The ‘Pearl of Asia’ in the early 20th century, a reputation tarnished by war and revolution, Phnom Penh is fast regaining its position as one of Asia’s most captivating cities. Whilst still bearing the scars inflicted by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, the lively waterfront gives a taste of a cosmopolitan future and the resilience and optimism of the friendly Khmer people.
The roofs of the Royal Palace are by far the most striking of Phnom Penh’s skyline, constructed in the ornate Khmer style and glittering with gold gilding. Set on the riverfront, the palace is the official residence of King Sihamoni. Part of the same complex is the magnificent Silver Pagoda – within you’ll find priceless Buddhas, exquisite example of Khmer artistry and a floor covered by 5000 silver tiles. Spend a morning or afternoon exploring the buildings and delightful French-landscaped gardens.
The collection housed in the elegant, traditionally-designed National Museum includes relics and artefacts from pre-history to pre-Angkorian to present day. Arrayed in four galleries around a gorgeous central courtyard spend an hour or two admiring the best collection in the world on Khmer sculpture, with many pieces from Angkor itself.
Whether you get to grips with Cambodia’s harrowing past is a decision that only you can make, but for those who want an insight into the events of 1975-79, visiting Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields is a must. A former high school which became the notorious S-21 prison, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is as hard-hitting as you would expect. From S-21 prisoners were taken just 8 kilometres from the city centre to the Killing Fields. In this surprisingly peaceful setting, take a moment to reflect before the memorial stupa and visit the informative museum.
Cambodian Living Arts is a not-for-profit organisation who, by putting on performances of the traditional Cambodian arts, supports local artists. Shows will depend on the day and date that you wish to attend but choices include classical and folk dancing, Cambodian opera, shadow puppets and musical performances. There is also a range of ‘Living Arts Experiences’ to add that extra cultural authenticity to your trip.
In the heart of Phnom Penh, close to the beautiful Royal Palace, the Queen Grand Boutique Hotel provides contemporary style, excellent service and boutique comforts. The rooftop jacuzzi pool, full spa and choice of lounge bars make it the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring.
The Sunway Hotel offers comfortable and spacious rooms with modern conveniences. The hotel features a spa, beauty salon and fitness centre and the Sun Café Restaurant provides a mix of local and international cuisine.
Raffles sets the benchmark for refined enchantment in Phnom Penh. The epitome of sophistication, this luxurious hotel’s French colonial elegance is complemented by modern comforts. Facilities include Raffles Spa, a swimming pool and fine dining.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.