Surviving the Kingdom of Wonder



Back in February 2017, I had an offer to work in one of the leading advertising agency in Cambodia, Phibious. I was excited to embark myself on this new experience, a new environment and a new journey and also to earn in USD.


I was happy that I accepted the offer and that my family supported my decision. But little that I know …


When I landed in Phnom Penh airport, I was alone and had no idea of what I’m getting myself into. As I made my first step out of the airport, it felt like I was in an 80’s movie. The dusty air made the scenes grainy and the colors dull, no hipsters can be seen walking around with their skinny jeans and buildings are at most 5 stories high. I was clueless of what to do, where to eat or where to go.



I was supposed to have a friend waiting for me there but he decided to bail out on me, thank man. You know who you are.


So, I got myself a room for $15 / night in the middle of the city and locked myself in it for a good 3 days until my first day in office starts. Luckily, I have downloaded loads of pirated movies on my phone to keep myself busy.


Now, reaching my 10th month living here, I kind of got the hang of it. It’s not so bad actually, if you know where to go it’s not so different than Malaysia. The way I see it is like living in Kampung Baru, accept the whole city is Kampung Baru and places outside the city is like Perlis.


So, to assure no one else will have to go through what I’ve been through, here are some tips to survive Phnom Penh.


  • Never get the Tuk Tuks on the streets instead use applications such as Pass App, Itsumo, Exnet Uber or Grab. You will not only get a cheaper ride, you will also get to use several promotions available especially on festive season.


  • If you are a Muslim, there are several Halal restaurants available in Phnom Penh. To name some:
  1. Warung Bali – ST 178 – Indonesian Food
  2. Café Malaya – ST 188 – Malaysian Food Buffet $5/head (The owner’s daughter is a hot Khmer Malaysian Mix)
  3. Ah Man Green – ST 208 – Malaysian Food I think, got Roti Canai
  4. Wau Restaurant – ST 68 – Malaysian Food
  5. Mount Everest Halal Restaurant – ST 294 – Indian Food
  6. Shawarma Place – Bassac Lane


  • If you want to watch a movie, there are several cinemas here in Phnom Penh. But be warned, most of the movies are in 3D. Usually 2D movies are more expensive as it is screened in the VIP Cinema. Cinemas are available in AEON Mall and City Mall.


  • If you have kids, here are some places you can visit for a fun indoor playground.
  1. Urban Space – Indoor /outdoor playground with Café and swimming pool
  2. Kid’s City – Indoor playground, wall climbing, go cart track and many more


  • If you are in a shopping mood, Zando in a must visit clothing shop. This is a place where you can buy clothing from Uniqlo, Zara and H&M at a cheap price. It’s technically a factory outlet for these brands. There are several Zando’s around Phnom Penh, you can just google maps your way there.


  • There are also several good Coffee Shops here. Here are my favorites.
  1. Brown Coffee – Several around Phnom Penh, favorite ones are in Toul Tompong and BKK1.
  2. Amazon Café – Several around Phnom Penh.
  3. Deja – Toul Tompong


  • Don’t buy cigarettes in the airport. Although it is tax free, but cigarettes outside the airport is way cheaper. You can get a pack of Marlboro for $1.5 and cigarettes like L&M at $0.70. Note that different shops sell at a different price. Advisable to get from a cekai shop in comparison to an established one.


  • When crossing the road remember to look left, right, left again, front, back, up and down. Motorcycles can come from anywhere, literally.



  • Shops generally closes at 9PM, except for bars and all. So, if you’re not planning to drink, make sure u had your dinner by then.
  • If you are a Pokemon trainer, note that there are not many poke stops available so, do save up on your Pokeballs. Also don’t try to find Pokemons in palces like Genocide Museum and Killing Fields, it’s offensive.
  • When walking around the city, do take care of your bags. You might get snatched.


  •  Visiting Genocide Museum and Killing Fields are a great way to learn about the Khmer history but be prepare to be depress for at least a week.




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Written by Ilsa rozlan