1) Experience Absinthe at the L'Absinthe Bar
Absinthe is a drink that everyone has heard of but most have never tried. It's an exceptionally strong spirit flavoured with anise, fennel and wormwood. It's legal status in some countries ensures that it remains a historical curiosity unavailable to many. Here in Phnom Penh there are no such issues.
Neither of us had tried absinthe before. When we arrived at the L'Absinthe Bar we were unsure of what to expect. The drink itself has a fearsome reputation for fuelling insane artists. What would it offer us?
When we arrived the French owner took us through the very elaborate process of drinking absinthe. It involves absinthe, a sugar cube, fire, a special slotted spoon and a very fancy silver iced water dispenser. Forget the dangers of actually drinking the absinthe. Setting yourself on fire after you've had a few glasses of the the 50-70% alcohol seems a far more likely hazard.
And how does it taste? Well, that depends. L'Absinthe stocks many many different absinthes. The two we tried were radically different. The first was like drinking licorice. Incredibly alcoholic licorice. It was delicious. The other, not so much. If possible, visit with a group so that you can try a range. They really do vary a lot. Think really hard before committing to trying multiple ones on your own. They all possess an all mighty kick.
Oh and the alleged hallucinogenic properties? They're massively overblown. Absinthe was cutting into wine sales so wine makers ran a successful scaremongering campaign and got it banned. It is however still worth trying. The arcane ritual of drinking absinthe in our twist-top society is worth experiencing.
L'Absinthe Bar can be found at 216, Street 51, corner 174, Pnom Penh, Phnum Penh, Cambodia. Hours are from 6pm seven nights per week. Drink responsibly!
2) Clothes, Bags and Accessories Shopping
Maybe I missed the global memo but I did not expect to find so many awesome, fantastic and delicious stores in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. You can pretty much buy anything you want here. There is a French inspired fashion strip that caters to the higher end clientèle, and then there are small boutique clothing shops for everyone else.
It is really hard to not want to shop in Phnom Penh. Everywhere you go, there is a store selling recycled gifts, or home made clothing, or beautifully hand printed bags, or even one of a kind jewellery pieces. The level of design skill is extremely high and the creativity with materials, both new and recycled, is endless.
If you do have some money to spend and are looking for somewhere different to shop for your next seasons outfit or just because, check out Phnom Penh. I even bought a skirt there!
3) Kingdom Brewery Tour
If you are looking for something different to do in Phnom Penh then the tour at Kingdom Brewery is for you. It does help if you like beer of course. For us, we like beer and we also like to visit breweries. I used to work in one in Perth, Western Australia, so I am always on the look out for breweries we can visit.
Kingdom Breweries is a very small establishment. The don't brew a lot of beer at the moment but as the brew master will tell you, more people are discovering Kingdom's Pilsners and Dark Ales everyday. There's definitely a lot of growth potential here.
For $6 USD each, we got to experience a pilsner and a dark ale while sitting in a beautiful air-conditioned wood and leather tap room. We had a beautiful view looking out over the Tonle Sap river.
Being a smaller establishment meant that we were taken on our tour by someone who was actually involved in making the beer. No professional tour guides here. As we wandered through the factory we learned about the process and were able to check out all the equipment.
We really enjoyed visiting Kingdom Breweries. It was a lovely little outing. If you are in a large group, we suggest you contact Kingdom Brewery first. If there are only a few of you, you can visit any time between the hours of 12pm and 4pm. Consider getting a tuk tuk out there. We walked but it is quite a way in the Cambodian heat.
4) Khmer Angkor Seeing Hands Massage (By Blind People)
Sure, you can travel all the way to Phnom Penh in Cambodia and have a fancy Frangipani oil full body massage at a fancy massage parlour for $30 USD. Or you can visit a Seeing Hands Massage Parlour and get a full body massage for $5 per hour.
For some reason you often don't get what you pay for with massages. Expensive places are big on frills but the massage itself often falls short. At Angkor Seeing Hands the prices are resonable and the massages are great. The male and female blind masseurs are professionally trained to massage away your aches and pains. They use pressure point massage techniques that will break down the knots in your shoulders in no time at all. They'll ask whether you want soft, medium or hard but make sure to speak up if want them to go a little harder or if you're about to cry so could they back off a little.
They are so good that we went every day for seven days and we have never felt better!
5) Nerd Night Phnom Penh
We first went to a nerd nite in Siem Reap, Cambodia a few weeks earlier. So when we saw that there was to be a Nerd Night in Phnom Penh during our visit we jumped at the chance to go to a second one.
For those not familiar with the concept, half a dozen people give speeches. Their slides are automatically controlled. Each slide displays for 20 seconds before advancing automatically to the next slide whether they are ready or not. They can speak about anything and the topics are incredibly varied. As with any sort of amateur performance, the train wrecks are often as entertaining as the successes.
Phnom Penh's answer to Nerd Night was on a much larger scale than Siem Reap's. For starters, it was held in a bigger venue. Perhaps this has to do with their being more ex-pats in Phnom Penh. We were both amazed by how many people turned up. We felt like we were in a bar back in Australia. It was very odd.
Although we enjoyed Nerd Night in Phnom Penh we both preferred the cosyness of Nerd Nite in Siem Reap. Plus there was cake. Who doesn't like cake? Cake aside, thank you to both Nerd Nights / Nites!