor was built it was thought to be one of the largest cities in the world spanning an area of approximately 1000 square km’s. There are distances of 1-5km’s between each building so cycling from one to the next was quite time consuming and tiring as it had turned out to be quite a warm day. I filled up on mangos and bananas at the numerous fruit stalls along the way and spent the best part of the day sight seeing.
One of the many amazing sites @ Angkor wat
By around 3pmish I was getting a little templed out and exhausted from being constantly bombarded by cute little kids trying to manipulate me into buying some souvenirs and then trying to me feel guilty when I said no, and also having cycled an estimated 60+kms on next to no sleep I decided it was time to head back into town. I had planned to go to the vegetarian friendly Butterfly Gardens restaurant for lunch but after looking at their boring sounding menu I ended up heading back to the tranquil garden setting of Peace café a block away to spend the afternoon relaxing in their garden with a book.
THE SINGING TREE
My evening was spent strolling around the various night market and getting a well deserved $2 hour long foot massage. I also stopped in at The Singing Tree restaurant for a bite to eat. Located in a trendy little laneway full of bars, restaurants and fashion boutiques you could be mistaken for thinking you’re in Paris or London. I ordered a fresh coconut juice and a veganised version of the national dish, the tofu Amok which is a mild and very coconutty curry served with veggies and of course rice. I enjoyed the Amok although it wasn’t quite spicy enough for my taste. The Singing Tree serves meat but has a large vegetarian menu with vegan options labelled with a “v”.
Tofu amok curry @the Singing Tree
The Passage (near Old market)
Realising it was my final day in this very touristy but charming little town I was adamant on doing one thing, finding the vegetarian restaurant that had thus far alluded me Chamkar.
This tiny hole in the wall restaurant located in the same laneway as The Singing Tree is rather easy to miss as it is not that well signed, but my persistence finally paid off. It only has room to seat about 10 people at a time so eating here often involves a wait of up to 1 hour, especially at dinner time, but it’s totally worth it. After eating here twice (in one day) I would go so far as to describe Chamkar as one of the best and most inventive vegetarian restaurants in the world, easily up there with Millennium in San Francisco which is a pretty big call. For lunch I ordered the pumpkin and basil curry stuffed tofu which a number of reviewers on happycow.net had raved about and a mango shake.
Extremely delicious stuffed tofu from Chamkar
The tofu was served with a spicy mushroom and onion gravy that complimented the other flavours perfectly and a big bowl of organic brown rice. I couldn’t quite identify which spices were used in the gravy as it had such an unusual and distinctive flavour but this is one dish I would happily eat every single day.
For dinner I returned feeling the need to make up for lost time as there were so many things on the menu I wanted to try. I got an iced lemongrass tea, the creamy mushroom dip which was recommended by staff and came served with slices of toasted baguette and the root vegetable fritters. Unfortunately the battery of my camera died during the afternoon so no pics of dinner but it was easily as good as lunch if not better. The dip was recommended to me by the staff and is a Chamkar specialty and very delicious. I not usually a massive mushroom fan but this dip was more of a thick coconut curry more than anything. The fritters were also quite unique, being made predominantly of mashed cassava which was then dipped in a yellow curry paste batter, rolled in panko break crumbs (I think) and then deep fried. It was served with a spicy green mango chutney and the chutney of some other exotic fruit I can’t remember the name of, but it was yellow and tasted somewhere in between a squash and a pear.
I couldn’t leave without dessert, unfortunately they were out of my first option of the traditional Khmer yellow bean cake so I opted for the banana in warm coconut milk with crunchy toasted yellow split peas, yum yum yum!
The Passage (Old Market, opposite end of laneway to The Singing Tree)
In between my indulging at Chamkar on my last day I also went on an organised group tour to the floating village, well that’s where we were meant to go but due the low water levels and the fact that the village had floated to an inaccessible part of the lake, we were told that we’d be going to Kampong Phluk, the stilted village instead.
