Phnom Penh, Cambodia has a very dark recent history but this jewel of Asia remains one of the most beautiful cities in the world. In so many ways it is different from its neighbors in Thailand and Vietnam, it makes this small country well worth a visit. Here are my top 5 reasons to visit the amazing Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
1. The Colonial Architecture
Cambodia was colonized by the French; if you mix this with the traditional Khmer style and you have a unique brand of Architecture that is simply breathtaking. Some of the most famous buildings include the National Post Office, The Royal Palace, and the National Museum. All of these buildings are well worth a visit where you can get some amazing photographs.
2. The Memorials of the Genocide
Although Gruesome to many, we should never forget such atrocities in the hope that they don’t happen again. The Khmer Rouge invaded Phnom Penh in 1975 and forced the population into the countryside to work on hard labor farms. Millions died of starvation as well as ritual executions. The 2 must-see visits are the Killing Fields, which are a former graveyard of the Khmer Rouge’s enemies. Tuol Sleng prison is a former high school that acted as a prison during the occupation of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge and you can walk around and see the prison cells with many pictures of what actually took place there, a very emotional day out.
3. The Rivers
Phnom Penh lies on the intersection of 3 rivers. The Mekong, the Tonle Sap, and the Bassac. You can take riverboat cruises around the city and also up the Tonle Sap to Siem Reap, home of the famous Angkor Wat temples. There are hotels on either side of the river banks and bridges to easy access. The best time to visit is during the dry season as the rivers can get smelly and the rain too much to bear.
4. The Waterfront
The main waterfront area boasts some unique and idyllic cafes and restaurants. A throwback to the French colonial era, the cafes are small and inexpensive. You can sit and relax watching the tuk-tuks ferry passengers around and watch the boats glide past. There is also a huge promenade that lines the bank of the river, great for jogging or a nice walk during sunset. It really gives you a sense of what Phnom Penh is all about.
5. The Cost of Living
Cambodia is by far and away one of the most affordable countries in the world. The country operates a dual currency system with the local currency (The Cambodian Riel) operating alongside the US dollar. You can sit at a café bar and order a meal and beer for less than 5 dollars. Happy Hour beers are less than a dollar and a tuk-tuk to most places around the city will cost just 2 or 3 dollars. Rents are also low, making this ideal for expats and those looking for a long-term place to live. Considering Phnom Penh is an Asian capital city, you will spend considerably less than you would in Singapore, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.
Phnom Penh really is a beautiful and exciting place that is definitely on the rise. Now is the time to visit!
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