Phnom Penh for Kids

[Downloads: May's Suggested Itinerary for Phnom Penh]

When in Cambodia, what comes to mind is only Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. Both of which Meyer and I had vacated before we became parents. From our memory, Cambodia is not a suitable country for a family vacation. Siem Reap is the gateway to the ruins of Angkor where adventurous adults [or at most, 10 year olds] scale the heights of the Bayon Temple and crawl into mysterious rooms in Ta Phrom [Lara Croft's filming site]. While Phnom Penh is all about the killing fields and Khmer Rouge. I remember how disturbed I was when we were on a history tour of Phnom Penh. I couldn't help but tear while walking the grounds of Genocide Museum. The suffering, tortures and executions could still be felt three decades later.

Yet, we are posed with this challenge of writing a piece to promote Phnom Penh as a family destination for a holiday. I accepted their challenge and I must say, the Phnom Penh eight years later is a drastic turnaround from what they were back then.

They say you can be done with Phnom Penh in three days because really, there's nothing to do there! But look! We spent five full days in Phnom Penh and I'm still complaining we haven't conquered all the family-friendly attractions there is to offer!

Here are things you need to know about Cambodia:
  1. Low Cost of Living. First-world country vacationers will find everything very affordable in Cambodia. An average Singaporean can easily be considered influential in Cambodia. The cost of living is 47.06% lower than Singapore [data from]. Local beer costs USD1 while imported beer costs USD2.
  2. Trades in US Dollars. The official Cambodian currency is Riel but you do not have to worry about getting Riel for your visit because they trade in USD as well. Almost everything are quoted in dollars, even purchases from the street peddlers.  
  3. Tuk Tuk Rates. Negotiate fare before you board. Expect a USD1 fare for a 5-minute ride and USD3 across town. Surely, they would love to earn more from tourists like you especially if you get picked up from a luxurious hotel. Take a stand about how much you are willing to pay. Will USD3 hurt your pocket a whole lot for a 5-minute ride? Then think about how much USD3 can benefit a poor Tuk Tuk rider trying to feed his family of five. 
  4. Traffic Jams. I never expected traffic jams in Phnom Penh! It is flourishing and flourishing quick. Although the regular mode of transport is by way of Tuk Tuk, a vehicle will be more comfortable for the family. Imagine the exhaust! 
  5. Weather Conditions. Best time of the year to visit is November to March when the weather is cool and dry [20 to 30 degree celcius]. Wet seasons are from June to October and the hottest time of the year is from March to May.

CARNIVAL AT KOH PICH [Diamond Island] is uniquely Cambodia. Whenever I travel, I try to localise the family to the country's culture. I believe in creating valuable and memorable experiences during our trips and localising ourselves will give us the closest opportunity to be with the Khmer people.

When I found out about a permanent carnival at Koh Pich [an island off the mainland which is reachable by car, similar to our Sentosa Gateway], I was bent on visiting it. The vibrant colours and old-fashioned rides attracted me the most. It somewhat felt like we would have been transported back to the 1980s when I was a child myself. Although our friends living in Phnom Penh tried dissuading us from visiting due to machinery safety issues [it is a third world country after all], my heart was reluctant to return to Singapore without at least taking a look at what this carnival had to offer. This was the Instagram picture by @aroundtheworld_in80styles the sold me to the place.

The carnival is colourful, bright, loud and screams F.U.N! There are a lot of rides but they are mostly a replication of each other. So you will find three ferris wheels, three helicopter rides and three train rides, something like that. Parents are welcomed to join their children. Even when you think you are too big for the ride, they will let you in because well, there are no rules here. Which was great because we get to play too! Just exercise caution by way of common sense ok? If you think you are too heavy for the boat, please refrain from riding with your kid.

What I am going to share with you is going to excite you from the bones within! Each ride costs $0.20 per person! Adult or Child, the price is the same! Ah! But please prepare Riel here. This is like a local Pasar Malam and hardly any tourists come to this part of the town.

Closed in the day and opened only at night. If we had the time, I would have made a day trip just to do a photoshoot here with the family because the colours! It is beautiful.

I sure am glad we made it on the last night of our trip. The perfect round-up.

TIP: Some rides certainly did not meet the safety standards on speed and we heard smoke was seen coming out from one of the rides before we arrived. Choose your rides wisely to avoid any unforeseen accidents. We steered clear from ferris wheels and rides that are hung mid-way in the air for fear of rescue complications.

KIDS CITY is Cambodia's largest indoor edutainment center and it is located in Phnom Penh! When we arrived, the children naturally got rather excited just from looking at the building. It is made out of many bright-coloured gems protruding out of the building.

There are 11 floors in total with eight floors of REAL gaming fun! However, my children can only play on the levels marked with an asterisk* because the rock climbing, laser tag and science discoveries are designed for older children. Wonderful to have an air-conditioned building housing all sorts of fun for children of all ages isn't it? Parents can chill at Level 5 where the cafe is  strategically located - on the halfway mark of the building!

