About Mel C
Lives in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Since Jun 2013
25-34 year old female
I was born in Mauritius, Africa and grew up in Vancouver, Canada since I was two years old. After 25 years of my life growing up in Canada, I had an irresistible urge to live somewhere else for an experience and because I knew there was so much more of the world to see. In 2013 I quit my full-time jobs to work for an NGO in Cambodia for 7 months. I then went to 5 other countries in Southeast Asia, met hundreds of people and it was the best year of my life. I can't seem to stay away from Cambodia for very long now I'm working for a travel company during my time here and loving it. I've met some of the most generous people I've met in my life in Cambodia. In my spare time I love riding my motorcycle, cycling, hosting dinners and enjoying the company of funny people.
Flea & Street Markets
Monuments & Statues
Castles, Historic Sites
Bars & Clubs
Boat Tours, Eco Tours, Private Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours
Start your first day with a filling and authentic Mexican breakfast at ALMA cafe, situated in the Russian Market area. The primary cook is Mexican with years of experience, cooking home-style food which includes burritos, refried beans, and enchiladas. The breakfast menu is small but plentiful in its portion-size, and can accommodate vegetarian diets too. For a few dollars, you'll get a breakfast that could be enough for two meals for some people, plus bottomless juice and coffee.
After you simply can't eat another bite, walk to the Russian Market — a popular site since many Russians began visiting Cambodia in the 1980s. Contrary to its name however, you won't find many products from Russia here. Instead, visitors from around the world come to the market for its huge diversity of products. You'll find anything you could ever want here, including jewelry, souvenirs, recycled products, DVDs, and knock-off brands.
From the Russian Market, take a tuk tuk to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to learn more about the horrific events that took place from 1975-1979 under the reign of the Khmer Rouge regime, led by Pol Pot. This former high school was converted into a prison (called S-21) where an estimated 30,000 people were tortured, interrogated, and killed. Two of only seven prison survivors still work at this museum, and at the end of the tour you will likely meet them. They've spent many days telling their stories to visitors in the hope of educating the next generation so that these atrocities never repeat themselves. The visit will help you to understand some of the negative impacts the war had on the country, including low-quality education, poor health, and generational poverty. An estimated two million Cambodians were killed during this period, a high proportion of whom were intellectuals, which was almost a third of the population at the time.
During the war, about 17,000 of the victims who were tortured and interrogated in the S-21 prison were then transported 11 kilometers away to the killing fields in Choeung Ek. The victims included old people, women, and babies who often suffered painfully slow deaths so that the regime didn't 'waste precious bullets.' Take the well-designed audio tour to hear first-hand accounts from survivors, and even a chilling testimony from one of the persecutors. This now peaceful and natural area honors the victims, and stores the remains of 8,985 people.
If you're heading back to the Russian Market area and craving Asian fusion food, then pop by Sesame Noodle Bar for an authentic experience. Unlike many restaurants that have an endless menu to choose from — to the point of confusion! — this small and welcoming restaurant focuses on doing fewer items well, and with a variety of flavors. It was established by a Japanese and American couple who came to Cambodia to create both traditional and non-traditional dishes, fusing Japanese, Chinese, and American flavors.
After dinner, make a quick stop to see the Independence Monument right on the intersection of the main Norodom and Sihanouk roads. The monument was designed by Cambodia's most famous architect, Vann Molyvann, in 1958 to mark the independence of Cambodia from France. There is a lot of activity here during national celebrations in particular, when a royal or high-ranking official will light a flame in the interior, and the monument might be surrounded by floral decorations. You'll likely pass the monument during your route into Phnom Penh, but take at least a few minutes to step out of the tuk tuk to admire the stunning design, especially as it is beautifully lit up at night.
Start your second day with another delicious and filling breakfast, this time at Sugar and Spice Cafe close to the riverside. The food is incredible and comes in generous portions, which can often be shared with two people. The workers are highly-trained by a chef from New Zealand, and by eating here, your dollars continue to support the life skills, education, and social and psychological programs for former sex workers and trafficked victims. This training cafe provides former victims with an alternative source of income, and you'll be happy to know it's had a very high success rate, as most of the staff have never returned to the sex trade.
How many times in your life can you say you went into a King's residence? As you stroll along the riverside, you can visit the beautiful Royal Palace, which is made up of a complex of buildings that were built in the 1860s. The Khemarin Palace is the official King's residence, and has been the constant home of Cambodia's Kings since its construction, except during the period of war in the 1970s under the Khmer Rouge. Some areas are closed off to the public, but take the opportunity to explore and marvel at the accessible buildings, including the Silver Pagoda.
If you're already by the river, come for dinner or a post-dinner drink at FCC and enjoy a beautiful view of the Mekong River (a rarity, as most of the bars along the bank here don't have a second or third level river-view.) If you head here for dinner, you can indulge in either Western or Asian dishes, including traditional Cambodian foods like the fish amok or beef lok lak. It's simply a wonderfully comfortable atmosphere, perfect for a great evening in good company.
If you've got the energy to keep exploring Phnom Penh's nightlife, then come to Heart of Darkness, where a party atmosphere is guaranteed every night of the week. You can enjoy drinks with bars on two floors, and electronic and pop music spun by both local and international DJ's. All with no cover charge!
Not only is Phnom Penh great for main meals, but is also has fantastic bakeries and cafes. Bloom and Cafe Training Centre stands out as one of the best because it doesn't just offer the regular line-up of baked goods; rather their cakes and cupcakes come in a vibrant blend of colors, animated characters, including those shaped like Prada shoes and Chanel bags! The bakers here have been called 'sugar artists,' and rightly so. Plus, this creative cafe filled with art is also a non-profit that empowers Cambodian women with new skills. Now, that's real guilt-free goodies!
This is Cambodia's largest museum of cultural history, and also holds one of the world's largest collections of Khmer (Cambodian) art. From sculptures to ceramics to bronzes, the exhibits here feature over 14,000 items, and give visitors a rich insight into the previous Cambodian empire, as well as detailing the complex history of changing religions and migration throughout the centuries. The museum buildings themselves, built between 1917 and 1924, also reflect the Khmer temple-style architecture.
You will be immediately struck by the vibrant colors, and walls covered in art created by Cambodian youth, at Friends the Restaurant. As you enter, young Cambodian staff greet you with genuine smiles, and you realize this is no ordinary restaurant. By indulging in their delicious and beautifully-presented Asian and Western tapas items, and signature frozen shakes and daiquiris, you are supporting students who are being provided with free education and life skills.
Experience an authentic cultural performance at the National Museum, organized by the Cambodian Living Arts organization. The war in the 1970s nearly destroyed all aspects of Khmer culture, as artists were specifically targeted, and temples and many other cultural sites were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge regime. Cambodian Living Arts' mission is to revive the arts, provide artists with a living, and develop their talents. Support their efforts by attending this spectacular performance, in which you will enjoy traditional dancing integrated with historical storylines.
End your day with a BBQ dinner sailing along the majestic Mekong River. This is one of the world's 12 longest rivers, and runs through China's Yunnan province, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. While you dive into the huge meal served onboard, chat with the very friendly local staff, get to know other travelers, and revel in the peacefulness of this 2.5-hour boat ride, far away from the city noise.