Phnom Penh and surrounds
Sweeping boulevards, lovely riverside, great food
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 heaving traffic. Spend your days sightseeing and cafe-hopping and your evenings by the riverside or in the heart of town.
Almost completely emptied of people during the Khmer Rouge period, Phnom Penh is slowly reinventing itself -- metamorphosing from an aging yet charming 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 with a history so rooted in misery, you can't help but find yourself in depraved places where innocents were tortured and white elephants starved, but, as with all of Cambodia, there's a lot more to this town than history, death and misery.
Outside the capital, the provinces of Kompong Cham and Takeo are both worth considering. The former, with its pretty temples and beautiful river trips makes 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 obscure ancient monuments.
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