Level 1 - Playground* - USD8
Level 3 - Go Karts* - USD5
Level 4 - Clip N Climb - USD8
Level 6 - Toddler Town* - USD5
Level 7 - Laser Tag - USD6
Level 8 - Science Discovery  - USD7
Level 9 - Science Gallery - USD7
Level 10 - Bumper Cars* - USD5

There is no Entrance Fee and you just Pay By Level!

TIP: Bring your socks else you will be denied entry to the playgrounds.

162A Preah Sihanouk Blvd., Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Opening Hours:
Mon to Fri - 1000 to 2000 hours
Sat, Sun and PH - 0900 to 2000 hours

Website | Facebook

PHNOM TAMAO WILDLIFE RESCUE CENTER where we found passion and respect for the life in the wild from a team of dedicated conservation professionals. The institution not only protects wildlife, they help poor communities develop alternate livelihoods as well. We were treated to an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the Wildlife Reserve and had first-hand encounters with animals that were rescued from illegal wildlife trade.

I had visited most of the Indochina region and never once left without meeting an elephant. Regretfully, we were one of many thousands who supported elephant tourism by paying for a ride but gladly announce that we do not do that anymore today. Truth is, wild elephants need to be tamed before they can be ridden and to accomplish that, the training can be brutal. Think starvation, sleep deprivition and torture. We have to do our part to put elephant tourism out of business.

The first animal we met was Lucky the elephant at the Wildlife Reserve. She was rescued and raised in the centre, always in contact with humans. I had never seen such a bubbly elephant before and she reminded me of a happy puppy bouncing off the track just to meet us. We stroked her trunk, fed her bananas and her eyes returned a loving smile which I had never seen in any elephant in the past. If you haven’t noticed, show elephants are lethargic and wearisome. There were no bright sparks in their eyes like I had seen in Lucky. Love and care bring so much out of an animal.

We also observed how Chhouk’s, another rescued elephant, prosthetic foot was being cared for and the keepers trained him with gentle reward-based positive reinforcement. With every command that Chhouk reciprocated, he was praised with a resounding, “Good Boy!” We got up close with endagered animals like baby macaquemonkeys, leopards, gibbons and tigers as well. What an eye-opening experience for the children to learn about the importance of wildlife and the need to respect their space.

Well of course the Wildlife Reserve did not only feature elephants, we were in close contact with baby monkeys feeding them nuts, watching tigers straight in their fearsome eyes, watched otters catch live fish in the pond and other endangered animals.

TIP: Book the Behind-The-Scene Tour because the experience will be nothing if you don't. Start the day with a car pick-up to the local market to buy fruits for the animals and hand-feed their female elephants and enter the tiger's private dens. It comes with a Cambodian-style lunch experience as well. Expect houseflies but delicious local delights on a stilted hut as your table. Take a breather from the sweltering heat with ceiling fans and cooling hammocks.

No. 86, Street 123, Toultompong I Precinct, Chamcamon District, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Opening Hours:
0800 to 1700 hours

Tour Rates:
100% of Tour Profits go directly back to the animals
min. USD150 per adult
50% discount for youth 10-16 years old
80% discount for children 3-9 years old
Free for infants 0-2 years old

If you choose to do a walk-about on your own, entry is priced at USD5 for adults and USD2 for children.

Website | Facebook

ROYAL PALACE was not on the planned itinerary because I did not expect the children to enjoy walking in the midst of pagodas and learning about Khmer history. However, it was a place I would really love to visit. Just me though because daddy wasn't keen to carry his children around for the tour as well. We passed by the Royal Palace four times during our commute from place to place in Phnom Penh and I decided, "Mommy wants to pay the Palace a visit. Even if it's just a walk around the grounds on the outside." So, we went for an evening stroll where the children chased after a large congregation of pigeons! Imagine St Mark's Square in Venice? These are Asian pigeons in the same kind of square greeting people and hoping to be fed seeds.

It was a beautiful stroll and if you are game enough, bring a picnic basket and a mat to soak in the atmosphere! There are many monks in the area as well. Be respectful. Women should never touch a monk or hand them anything and if a monk is seated, you should also sit before starting a conversation.

TIP: You know what? This is where the King currently lives! But of course the King's living area, which actually takes up half of the total palace ground area, including Khemarin Palace, Villa Kantha Bopha, Serey Mongkol Pavilion, royal gardens, and a number of other buildings and pavilions, is closed to the public.

Samdach Sothearos Blvd (3), Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Opening Hours:
0800 to 1100 hours and 1400 to 1700 hours daily


PLAYGROUND AT WAT BOTOM was a playground we stumbled upon while visiting the Royal Palace. This is WORTH THE GO! There are five sections to the playground which can accommodate 100 children! Large running space, lots of swings and plenty of play to exhaust [and excite] the children.

We came across many street peddlers selling toys around the playground [why not right] and one particular "stall" affected me. A little boy no older than eight mended it. He could not speak English only in terms of "One Dollar" or "Three Dollar". While children played under their parents' supervision, I watched this boy trying to earn a living for [I assume] his family. I had the urge to just pick him up and bring him home.

There is also a provision shop in the corner where you can buy drinks and snacks from. A wonderful playground to while the evening away.

TIP: I do not have the address and so here's a self-made walking map from the Royal Palace to this recommended playground. It looks like far but it only took us eight minutes to get there.

