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Once known as the “Pearl of Asia”, Cambodia’s exotic capital has managed to preserve much of that old charm. Phnom Penh was built by the French in what was then Indochina. Today, it continues to demonstrate the exuberance of Khmer art and civilisation.
So book a flight to Phnom Penh with Qatar Airways and prepare for a dazzling array of Cambodian colour and culture, not to mention some of the strangest cuisine on the planet.
The Silver Pagoda, with its diamond-encrusted gold Buddha statue, is a good place to start, but don’t forget the National Museum of Cambodia, or to take a cruise along the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers; strange cuisine also awaits you in Phnom Penh.
The magnificent Silver Pagoda stands in its own compound, which also includes a life-sized gold Buddha statue adorned with 9,500 diamonds.
The nearby sprawling Royal Palace is off-limits, unfortunately, but its exterior presents an adequate feast for the eyes and some great photo opportunities. You should also try to 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 end of French colonial rule, in 1953. 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 cruise along the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers, which typically lasts around two hours. There is also a Mekong Islands Bicycle Tour each day, and you can hire a bike yourself to explore the city on your own.
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 are eating 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 where you will find the best in Asian handicrafts. Silverware, silk, curios and crafts are all well represented. You should look for the Heritage Friendly Business Logo when buying handicrafts of this sort. This is an excellent way to help Heritage Watch preserve the country’s culture by supporting local craftspeople.
For a memorable retail experience, try shopping in the grandeur of Central Market, renowned for its architecture. City Mall is ideal, 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.
Essential facts about Phnom Penh
Enjoy a hassle-free journey with all the information you need to know before your trip