Phnom Penh is without doubt one of the most beautiful capital cities in Asia. Quite in comparison to its neighbours in Thailand and Vietnam, Phnom Penh is slowly becoming a hub for business and tourists alike.
Cambodia itself has a very dark recent History. Phnom Penh was cut off by the Khmer Rouge before they took the city in April 1975. They then forced the entire population out of the city into the countryside and took the country back to the middle ages. Everybody was forced into hard labour even the educated and wealthy, although most of these were systematically executed. It was one of the worst genocides in human history, but following the defeat of the Khmer Rouge in 1979 slowly people began to return to Phnom Penh.
There are many memorials to these dark days in the capital. When you visit the must see sites are Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which charts the genocide with horrific photographs of the time. It is a former high school that the Khmer Rouge used as an execution palace for their enemies. The Killing Fields which are around 15km’s outside Phnom Penh are where the Khmer Rouge dumped the bodies of their enemies in shallow graves. You can visit this site also for a short tuk tuk ride which also has a memorial for those killed in the Genocide.
Nowadays Phnom Penh has a vibrant yet relaxed atmosphere and signs of a city in growth. It is situated at the meeting point of 3 rivers. The huge Mekong, the Bassac and the Tonle Sap. One of the benefits of being on the rivers is you can take a majestic boat ride from Phnom Penh up to Siem Reap to visit the world heritage temples of Angkor Wat. The boat itself takes around 5 hours and leaves at 7am from both ends. It is well worth it in High Season but can get very wet during the rainy season.
For those that want to relax around Phnom Penh there is nothing more relaxing than the cities numerous cafes and restaurants. Just sitting along the waterfront by the Tonle Sap it’s hard to imagine you are in an Asian capital city. The city is still one of the most affordable in Asia with a beer costing less than a dollar and a local dish around $2. Tuk Tuk’s are also very reasonable a dollar or two will get you to most places around the city but traffic can be extremely busy, especially at rush hour.
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The city is littered with old French colonial buildings and architecture. This can be seen throughout the city and many of them used as government buildings. The main post office is a place to take a photograph for those interested in colonial architecture. In recent times the economy has boomed in Phnom Penh and buildings are springing up all over the place. New skyscrapers are starting to adorn the city. Condominiums, new shopping centres and hotels are being built all the time. Expats have also increased in numbers over the years, the affordable cost of living making it a great place to live and do business. Many upscale bars and restaurants are popping up in the middle of the city for those who want a bit more life than the relaxed waterfront atmosphere. Furthermore, the city has expanded its International Airport and more and more flights are coming into Phnom Penh, particularly from the low cost airlines around Asia.
Phnom Penh is a beautiful city that is up and coming, well worth a visit before it too succumbs to the over expansion experienced in Thailand and Vietnam.