It was a 30ish minute drive from Siem Reap and then a further 40 minute boat ride on one of the dodgiest looking boats I’ve ever seen. Thankfully it didn’t capsize on the way and as it sailed around a corner we were greeted with the fascinating first glimpse of the stilted village. It was much larger than I had expected with everything from a school, restaurant and even a police station and medical clinic, all perched on top of stilts up to 10-15m above the water it was quite a spectacular sight, they even had a boat that had been converted into a greenhouse to grow veggies.
As we reached the far side of the village the stilted houses gave way to an immense and beautiful flooded forest. The boat moored at a restaurant so we could have a look around and we were also given the option of taking a small dugout canoe through the forest for an extra $5 which I decided to do.
As we paddled deeper into the forest the noise of the village gave way to a serene silence and an incredibly peaceful atmosphere. At the far end of the forest there was a huge treetop walkway that allowed villagers to go from their houses to their fishing nets without having to use a boat, we glided under it into a clearing and then slowly drifted along as the sun set over the water which was a truly breathtaking sight.
The serene flooded forest
We paddled back to the bigger boat to join the others then set off for the centre of the lake to continue watching the sunset. Once it was nearly dark we turned around and made our way back up river to our waiting van. Unfortunately my camera battery died from taking so many forest and sunset pics so I missed the stunning scene of the silhouetted stilt houses with the backdrop of the red and purple sky with the setting sun glistening on the water. It was an eerie yet incredible sight.
After dinner at Chamkar I walked around the markets once again to stock up on snacks for my 9 hour bus ride to Phnom Penh the following day then went back to my hostel to pack.
Although I didn’t actually get a chance to eat here I did drop in to get a drink and take a squiz at the menu. Located about a 15 minute walk out of the town centre in a very residential area, this place offers lower prices and a more authentic Khmer dining experience than restaurants in town.
The staff seemed quite shocked when I walked in and asked for a menu, I got the impression that “tourists” don’t eat here that often and that they assumed I was probably just lost and after directions. I had an iced jasmine tea with coconut milk with was just the thing for a hot afternoon. Mains were all around the $2-3 mark and were quite generous sized servings. The restaurant is set in a large and relaxing garden with low tables and cushions on the floor to sit on.
Iced Jasmine tea
st 7 (Makara) next to University of SE Asia Wat Bo area
Despite the distance between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh being only around 200km, travelling between these two cities requires an arduous 9 hour long bus ride. I had booked the 10am bus thinking I’d arrive with enough time to go for a walk around the city before bed time but due to some complication with my booking (the guy who booked my ticket got confused with the date and accidently booked me on the 10am bus the prior day) I ended up having to get the midday bus instead which left 1 hour late.
The journey seemed to take forever, not helped by the really weird (and bad) 1980′s B grade Chinese zombie action movie that was being played on the bus over and over again at an ear piercing volume, not even my mp3 player at maximum volume provided an adequate escape. Also due to the extremely underdeveloped infrastructure in Cambodia, the roads are in such a terrible condition that the maximum speed of most vehicles is around 30-40kms an hour. I eventually stumbled weary eyed into my hostel near the central market at around 10pm.
I had heard from Sopheap (bicycle tour guy in Battambang) that there were anti government protests happening in the capital but didn’t think to check exactly where they were when finding a place to stay. They turned out to be literally right across the street, I wasn’t too concerned though as they seemed to be very peaceful and appeared to be more like a giant picnic than anything else with the majority of the protesters being families with young children, monks and the elderly.
The following morning on my way out to buy some fruit from the markets for breakfast I took a detour through the park and stopped to chat to a few of the protesters to learn a bit more about what was going on.
After breakfast myself and another girl from the hostel decided to share the tuk tuk ride out to the killing fields. I had been in two minds as to whether I wanted to go here or not, but a number of other travellers I’d met said it was really interesting and not as bleak and depressing a place as the name might suggest. I also thought the idea of turning a place with such an horrendous history into what is essentially a commercialised for profit tourist attraction to be rather distasteful to say the least, but I wanted to learn more about Cambodian history in order to better understand the country and the political situation that was unfolding across the street from my hostel. I also thought it would be better to see it for myself before deciding whether to be for or against this kind of “tourist attraction”.
