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Phnom Penh and surrounds

Sweeping boulevards, lovely riverside, great food


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The Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh offers a lot more than meets the eye -- seductive and atmospheric colonial throwbacks mingle with this great Southeast Asian city's bustling modern-day development and rapidly becoming heaving traffic -- spend your days sightseeing and cafe-hopping and your evenings by the riverside or in the heart of town.

Almost completely abandoned during the Khmer Rouge period, Phnom Penh is slowly reinventing itself -- metamorphosing from an aging yet charming 1960's sleepy French colonial cliche to a bright and shiny and totally corrupt new Asian money town. Slowly and sadly, the dilapidated colonial era buildings are being torn down -- replaced by mirrored glass and crass, offensive merchant bank exteriors -- all the more reason to visit soon, to grasp just a slither of the beauty the town must have once held.

For a town who's history is so rooted in misery, you can't help but find yourself in depraved places where the guide details the tortured innocents and the starved white elephants, but, as with all of Cambodia, there's a lot more to this town than history, death and misery -- don't dismiss Phnom Penh offhand.


Outside the capital, the provinces of Kompong Cham and Takeo are both worth considering. The former, with its pretty temples and beautiful river trips is a good overnight stay, with an ample supply of guesthouses, hotels and very knowledgable motodops who show you everything the town has to offer. Takeo, set on floodplains to the south of Phnom Penh makes a good full-day trip (in wet-season only), during which you can do boat-trips almost all the way to the Vietnamese border and visit ancient monuments.

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Phnom Penh and surrounds

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