WAT PHNOM Just round the corner from our hotel stood Wat Phnom, a Buddhist temple, which is the tallest religious structure in Phnom Penh. We were driven over by a Tuk Tuk because the traffic conditions were too messy and congested for us to cross over safely. Legend says that a woman name, Penh, discovered four Buddha statues by the waters of the Mekong and Wat Phnom was built in 1373 to house these Buddhas. A grand eastern staircase brought us up to the temple, the only hill in the city, and is gaurded by snakes and lions.

We walked around the grounds and found some wild monkeys to observe. This visit was made because I heard about the Playground at Wat Phnom which I wanted to bring the children to. Since we were there, why not pay Wat Phnom a visit?

TIP: To enter the temple, women should be dressed appropriately covering shoulders and knees.

Norodom Blvd at St 94, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Opening Hours:
0730 to 1800 hours

USD1 for Tourists


PLAYGROUND AT WAT PHNOM We found a public playground at Wat Phnom [actually, across the street, south from Wat Phnom to be exact] where we shared a notable hour bonding together as a family. The Cambodians looked upon us with intrigue because tourists do not usually thread on local grounds. Yet, I am convinced that a cutural immersion is important to understand the country and their poeple better. To achieve that, we should be localised.

TIP: Wat Phnom is situated within a roundabout. While you are on the Tuk Tuk, you will be able spot the playground easily. Guide the Tuk Tuk to drop you at the playground because crossing the road is quite a challenge with no traffic lights.

DINE AT ROMDENG because there is this wonderful plunge pool to the side of the colonial building where the restaurant is housed with a dedicated playroom on the upper floor of the house.

Something caught my eye during our toilet visit in Romdeng. It was a poster that read, "Children Are Not Tourist Attractions." I thought about our  purpose in visiting the orphanage during this trip. Was it really to bless them with gifts or to bring home photographs of us at the orphanage just to say, "We are kind."

8 years ago, we were in Siem Reap and we visited an orphanage to drop off our donations. [And I visit orphanages in aver third world country I go] Of course, we wanted something in return. We wanted to spend time with the orphans - probably spend a day there volunteering to teach or play. We were given the opportunity to feed them lunch in fact! Yay!

But I realised that meeting orphans are not encouraged in today's context anymore. Yes! You are most welcomed to drop off any kind of donations or aid but meeting these children may not be as easy as it was in the past because our presence could give them false hopes. Our visit could have caused trauma, disappointment and anguish if they had thought we were there to bring a child a home. But we were there really just to come and go.

This is not your regular restaurant where you get to order Aglio Olio or Fish Fingers with Chips. Here, you have specialties like Red Ants, Crickets and Tarantulas. My husband's review on TripAdvisor:

Our friends living in Phnom Penh recommended Romdeng to us as a children friendly restaurant, but we soon discovered that it was more than that! In fact the staff working at Romdeng are students in training, whom are former street youth or come from other marginalized and at-risk groups. So by supporting Romdeng you are actually supporting the youth of Cambodia to have a brighter future. 

The restaurant has a nice, traditional setup giving a much upmarket feel. It has a small retail shop offering personal items made from recycled materials such as newspapers and car tyres. To keep the children occupied, they offer a small pool and a children play area filled with lots of toys. 

Another unique feature were the bugs offered on the menu. These insects are those you see being sold on the streets but maybe fear to try in view of the hygiene. Romdeng has upgraded them into restaurant quality dishes which gave me more confidence to try the red ants and crickets. 

Overall I would say the food was average in quality, but there was no faulting the the good experience and even better social impact of Romdeng.  

My children, brave little ones, took a bite each into the caramelised cricket! We were not adventurous enough to try the tarantulas though. Let me know if you do!

TIP: There is a Kids Menu and they do serve Normal Food.

No. 74 St 174, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Opening Hours:
1100 to 2300 hours daily

Website | Facebook

AEON MALL has so many family-friendly activities within! Ice-Skating Ring, Laser-Tag, Indoor Playground, Game Arcade, Train Ride and a Cinema! For moms, you'd be stoked to learn that there is Daiso, Chateau de Sable, Mango and more for the shopaholic you.

Opening Hours:
0900 to 2200 hours daily


TUK TUK is the best way to travel around town in Cambodia. Also, it is a novelty for the children. Sure they have taken a Tuk Tuk many times in Thailand. Still, they love their rides in Tuk Tuks.

Trivia: Why are they called Tuk Tuk?
Answer: Because the motor goes Tu Tu Tu Tu Tu Tu Tu!

*hahahha* It is a joke my dad told the children. I think there's some truth in it!

See above tips at the beginning of the post.

May's Suggested Itinerary for Phnom Penh

Our little Travel companions 
July 2016 - Ewan at 4 years old and Faye at 2 years old 
Click on our Travel tab to read all about our travel tips and tricks
including our published story in Raffles Magazine Issue 5 and 
our stay at Raffles Hotel Le Royal, coming soon.

A stay at home mum, blogging to widen her social life. 
We want to echo the sound of love through our lives to inspire other mothers alike.


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