Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s busy capital, sits at the junction of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers. It was a hub for both the Khmer Empire and French colonialists. On its walkable riverfront, lined with parks, restaurants and bars, are the ornate Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the National Museum, displaying artifacts from around the country. At the city’s heart is the massive, art deco Central Market.

Phnom Penh: the name can’t help but conjure up an image of the exotic. The glimmering spires of the royal palace, the fluttering saffron of the monks’ robes, and the luscious location on the banks of the mighty Mekong; this is one of Asia’s undiscovered gems. But it’s also a city on the move, as a new wave of investors move in, perhaps forever changing the character, and skyline, of this classic city. Phnom Penh is a crossroads of Asia’s past and present, a city of extremes of poverty and excess, of charm and chaos, but one that never fails to captivate.

Phnom Penh can be an assault on the senses. Motorbikes whiz through the backstreets without a thought for pedestrians; pungent scents float up from stalls and markets; and all the while the sound of life, of commerce, of survival, reverberates all around. But this is all part of the attraction. It’s not just another metropolis, the identikit image of a modern capital; it is an older Asia that many dreamed of when first planning their adventures overseas.

Once the ‘Pearl of Asia’, Phnom Penh’s shine was tarnished by the impact of war and revolution. But that’s history, and Phnom Penh has risen from the ashes to take its place among the cool capitals of the region. Delve into the ancient past at the National Museum or struggle to make sense of the recent trauma at Tuol Sleng Museum. Browse the city’s markets for a bargain or linger in the beautiful boutiques that are putting Phnom Penh on the style map. Street-surf through the local stalls for a snack or enjoy the refined surrounds of a designer restaurant. Whatever your flavour, no matter your taste, it’s all here in Phnom Penh.

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