Vanda and sister Val own one of the most inspired children’s store in London, Petit aime, located in the heart of Notting Hill. Half French, half-cambodian, they first opened Aime, the woman’s store, 12 years ago when no-one was yet selling Isabel Marrant clothes or Repetto pumps in the city. The idea was to get all their favourite French labels under the same roof. Petit aime naturally opened next door when they both had children, which happened at the same time. How lucky! Vanda and husband John have a daughter called Marnie and Val’s son is named Samuel. Their father still lives in Cambodia and they spent a month there last summer.
As we’ve arrived in Cambodia for a short week during our round the world, Vanda shares some of her favorite addresses.
Ar Kun Vanda!
Your recommended itinerary in Cambodia with a family
I would spend a couple of days in the capital Phnom Penh (PP), then fly to Siam Reap (SR) and finish with some time on the beach in Sihanoukville. Depending on where you are coming from, you could enter Cambodia through SR and then go to PP and finish with Sihanoukvile. We spent a month in Cambodia last summer and the kids loved it.
Marnie loved getting really close to the monkeys in Vat Phnom in PP. The monkeys are used to be fed by people so they come if they see you have food, don’t let the kids hold the food though as they can get a bit aggressive. There is also a playground nearby, it will give you a chance to see real Cambodian people, you have to remove your shoes to enter the playground even though it’s outdoors. Beware of pickpockets.
Marnie loved Apsara dancers, she loved the costumes. They are traditional Khmer dances and performances can usually be found in large international hotels.
Angkor Vat is great, you can go for an elephant ride to go and see the sunset. The tree roots at Ta Prohm, one of the buddhist temples at Angkor Vat, are amazing to look at and Angkor Vat itself was the inspiration for Disney’s Jungle book. The children were very impressed to see King Louie’s house.
My addresses in PP are children orientated and quite westernised. Us adults prefer to eat at the market. My favourite is Psar Toul Tompoung, eat lot cha (fried noodles with spring onions) and nom ketchai (a vegeterian rice flour pancake filled with greens and deep fried).
Le Jardin (No 16 street 360) very nice spot for the kids in PP with a cute playground, run by a Franco Khmer girl. Kids menu and large quiet garden where we got the chance to read a magazine while the children played in the treehouse.
Friends, an NGO run restaurant where disadvantaged teenagers learn catering skills.
The shop bakery (No 39 street 240), great for breakfast, lunch and patisseries. Nice smoothies and fresh juices.
FCC, Nice for the grown ups, I like to sit on the terrace and watch the life on the riverbank with a nice cocktail. Food is good too.
In PP, we stayed at both these places:
Hotel 252, a brand new hotel with a nice little pool, the rooms are functional and modern, they have DVD players and iPod docks.
Villa Langka: I have a soft spot for this colonial house converted into a hotel. I love the wooden beams and the beautiful 19th century French tiles. I can imagine how PP was during the French era. Go for the larger rooms, The suites are amazing with huge bathrooms. The pool is nice and shady.
In SR, although not very charming and not my usual kind of place, the Sofitel was great. It has a great pool which is indispensable after a day at the temples and the rooms are really spacious. They have really good early bird rates on their website.
In Sihanoukville, go to the Sokha beach hotel. It’s on the best beach and the pool is nice.
I really like Psar Toul Tompoung. Bring back sarongs, indonesian ones are sometimes nicer than Cambodian ones. You can have them made into very simple elasticated trousers or skirts on that same market in the seamstress alley. That’s all Marnie wore when we were there, skirt in the day and trousers at night to keep mosquitoes away.
Bliss is a great shop on street 240 a few doors away from the Shop bakery. It’s in a beautiful colonial house and it sells very nice clothes and home furnishings made from block print fabrics. I always bring back presents from there and a dress for Marnie.
You can find children crafty things at Pencil Supermarket no 15 street 214. Kitsch sticker books, paint, felt tips etc… Useful on a rainy day.
Senteurs d’Angkor in SR for soaps, essential oils and fragrances made in Cambodia.
Don’t go to Cambodia in April, it is just too hot. The best time to go is between November and February.
Use tuk tuks to move around in PP, they are fun. Same in SR to go around the temples.
There are really good pharmacies in PP and SR, don’t overload yourself with medicines, mosquito lotions etc… You can find everything in Cambodia now (it wasn’t the case just a few years ago). There are also some really well stocked supermarkets where you can find loads of Australian/western products.
Adults deserve a spa treatment, I love Bliss (see above) or Amara Spa on Sisowath Quay
aime 32 Ledbury road, Notting Hill London 02072217070
Petit aime 34 Ledbury road, Notting Hill London 0207221 3123