Monday, July 29, 2013

A short guide to Phnom Penh with young children

The capital city of Cambodia is modern and bustling. A good place for shopping and dining out. Great for couples or group travelers, but visiting the town with younger kids can be a challenge. It's chaotic, hot, and dull at the same time. 

Here are some ideas to turn few days in Phnom Penh into memorable moments:

- carefully select your hotel. We went a few categories up in our choice, still within our budget. We got extraordinary value for our money: a lovely room in a beautiful boutique hotel, a delicious breakfast, a large, shady pool, and complimentary beds, food and toys, all with a warm welcome, for our children. (More on: 

- spread the few "must-see" visits over the days. Take it easy, seeing all major sites would probably take less than a day if you rush through it. In a couple of days, you'll have ample time to enjoy the sites at your own pace. A stroll through the park of the royal palace, a glance at the gilded throne in the reception hall, treading barefoot on few square meters of silver floor in the silver pagoda; it is best to schedule a visit to the royal palace in the morning hours, before crowds of tourists get off large busses to queue at the entrance booth in the afternoon (the site closes between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.). The national museum also deserves at least an hour of your family time: the large angkorian statues are impressively beautiful and will nourish the children's imagination, the museum's garden and ponds, full of blooming lotus flowers, are an oasis of peacefulness in the city.

- use your kids as a pretext to start a conversation with Cambodian parents and spend a playful moment in one of Phnom Penh's modern, colorful and clean fenced playgrounds. There is one across the street, south of the royal palace and another next to the Vat Phnom. Funny how easy it is to connect with other people in parenthood, whether in New York City, Berlin or Phnom Penh! If you want more of it, while escaping the heat, try the Kid's City (, a mega indoor playground (unfortunately, exceptionally closed at the time of our visit).

- organize a baby-sit and leave your children well pampered while visiting the sites you don't want to see with the youngest ones: the Tuol Sleng genocide museum or the killing fields. We relied on the staff of the White Mansion to care for our little ones.