Phnom PenhCopyright: PlusONE/Shutterstock.com
Phnom PenhSituated at the crossroads of three great rivers – the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac – Phnom Penh is the heart of a country steeped in tradition, overflowing with rice paddies, jungles, and rural communities. Once a sleepy backwater, Phnom Penh now buzzes with commercial activity as the country develops after years of isolation. Old French colonial mansions stand alongside newly emerging designs, which make the city’s mixed architecture and communities fascinating to explore.
The CityPhnom Penh took its name from a legend after a woman called Penh, thought to have found four Buddha washed ashore by the great river. The French took over in 1869 and ruled until King Norodom Sihanouk declared independence in 1953. The colonial regime left behind impressive villas and large avenues, which form today's city centre. By the 1960s, the town was swinging, and cafes were overflowing the streets. April 17, 1975, is the day Phnom Penh changed. It emptied in one day as the Khmer Rouge took over the country. After four years Cambodians came back from across the country to reinvigorate their capital city. From a small riverside village, it grew to become the country’s commercial hub. Today it is a burgeoning Asian capital crawling with activity; the landscape is still void of skyscrapers. Phnom Penh remains an untouched Asian gem where cyclo drivers get lost in a sea of motorbikes.
Do & See
Spend a day walking through the historical streets surrounding the Royal Palace, ride a tuk-tuk hopping from market to market, and end your day gazing at the shimmering lights reflecting off the Tonle Bassac. The city’s life never ceases as the old and the new live alongside each other.
Composed by a mix of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, Cambodian cuisine is varied, simple and delicious. A diet is usually based on fish and soups while the local food offers healthy and abundant Asian surprises. Khmer highlights are fish amok (fish cooked in coconut) and barbecued beef, which can be found on most street corners in the early evening around the Central Market. As the city is made up of many communities including Vietnamese, Chinese and Expatriates, there is a variety of delicacies and restaurants catering to a large expatriate community.
Just like Siem Reap, Phnom Penh is a haven for fruit lovers, from mangoes of all shapes and sizes to delicious mangosteens. All markets have a fruit section, and sellers walk along most main streets selling fresh papaya, pineapple, and whichever fruit is in season. However, you will still find cafes serving a strong cup of coffee and western-style pastries.
Bars & Nightlife
Known for being a city without limits, Phnom Penh’s reputation as a nightspot rings true. With the local population out and about at night after years of unrest, bars and clubs have mushroomed in the last years.
Phnom Penh has an eclectic shopping scene. Some major international clothing chains have already hit the town, and with the several bustling markets and diverse communities, everything is here - from fragrant markets to modern malls.