Riverside: the real downtown
Riverside, the real downtown is the old city – Wat Phnom, Old Market, Kandal Market and Chaktomuk. Many generations’ footprints are here – Angkor kings, French colonists and UN troops. It is where the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers meet and where the Water Festival takes place each year. Riverside is always stunning especially at sunrise and sunset. Day and night it is busy and a popular tourist spot. Sisowath Quay (in honor of King Sisowath) is the riverfront road. It starts at the Buddhist Institute and continues north to Japanese Bridge. There it becomes Road 6 and out of the city. Riverside has a wide choice of restaurants, wellbeing services, hotels, shops and bars. Among the restaurants, you will find Italian, French, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Malaysian.
Street 172 in Chey Chumneas is currently punctuated with cheap eateries and intimate bars. Yet the surrounding area is arguably becoming the rising cultural district with the University of Fine Arts and Palace a stone’s throw away.
Friends Café has made a bold statement and Mansion House is being reincarnated. With the nearby Hyatt now open and Covid is under control, I expect to see a different precinct to what is now. Given the standard of shophouses is somewhat ‘better’ than in other parts of the city: it could be the rising star of Phnom Penh.
In Riverside, there is an excess of hostess bars that vied for a shifting slice of the tourist pie. Rents will rise with the escalation of land values and profit margins of each vendor’s patch will be squeezed as the clock ticks.
Looking at Phsar Kandal and the open block where Prey Sar prison once sat, one can’t help wonder what’s coming next. Given its proximity to the ‘sweet spot’, maybe there is something special waiting on the sidelines. Something for the inspired new generation of architects and artists perhaps.