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Get to know Phnom Penh

by Martha Hales

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Among Southeast Asia’s capitals, Phnom Penh is notable for being relatively calm, a manageable size and with plenty on offer to keep the curious traveller busy. Nevertheless it is often overlooked by visitors as nothing more than a travel hub; a jumping off point for forays elsewhere in Cambodia. But Phnom Penh has a unique charm all its own, and merits some time spent getting to know the city. Here are some insider tips to make the most of your time there.

Food

Food in Phnom PenhPhnom Penh is the best place in Cambodia to eat out. Get ready for a rainbow of flavours as you take your pick from the ever-present hawkers offering anything from deep fried insects, to doughnuts, to full meals. They set up shop all over the city, especially in the evenings. A good tip for finding the best and freshest food is to follow the crowds. If a stall is busy and turnaround is brisk, your food will be cooked to order. Take your pick and dig in! Great locations for street food include around the Russian market and down by the river. The main areas in the city for tempting dining venues of a more permanent nature include Sisowath quay and along the riverfront, as well as the Boeng Keng Kang neighbourhood, which thrums with life after dark.

Culture

National Museum Phnom PenhNot far from the point where the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers meet, the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda sit harmoniously in their leafy surroundings. The complex is one of the most serene places in which to while away an afternoon in the Cambodian capital. Once you have marvelled at the silver floor tiles (which give the Silver Pagoda its name), and had a look at the huge number of Buddha sculptures and images on display, it's a pleasant place to simply wander. Just to the north you'll find the National Museum, which houses an impressive collection of art and artifacts spanning several centuries.

In a city with such a tumultuous history, it’s no surprise that there is a place reminding all who visit of the terrible times its citizens have faced. The Tuol Sleng Genocide museum is housed in what was once a school, subsequently a prison for all those that the Khmer Rouge decided should be eradicated. Today it is the site of a museum dedicated to all those who suffered here; a harrowing but important destination.

Entertainment

One of the main delights of Phnom Penh is wandering the city. The mostly flat terrain and simple grid pattern of its broad, leafy boulevards make the French quarter in particular a pleasant place for a stroll, with the faded colonial charms of the villas an added delight. One of the most popular places for Phnom Penh’s residents to enjoy their leisure time is Wat Phnom, a Buddhist temple situated on a modest hill and surrounded by lush green gardens. This is the hill that legend states gave the city its name, and it is a lovely spot to while away the hours picnicking and people-watching. Diamond island is a rather flashier place to spend your riel, with a casino and hotel complex, a golf course, a water park and ornamental gardens. Finally - an absorbing place to shop for souvenirs - Phnom Penh’s central market is a large and busy affair with everything from hairbrushes to fresh fish on sale.

Make it happen

Make time to explore Phnom Penh, the lively and engaging Cambodian capital. As part of a wider tour in the country it's the perfect place to find out more about the Cambodian people and their culture. TravelLocal has teamed up with expert local partners who know the country and the capital inside out. Pop a few details over to them and they will take the strain out of planning your dream trip to Cambodia. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, call 0117 325 7898.

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