Phnom Penh is sadly devoid of the leafy parks, sports fields and open areas that we are so used to back home. The main park areas near the Independence Monument, Vietnam Monument, Wat Phnom, Royal Palace and Riverside are surrounded by busy roads which makes exercise and picnic-ing not the nicest experiences. Koh Pich (Diamond Island) is another local haunt of open areas that unfortunately is also devoid of trees so is really just a concrete jungle.
However, despite the lack of greenery, using public spaces is something Cambodian’s do very effectively. Every day (before and after the hottest parts of the day) these areas are used by hundreds of locals, expats and tourists to meet friends, get outdoors, eat snacks and do a little bit of exercise. Considering Khmer’s (much like their other SE Asian brothers and sisters) don’t really “do” exercise, its a really wonderful social event to sit back and enjoy or even take part.Just a bit sad that you have to breathe in the car and truck fumes while you do it.
Olympic Stadium is the exception to the car-fumes public space. This concrete monument is an amazing spot right in the guts of Phnom Penh that fills with locals who come here to participate in some team sports , enjoy some public aerobics, go for leisurely walks with friends or just chill out with buddies and watch the sunset every day of the year. It was built back in the 1960’s so has this cool retro look to it and you can imagine it being used for sports event – typically soccer – and for public events like shows or food festivals.
What draws most people to Olympic Stadium is the open-air aerobics! That’s right, all around the top of the stadium there are speakers setup with an energetic aerobics instructor showing the men and women of Phnom Penh how to get fit. And they turn out in droves in their exercise attire that ranges from your regular jeans and t-shirt to floral matching top and pant ensembles to velour tracksuits in various shades of bright to brighter. Some of the instructors are very good and have a huge group of energetic followers, keeping pace. Others are a bit less enthusiastic and have a small following.
Either way, its great to sit back and watch and experience something truely Khmer. We have seen other countries versions of these open air aerobics in Thailand and Vietnam, but the whole experience in Cambodia is pretty awesome, especially at the stadium.
The other thing that Olympic Stadium offers is an array of snack foods like steamed or grilled corn, deep fried beef and fish balls, grilled chicken, sugar cane juice and packets of snacks. You can even buy some beers and enjoy watching the sun set over the stadium with the pumping sounds of bad asian techno.
Olympic Stadium Phnom Penh
Preah Sihanouk Blvd