Phnom Penh, so long associated with the Khmer Rouge and tragedy, is today a booming city of wondrous sights, with a seductive colonial atmosphere that mingles easily alongside Asian delights and delicacies. With everything from ancient throwbacks to bustling street markets, the Cambodian capital is so much more than meets the eye.
The riverside and downtown areas feature a host of cafes and bars, including many options for dining in support of local charities. Several restaurants have nightly traditional or off-beat cultural performances that provide a great insight into the country and its people. A boat trip along the Mekong affords sweeping views of a city that has historically been called The Pearl of the Orient.
Brief guide to Phnom Penh
A host of shopping opportunities offer quality silk and handicraft products, and are easily visited on a walking tour or cyclo-riding architectural tour of the central city, which will also take in the stunning range of crumbling French buildings that are slowly being replaced by modern development.
Phnom Penh is a city on the move, with shooting ranges and nightclubs offset by aromatic food vendors and saffron-clad monks. While old women make votive offerings of incense and rice at dawn, the rapidly developing modern generation sup cocktails and join mass outdoor aerobic sessions in the evening.
The history and culture of ancient Cambodia is proudly displayed at a number of stunning art galleries and museums, while modern hotels stand side by side with ramshackle stalls and bargain guesthouses. With a multitude of bars and clubs, gigs and girls, Phnom Penh after dark is always entertaining, while getting around is simple thanks to a wide range of transport choices.
Often overlooked as merely the home of The Killing Fields or Tuol Sleng, Phnom Penh has reinvented itself into the quintessential Asian destination that has become a must-see for all styles of travellers. Escaping the city is easy, with a day trip to the old Khmer capital of Oudong, the silk weaving town of Takeo or the rural charm of Kandal providing rewarding distractions from the bustling, fascinating capital.