One of Asia‘s highlights is it‘s food and Cambodia is no exception. The Khmer fresh produce markets are bursts of colours and smells and they are not for the weak hearted. Owing to varied ingredients used in Khmer cuisine, some of them being seemingly bizarre to non Cambodians, local market visits draw a wide range of emotions. These usually range from awe struck to squeamish and from fried scorpions, frog legs and grilled water bugs, Khmer culinary gems are quite photogenic. Markets in Phnom Penh too are very interesting and they vary from the touristy Russian Market, the sprawling Central Market to the relaxing open air weekend Night Market. Small fresh produce markets like the Old Market riddle the city and they lie interspersed between the alluring French architecture, grand boulevards and picturesque waterfront.
The French colonial architecture is one of Phnom Penh‘s USP and the Cambodian capital is a captivating city filled with many vignette sights. Located at the lush confluence of Tonle Sap, Bassac and Mekong rivers, history (both awe inspiring and bone chilling) has run rampant through it. Once known as the ‘Pearl of Asia’, Phnom Penh’s sheen was tarnished by the impact of war, Khmer Rouge regime and revolution. The city, however has since risen from the ashes like a phoenix and nowadays it is quite a fun place to be. Charming cafe culture, seductive food scene and swanky bars give it a very cosmopolitan feel, while traditional Asia pulsates through them all. Shop fronts stacked with groceries, hassled traders, haggling tuk tuk drivers and road side eateries, barbers, hair dressers etc can be found at every nook and corner of the city. Silent monks in saffron robes walk barefoot through leafy stylish boulevards and tall spires of pagodas pierce the sky.
Unlike most Asian cities, Phnom Penh is still delightfully compact and most of it‘s sights are located in one area. The much loved river promenade is the liveliest places in entire Phnom Penh and the 3 main tourist spots are located nearby. The elegant Royal Palace with its impressive Silver Pagoda is stone throw away and the National Museum and Wat Ounalom are within walking distance. The old French Quarter radiates towards the river front too and so does the road leading to the buttercup yellow art deco building of Central Market. The jam packed Russian Market is close too and all roads in Phnom Penh seem to lead to the river. The city has a pleasant heady rush and the bustling real estate scene makes it seem as if money can be made there from thin air. It is definitely an ancient city reincarnating itself merrily and the best place for new beginnings.
TRAVEL TIP – Phnom Penh is at cross roads of old and new and the city definitely deserves a stopover for a few days. The riverfront is the most cosmopolitan strip and is lined with cafes, bars, restaurants, temples and tourist spots. Take some time off for the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, and the interesting National Museum is a nice place to spend an afternoon. Photographers will love ambling through the colourful, bustling Central Market and the Russian Market offers some excellent bargains for souvenir hunters. Take a photo walk along the French Quarter, join a cooking class or visit the nearby Silk Island or Koh Dach for a half day trip. The tiny silk weaving villages are tucked away amidst green pastoral lushness and seem like a world away from the capital city. History buffs can visit the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum. It is a painful reminder of the dreadful Khmer Rouge regime and the erstwhile school used to be a detention and torture centre for men, women and children who suffered at the hands of the Pol Pot.
Those looking for day trips from Phnom Penh can visit the Angkorian temple of Tonle Bati. It can be easily combined with the hill top temple of Phnom Chisor and Phnom Tamau, the state run zoo and wild life rescue centre. The best way to explore these places is by taxi. The road conditions are not great and it is advisable to bring your own food and water along with you.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE