An afternoon at Phnom Penh's City Mall

What we say: 3.5 stars

There’s no way to pretend that hot season isn’t off to a roaring start in Phnom Penh, with temperatures already far higher than I am ready to cope with. Luckily, though, there’s no dearth of places to spend an air-con afternoon. My new favourite is City Mall, that Western-style shopping mecca next to Olympic Stadium. Most expats see a trip to City Mall as merely a shopping experience, whereas I see so much more — an opportunity to take in some of Cambodia’s finest commerce possibilities while lowering my core temperature in the process. Here are some highlights.

It ain't hot season in here!

One the first floor you’ll find the best Lucky Supermarket in Phnom Penh. With wide aisles, few customers and copious air-con, it’s worth doing your weekly shop here if only to linger by the freezer aisle and get a taste of winter. There are also lots of imported cosmetics on the first floor, if that’s your thing. Malayisan brand Elianto has two outlets and there’s also Korean brand The Face Shop (who carry very nice cooling masks). Also on the first floor are a number of fast food outlets, where you can also get pretty decent gelato.

The first floor of City Mall is the only one with true air-conditioning, but the upper floors are also relatively cool.

The ride of your life for under $0.37.

The second floor offers much for sale and little to desire, with lots of freshie-style clothes and couple’s T-shirt sets; the third floor is where things really start to get interesting. There’s the “Fun Park”, an arcade with Dance Dance Revolution, basketball games, video games and a photo-sticker booth among other things. Perhaps most unsettling are the electronic panda, giraffe-cum-dinosaur and other creatures that one can ride around the mezzanine (3 tokens, $1 gets you 8 tokens). Big enough to fit an adult and a few kids, these are one of the weirdest amusements I’ve seen in town.

In between the third and fourth floor is a family-style karaoke joint that appears to be entirely devoid of sleaze, noteworthy in the realm of Phnom Penh karaoke parlours.

It's like heaven for munchkins.

On the fourth floor are another photo-sticker booth, snazzy massage chairs ($1 for 10 minutes) and “Happy City”, a kids’ play zone that actually looks safe, with padded floor mats and various kid-sized activities (4,000 riel per child). Once the kids are safely stowed at Happy City, parents can enjoy a smoothie or some Khmer fast food at the food court next door.

Also on the fourth floor is Legend Cinema, one of the few places in Phnom Penh to see a movie, and what could be loosely termed an art gallery, with one of the most stunning collections of framed holographic pictures in town. All in all, City Mall offers the lethargic tourist or expat a rewarding (and cool) diversion.

Last updated: 9th August, 2014

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