The capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, is a fast, exciting and thoroughly captivating place. From its bustling markets to the gleaming architecture of the Royal Palace, for many visitors this wonderful city – sitting at the meeting point of the iconic Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers – truly epitomises the essence of southeast Asia. Still bearing the scars of revolution and conflict, today’s Phnom Penh is now starting to gain its share of skyscrapers, shiny shopping malls and other Western influences. It also boasts a well deserved reputation among visitors as one of the friendliest capitals in Asia.
The tragic recent history of the Khmer people is certainly still in evidence, but today’s Phnom Penh is nothing less than positive, upbeat and optimistic. Phnom Penh’s central area – the riverside – pulls in a lot of visitors thanks to its plentiful cafes, restaurants and local colour. This is a fantastic place to simply sit, relax, meet the locals and experience some authentic Cambodian culture.
An undoubted highlight of Phnom Penh is its incredible Royal Palace, with magnificent pagodas and the magical Temple of the Emerald Buddha. As well as gazing at the amazing architecture – built during French colonial rule in the 1800s, but using genuine Cambodian designs – this also offers a calm, harmonious refuge from the noise and bustle of the city beyond.
A few of the fabulous treasures of the ancient Angkor kingdom are on display at the National Museum of Cambodia, which is packed full of Hindu gods, art, artefacts and its centrepiece, the statue of King Jayavarman VII in meditation.
Sisowath Quay is a pleasant esplanade running along the city’s river banks, and is popular with tourist, expats and locals alike. Early evening is a great time to visit - once the heat of the day has started to fade - when you can experience a wonderful carnival atmosphere and enjoy the area’s cafes and bars.
Finally, for those interested in Cambodia’s recent, tragic history, Tuol Sleng is an important place of pilgrimage – once a school, the site was converted into one of the country’s most notorious prisons by the Pol Pot regime.
Accommodation in Phnom Penh
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