Phnom Penh – Snapshot
Phnom Penh truly is one of South East Asia’s most surprising destinations. It’s confrontational history aside, Phnom Penh is now awash with uber-cool bars, on trend eateries, galleries, sensational cafes and bespoke boutiques! Need we say more.
Where am I?
Preah Sisowath (in honour to King Sisowath who reigned between 1904 and 1927) Avenue – To most tourists this is simply ‘the riverside’ or ‘waterfront’ and represents the heart of Phnom Penh. The waterfront is lined with great restaurants, bars, cafes and a never ending line of cyclo drivers.
Street 240 and 240 ½ – Tree-lined street 240 is awash with colonial era villas, 1960’s shop houses, wine bars, café ‘s, boutiques and some of the best eateries in all of South East Asia.
Street 178 – This is Phnom Penh’s ‘Art Street’. Lined with art galleries and street side local sculpture shops this is the street to let your artistic side really spring to the fore.
Boeung Ken Kang (BKK1) – This area that has been accommodating expats and foreigners since the 1980’s. Spend time wandering around this area of tranquillity and you will undoubtedly stumble upon a number of gems that are neither obvious or easy to find.
Where to stay
The choice really is endless but here are a number of suggestions.
La Rose Suites – this luxurious, unique and stylish hotel is quite possibly the perfect place to stay. Currently rated number 1 of 249 hotels in Phnom Penh on Trip Advisor, La Rose always succeeds in pleasing even the most discerning of guests. larosesuites.com
Raffles Hotel le Royal – Five-star luxury with that unmistakable Raffles old world charm. Celebrated guests have included Charlie Chaplin, Jackie O and more recently Barrack Obama and Angelina Jolie. The poolside is a lovely place to relax and let the day slowly pass by. raffles.com
The Pavilion – Super hard to get a booking as this hotel consistently delivers in all areas. Excellent location, tranquil private setting, professional service and a great swimming pool. thepavilion.asia
Boddhi Tree Aram – for value and location, the Boddhi Tree Aram is hard to beat. This eight-room gem comes with modern, high-ceilinged guest quarters accented with period touches, like original floor tiles. And the surrounds couldn’t be more atmospheric: a quiet and charming corner of the capital behind Wat Botum, site of one of the city’s oldest pagodas. boddhitree.com
The White Mansion – This popular boutique hotel in the former US Ambassador’s home offers elegant, spacious rooms and friendly service. The deluxe rooms have great balconies that offer that little extra ambiance in such a frenetic city. hotelphnompenh-whitemansion.com
Cara Hotel – Just a block from the river, this reliable, inexpensive option has clean rooms, satellite TV, free Wi-Fi and friendly service. hotelcara.com
See the History
Much of Cambodia’s history is extremely painful and hard to believe. When in Phnom Penh and particularly if you have an interest in history there are a number of things you really must see.
The Killing Fields
The Killing Fields are part of the horrific legacy left by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. The memorial park at Choeung Ek, outside Phnom Penh, commemorates the many thousands of victims of the Khmer Rouge. The startling centrepiece stands as testament to the horrors inflicted under that regime. The free audio guide which comes with the entrance fee at the Killing Fields paints the picture well. It describes how the site would have looked during the Khmer Rouge’s reign and includes first-person accounts of those who were there at the time. It puts into perspective what you can see today.
Tuol Sleng Genocide (S21) Museum
Prior to 1975, Tuol Sleng (‘hill of the poisonous trees’) was a high school; during the four-year rule of the Khmer Rouge, it became one of the country’s most notorious torture facilities. Today it is a museum and a grave reminder of what took place here.
Topaz – excellent food, great service, extensive wine list. Really one of the restaurant ‘gems’ in Cambodia’s capital city.
Daughters of Cambodia – Sugar and Spice Café – Great in every way; food, value, service and above all it is for a great cause.
Armand’s – Cosy French bistro with excellent beef. The steak flambé is seriously good.
Zino Wine Bar – Good food and great wine. Could you ask for much more?
Doors Music + Tapas – Wonderful food, top notch service and sensational tapas right next to the Cara Hotel.
Himawari Microbrewery – Craft beer can be hard to come by in South East Asia but the Himawari Microbrewery is the exception. Their beer sampler is fantastic and all this on the banks of the mighty Mekong.
Bar.Sito – Hidden away, this stylish bar is for those in the know. Their signature espresso Martini is seriously good and will ensure that you stay awake to drink a few more!
Foreign Correspondents Club – Legendary drinking haunt that keeps on keeping on.
Garbage Bar – Don’t let the name fool you. Laid back atmosphere, cold beer with a pleasant outdoor area.
Le Moon Terrace Bar – Atop the Amanjaya Pancam Hotel, with views of both the hopping riverfront and the Royal Palace, you’d be hard pushed to find a better sunset viewpoint.