Room of Skulls: My day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Sometimes you just need to sleep in.

After a terrible travel day, all I wanted to do was to sleep in and relax. I did end up sleeping in, but with only one day in Phnom Penh, I knew I needed to get out and about, rather then spending the day lounging by the pool.

My first stop was brunch ๐Ÿ™‚

Remember my amazing lunch at Makphet in Vientiane, Laos?



Well…Makphet has sister restaurants in numerous cities, including Phnom Penh! I love excellent food, so why not eat delicious local food and support a good cause!?ย Phnom Penh actually has two TREE Alliance restaurants, but I chose Romdeng, as I was looking for traditional Cambodianย food ๐Ÿ™‚

I started with a mangosteen and mint daquiri…



What is a mangosteen?

This! (you eat the white part)





It is sweet, tangy, and simply delicious! The taste somewhat reminds me of a lychee, or if you haven’t had lychee maybe a kiwi? Sorry I can’t be more descriptive ๐Ÿ™ I am definitely no Anthony Bourdain ย ๐Ÿ˜‰ The crazy thing about mangosteen is that heat destroys the flavor so you have to eat it FRESH!

Then I had one of their specials, Mushroom Trio Salad. It was amazing! It had the perfection combination of textures, soft mushrooms and herbs, with crunchy croutons and bean sprouts, and a divine sweet-and-spicy vinaigrette to bring it all together.



When I ordered the salad I was thinking it would be “small”, so I also ordered a main course as well, Chicken Curry. Wellllll…as you can see, the salad was massive! I didn’t end up finishing it (because I was saving room for the curry I ordered) but I did make sure to grab every single mushroom!

The curry ๐Ÿ™‚



Very similar to thai curry, where the heat of the curry paste was subdued sweet coconut milk. Excellent!


Stuffed, I heading to my next stop, a local market, Orussey Market.


Phnom Penh, Cambodia


When I arrived at the market, the first thing I noticed, with my nose and my eyes, was theย dried seafood.ย It was EVERYWHERE. ย I mean look at this picture…


Phnom Penh, Cambodia


That is ALL dried shrimp, and only two vendors amongst the rows and rows of vendors selling the same thing.



Leaving the crowded market I headed down the street to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Time for a history break…

In 1975, the standing Cambodian Government, Lon Nol, was overtaken by the communist group known as Khmer Rouge, led by a man named Pol Pot. The new government carried out a radical program that included isolating the country from foreign influences, closing schools, hospitals, and factories, abolishing banking, and currency (yeah, no monetary system), outlawing all religions, confiscating all private property, and relocating citizens from the cities to collective farms.ย 

The entire population was forced to become farmers in labor camps.ย The ultimate goal was a Utopian Agricultural community.

The labor camps resulted in massive deaths through work exhaustion, illness, starvation. Along with the deaths in the labor camps, the Khmer Rouge government arrested, tortured, and eventually executed anyone suspected of being “enemies”, such as:

  • Anyone with connections to the former Cambodian government or with foreign governments.
  • Professionals and intellectuals- so anyone with an education…..
  • Ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Chinese, ethnic Thai, and any other minority.
  • “Economic saboteurs”, former urban dwellers who had a lack of agricultural ability.


The Tuol Sleng “Hill of Poisonous Trees”ย Museum, was Security Prison 21 (S21), one of at least 150 execution centers that existed during the Khmer Rouge regime. Over 17,000 individuals passed through this prison (that used to be a high school) for interrogation, and only 12ย survived.



This museum was heart-wrenching. Nothing was left to the imagination, especially as you enter the last room filled with theย skulls and bones of the unidentified victims. ย At one point I tripped over something, and when I looked down it was a hook in the ground that had been used to chain the prisoners. To think….


This happened only 40 years ago


Exiting the room of skulls, I was ready to clear my mind, so I walked towards the Royal Palace.

Found theย Independence Monument,ย commemorating Cambodia’s independence was France.


Phnom Penh, Cambodia


And another “Up” moment..


Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Then the Royal Palace!



Hot, and tired, it was time to rest my “barking” feet and enjoy HAPPY HOUR at the Foreign Correspondents Club, overlooking the Mekong River.



A day filled with great food, lots of walking (and sweating), and some education, I call that a great day!




Love always, Arianna the Wandering Pipette





Article Name
Room of Skulls: My day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
My day in Phnom Penh, exploring local food, local market, the genocide museum, the Royal Palace, and FCC.

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