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Phnom Penh

At times beautiful and beguiling, at times chaotic and charmless, Phnom Penh is a crossroad of Asia's past and present, a city of extremes of poverty and excess, but one that never fails to captivate the visitor.


Phnom Penh sits at the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. Long considered the loveliest of the French-built cities of Indochina, its charm, while tarnished, has largely managed to survive the violence of its recent history and the current crop of property speculators.

Most of Phnom Penh's tourist attractions are low-key, which means that many travelers spend only a short time here. This is a pity; Phnom Penh is a city that is rediscovering itself and, after the obligatory sightseeing circuit is completed, a fascinating place to take in at leisure. The French left a legacy of now-crumbling colonial architecture, some of which is being tastefully renovated; the wats (Buddhist temple-monasteries) have come back to life with a passion - monks in saffron robes can be seen wandering around carrying alms bowls; and there are great restaurants all over the city, an Ideal warm-up for the lively nightshift.

The riverfront area in Phnom Penh is undoubtedly one of the most splendid in Asia, lined with swaying palms and billowing flags, the mightiest river in Asia, the Mekong, converging and diverging as a backdrop. After many years of neglect, Phnom Penh at last seems to be on the move and, if it can learn from the mistakes of its large neighbors, it could once again become the "Pearl of Asia".

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tread lightly upon the 5000 silver floor tiles at the Silver Pagoda in the Royal Palace
  • Step back In time at the National Museum, home to the world's finest collection of Angkorian sculpture
  • Check out the Art Deco masterpiece that is Psar Thmei, Phnom Penh's central market
  • Discover a darker side at Tuol Sleng Museum, a brutal reminder of the pain of Cambodia's past
  • Soak up the city by night, with a happy hour cocktail, a fine meal and a crawl through the city's bars

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