Cambodia’s Capital Secrets
Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s historic capital and a booming urban landscape, is rooted in the past but blooming into an enviable dining and nightlife center.
Few Southeast Asian capitals have seen as many changes or been reinvented as many times as Phnom Penh. The storied legend of the founding of this capital city belongs to Penh, a wealthy widow, who found a tree floating down the Tonle Sap River. In the tree were four bronze Buddha statues and a stone statue of Vishnu. Penh took these images as a sign that The Buddha wanted her to build a new temple. Lady Penh and the temple she founded, Wat Phnom, gave rise to a city named Phnom Penh. Also known during French colonial times as “The Paris of the East”, this capital city is a place full of life and secrets.
Post-independence Cambodia in the early 1950’s experienced a “Golden Age”, when a unique style of modern architecture was blended with traditional elements– a style created by one of the greatest architects to hail from the region, Vann Molyvann. Tragically, Phnom Penh saw some of the darkest times in human history when the Khmer Rouge sacked the city in 1970 and forced the evacuation and imprisonment of the population.
While the past is the past, Phnom Penh has transformed itself into Cambodia’s gritty, booming capital and home to numerous treasures such as the Royal Palace and the massive Art Deco Central Market. What few people realize is that Phnom Penh is also home to a bustling food and beverage scene that rivals any city in the world. From French to Japanese to Khmer, your travelers would be hard pressed to find better and more affordable dining anywhere in the world.
Beyond the nightlife, Phnom Penh is home to a gorgeous and tranquil island in the Mekong River. A mere 5km from downtown, Koh Dach or “Silk Island” makes for a great and easily accessible escape to village life and a completely different side of Phnom Penh. Explore Koh Dach and beyond on our half day Islands of the Mekong biking tour.
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