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One Perfect Day In Phnom Penh

by Huw Owen

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Phnom Penh is a fantastic city - exciting, chaotic, full of life, and with a character very much its own. But it can also be overwhelming for the first time visitor. So where do you start? We have put together our perfect Phnom Penh day to help you on your way…

Start the day in style at the Java Cafe (56 Sihanouk Blvd.) There is a breezy balcony overlooking the Independence Monument, from where you can enjoy some of the best coffee in town. The cafe doubles as an art gallery so you can browse the latest collection over breakfast. If you don't have transport hire one of the tuk-tuks that tout for business here. Don't forget to haggle on the price; these guys are excellent businessmen! If you're lucky there will be a few street vendors outside selling fresh mangoes and coconut cakes - great snacks for a busy day.

Make Tuol Sleng, or S-21, your first stop (Street 113). This was a school that became a prison during the Khmer Rouge, and was the site of some of the worst atrocities. It is now an excellent museum and a poignant reminder of the horrors that happened during this era. From Tuol Sleng make your way to the Russian Market. This busy, bustling market is great for cheap clothing, jewellery, handicrafts and fabrics.

Lunch will be needed around now, and a long one at that! Romdeng (21, Street 278) is staffed by former street kids who have been trained up in hospitality. The traditional Cambodian food served here is second to none, and all proceeds go back into retraining more young people. The tables are set in a tranquil garden and are the perfect place to escape from the heat of the day.

After lunch stroll down Street 240 which boasts a great collection of boutiques and craft shops. It's quite pricey but a lovely way to spend an hour or so. Take a stroll round the Royal Palace or continue to the Central Market, which is housed in an impressive art deco building. For the best view go to the top floor of the nearby Sorya Mall. You can get a 360 degree view of the city from here. Then head to the riverside (Sisowath Quay). You can hire a boat here and take in the sunset from the water.

Save the last of your energy to enjoy Phnom Penh by night. Enjoy a cocktail on the balcony of the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC, 363 Sisowath Quay), or head to the Elephant Bar at the Raffles Hotel to soak up some colonial charm. Some of the best restaurants can be found down by the river, you just need to know which ones. We highly recommend Metro (corner of Sisowath Quay and Street 148) for some seriously good Asian fusion cuisine. Those who can't get enough of Khmer cooking should book a table at Malis (136 Norodom Blvd.) This is high end Cambodian food at its best.

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