Whilst I wouldn’t exactly agree with the “peaceful” label that most other travellers I’d met had described it as, it was certainly interesting but still rather horrific. The entry fee gets you an audio guide which you can listen to at your own pace whilst walking around the area which was very informative, well done and included lots of personal stories of many of the victims and survivors of the Khmer Rouge and their friends and family members.
Excavated mass graves, victims skulls and the killing tree
Some things though I did have to skip as they were just far too gruesome and detailed, such as the documentary film that is played in one of the museum rooms every hour or so and some of the signs, particularly the pictures of victims around the killing tree where many children and babies were murdered by soldiers.
A much happier sight @Kn’yay
After spending around 2 hours here I found my travel buddy for the day and our tuk tuk driver and headed back into the city. I asked to be dropped off at a vegan restaurant for lunch that I’d heard was good. As soon as I stepped out of the tuk tuk I was greeted with a sign that I was very happy to see: vegan ice cream!
Located in a rather posh terrace guesthouse I felt a bit out of my comfort zone in such an upmarket environment but quickly got over that once I looked at the menu. As is often the case when eating at all vegan establishments, the option of being able to eat everything on the menu can be a little overwhelming. Eventually I ordered the sweet potato, and pumpkin curry, fresh spring rolls and a watermelon and chilli shake.
The spring rolls were tasty but quite standard as far as Cambodian spring rolls go, the dipping sauce was the real stand out. Instead of the usual sweet chilli vinegar it also had coconut milk and finely chopped herbs, giving it quite a distinctive flavour.
I also enjoyed the curry, the only downside being that the pumpkin was a bit undercooked.
For dessert I got 3 scoops of ice cream: coconut, coconut ginger and chocolate.
The Terrace @41 street 95 of Monivong Blvd
After lunch I slowly made my way back towards Central market on foot, meandering through the many small laneways and street markets in the very Parisian looking BKK area.
The closest vegetarian restaurant to where I was staying and one of the few that was not in the BKK or Independence monument area, I dropped in for dinner here on my way back from my walk.
I got the fried yellow noodles with tofu which came to about $2 (tofu was 50c extra), it was quite substantial and fresh, definitely good value. A cheap filler if you’re in the area but not worth going out of your way for.
109 street 130 (near the riverside)
Just before dark I arrived back near my hostel and was surprised to find that the ironically named “Freedom Park” that had been bustling with protesters earlier that day was now completely empty, barricaded off and surrounded by hundreds of riot police who filled up the sidewalk for several blocks on every side of the park. It took around 20 minutes to convince the cops to let me through the barrier to get back to my hostel where I was met with a large crowd of stunned backpackers angrily discussing the scenes that had taken place during the day.
I managed to get filled on what had happened, apparently about an hour or so after I had left that morning and despite the protest being extremely peaceful, the government (which in Cambodia is essentially a very corrupt dictatorship) who are very intolerant of anyone who opposes them sent in around 500+ riot police (the protesters in the park that morning were around 300), who started beating people with batons and rounded them up into a corner of the park. They then began to open fire in an attempt to deter the protesters from returning, 5 were killed and dozens of others were injured.
For the remainder of my time in Phnom Penh the area around my hostel was blocked off every evening by hundreds of police who refused to let anyone in or out and every single park and public space in the entire city was filled with riot police armed with batons and automatic rifles under strict orders to not let anyone so much as sit in the park (including tourists). There was also a complete ban on anyone gathering in a group of more than 5 persons which seemed to me like a rather pointless and impractical law to try and enforce.
Given that no one was allowed to go out for the rest of the evening and the night markets having been cancelled due to the ban on large gatherings, I spent the night hanging out with and swapping stories with the other people in my hostel.
After such an eventful first day in Phnom Penh I was hoping day 2 would be a little more subdued, and with rumours circulating of retaliation against police for their over the top brutality I decided to spend the day strolling around the expat enclave of the BKK district.
My first port of call was a brunch stop at a cute little French inspired vegetarian café sharing my name located in the hipster central area of street 278.
