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Once called the ‘Pearl of Asia’, when you book a flight to Phnom Penh with Qatar Airways you’ll discover that it preserves much of that old charm. It was built by the French in what was then Indochina. Today, Phnom Penh preserves in some of its attractions the exuberance and brilliance of Khmer art and civilisation. Fly to Phnom Penh and sample some of the beautiful, rich and distinctive Cambodian culture on offer.
The magnificent Silver Pagoda stands in its own compound, which also includes a life-size gold Buddha statue adorned with 9500 diamonds. The nearby sprawling Royal palace is off-limits, unfortunately, but one can’t help wondering what treasures are hidden away in there, taking into consideration the magnificence of those that are on public display. Your trip to Phnom Penh should also include a visit to the twin pagodas that stand in the palace grounds.
You can’t miss the Independence and Liberation memorials in the city centre, which celebrate the ousting of the French. On your trip to Phnom Penh also drop in to the National Museum of Cambodia, which has lots of interesting exhibits about the country’s history and cultural influences.
The best way to savour the city’s delights on your trip to Phnom Penh is to simply stroll along its wide avenues and look at the old colonial architecture. You can also take a river cruise along the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers, typically lasting two hours. There’s a Mekong Islands Bicycle Tour each day, and you can hire a bike yourself to explore the city.
Watch performances of classical and folk dance at the Plae Pakaa National Museum, where a range of performing arts is on display throughout the week.
There are lots of French, Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese dishes to savour on your visit to Phnom Penh. The riverfront is particularly alive with music and bustling restaurants. Khmer street restaurants are found throughout the city, if you’re planning to eat on a budget. Look for stand-up stalls and bistros for a wide selection of international and local cuisine.
Cambodia is also well known for its more ‘exotic’ culinary experiences, such as duck embryo eggs, day-old chicks and frogs (eaten whole, rather than just the legs). Grilled chicken feet, lobsters, prawns and even insects are all on the menu, so do ask before you eat just in case you have an aversion to fried grasshoppers!
For anyone travelling to Phnom Penh for some shopping, there are plenty of malls and markets to head for, where you’ll find the best in Asian handicrafts. Silverware, silk, curios and crafts are much in evidence. You should look for the Heritage Friendly Business Logo when buying handicrafts of this sort, as you’ll be helping Heritage Watch to preserve the country’s culture by supporting local craftsmen and women.
For a truly magnificent retail experience try shopping in the grandeur of Central Market, which is renowned for its architecture, and in City Mall if you’re looking for Western-style products. Big brands can be found at the Russian Market and traditional dress materials at the Olympic Market.
Never touch native Cambodians on the head, even if they’re children, and always take your shoes off before entering a home. Put your hands together and make a slight bow to greet someone, although many Cambodians will nowadays shake hands, so see what they do first and take your cue from your hosts.
When you travel to Phnom Penh, wear modest dress, and make sure to cover arms and legs when visiting religious sites.
Flights to Phnom Penh arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport, 7km outside the city.
Visa restrictions for entry into the country will depend on your country of origin, length of stay and whether your trip is for business or pleasure. So before you fly to Phnom Penh please check the visa and passport requirements.
Currency: Cambodian Riel (KHR)
Voltage: 230 V 50 Hz
Plugs: Type A / C / G
International dialing code: +855