Phnom Penh conjures images of monks wandering temples, busy marketplaces and beautiful riversides. Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s capital city, located where the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers meet. Take a stroll by the rivers to find examples of French colonial architecture, modern restaurants and bars, and ornate Buddhist pagodas. Yet Cambodia is so much more than buildings and food. Despite the country’s rich and often savage history, the Cambodian people remain some of the most welcoming in the world.
Sights to See
Cambodia is famous for its religious sites and Phnom Penh has some of the best in the form of the sprawling Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda and Wat Phnom. The latter is a Buddhist temple constructed in 1373 that is the highest religious structure in the city.
As beautiful as the landscape and people of Cambodia are, there are remnants of its sad and troubled history everywhere. To learn more about the effects of the Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge on Cambodia, visit the National Museum, the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and the haunting Choeng Ek Killing Fields.
What’s For Lunch
Get a taste of traditional Cambodian food, with a little influence from its French colonial past, in the form of a Khmer red curry. This is a coconut milk based curry that isn’t too heavy on the chilli and includes meat, potatoes, beans and lemongrass. It’s usually served with bread – a remnant of Cambodia’s French colonial days.
If You Only See One Thing
No visit to Phnom Penh is complete without visiting the Royal Palace, the official residence of King Sihamoni. This gorgeous white and gold building features classic Khmer architecture and the public can visit the throne hall and a number of surrounding buildings.
Most travellers find Cambodian hospitality among the best in the world, so being able to express your gratitude in the local language is a nice way to reciprocate. Try Orkun for a more casual thank you, and Okrun cheraown for a bit of extra thanks.
A traditional souvenir would be the krama – a checkered scarf worn around the head, neck or face – that is unique to the Khmer people. You can find them in a number of markets around the city.