The menu was a bit of a mixed bag of dishes from all corners of the globe but with a particular focus on French and Cambodian staples. I ordered the mango, tofu and cashew nut curry, a bowl of mixed fruit salad and a watermelon juice.
The curry was very yummy, the mangoes weren’t too overcooked as is often the case, still quite firm but also full of flavour having soaked up all those spices and curry paste. The crunchy roasted cashews and tofu also gave the dish some extra texture.
22 DEo street 278
I had come across a few other vegetarian friendly restaurants in one of the visitor guides that are in just about every shop in Phnom Penh. This place sounded like it was worthy of a visit but as I was a bit perplexed as to where street 2401/2 was it went to the bottom of the list.
Having barely left Café Soleil I was surprised to find this place on the same street less than a block away, so figured I may as well make the most of it and try some of their raw vegan desserts.
Although there were a few token meat dishes on the menu as seems to be the case with all the vegan restaurants in Cambodia, this café, that was packed to bursting point on both of my visits with fashion conscious expat hipsters and offered an interesting array of healthy vegetarian dishes with a large number of vegan, raw and gluten free options.
I had a slice of the raw cheesecake and a banana and date smoothie, both were top quality.
I also returned here for brunch the following day and had the very delicious and huge Angkor salad, the hummus heaven plate and a raw cacao and goji berry smoothie which were all incredibly delicious.
The heavenly hummus heaven
The hummus heaven being a particular standout due to the yummy freshly baked walnut bread it was served with. Artillery is definitely one of my top vegan picks in Phnom Penh.
street 278 (near the corner of street 63)
VEGO SALAD BAR
After a few more hours of taking in the sights (and smells) of the area and a brief visit to Russian market I slowly started heading back towards the hostel. Figuring I’d probably get hungry later and wouldn’t be able to get out due to the riot police street blocks I decided to grab some food to go from another one of the veg places that were advertised in the visitor guide.
I was surprised to discover that despite the name it wasn’t entirely vegetarian, but they still had plenty of vegan options for the wraps and sandwiches and also a well priced pick n mix salad bar at $3.95. I opted for the Tel Aviv pita (felafel) with avocado.
I wasn’t really expecting much from it to be honest other than a cheap meal, but it was actually pretty good, probably some of the best felafel you’re likely to get in Cambodia, not that there’s much competition.
21B street 294, also second location street 51 behind Wat Lanka
My final day I decided to rent a bike to explore the more far flung corners of the city that were too far to go on foot. After my yummy brunch at Artillery I headed west around the outskirts of the city then along the picturesque river front past the grand palace which looked incredibly similar to the one in Bangkok.
By mid afternoon I was feeling the heat and the effects of the ungodly amount of traffic fumes and dust I’d been inhaling whilst cycling around so decided it was time for a rest and a bite to eat.
I was surprised to find this restaurant was empty when I arrived even though it was in between lunch and dinner time, it is located down the end of a tiny little lane that I would have easily walked passed if it weren’t for the vegan sing and menu out front.
I got a fresh coconut juice, the very tasty but rather uninspiring and disappointing looking roasted pear and pumpkin salad and the tofu, banana and sweet potato curry.
I thought the salad was tasty but for $4 (quite a hefty price tag for an entrée in Cambodia) for a pile of pale lettuce leaves with a few token slivers of pear and pumpkin was quite over priced I thought. The curry was good but not great, aside from the banana it tasted almost identical to the curry that I’d had at Kn’yay, not that that was necessarily a bad thing.
I also got some dessert here figuring it would probably be the last time in a while that I’d be able to order a vegan crepe with ice cream (raspberry) for $4.
The crepe was nice if a little on the tough side but once the ice cream melted a bit it was pretty good.
26 Preah Suramit Blvd
Unfortunately I didn’t have time to eat a proper meal here but I did drop in for a drink and more dessert on my way back from The Corn. Prices were quite reasonable ($2-3 for mains) and the plates of food looked pretty huge. They offer the usual mix of veganised traditional Khmer and western dishes. I had a fresh papaya juice and a bowl of cashew and black sesame pudding.
158 street 19