Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Wat Preah Puth in Phnom Penh by Arnaud-Victor Monteux

Located at the confluence of the Mekong and the Tonle Sap Rivers, Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city in Cambodia. Despite being liberated from the Khmer Rouge by the Vietnamese back in 1979, Phnom Penh has long remained a bit rough. However, things are improving, though roads remain shabby, traffic chaotic and electricity strained.
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Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975, who completely emptied the city of civilians and allowed it to crumble for several years. The small class of skilled or educated professionals was systematically murdered by Pol Pot or driven into exile. Today, Phnom Penh is slowly gaining high rise buildings and traffic lights. The beauty that once made it the "Paris of the East" before 1970 is unfortunately well hidden, though there are few French colonial buildings remaining. The wide boulevards and promenades envisaged by the French have now turned into parking spaces and market stalls.

Street in Phnom Penn by Tbachner

The most pleasant stroll is to be done along the park-like riverfront, which hosts cafes and restaurants aplenty. Standard tourist sights are few, which makes the city a place to relax, watch the street life and absorb the local color. Phnom Penh is a worthwhile destination for those who enjoy an "edge" experience and can brave the downsides of reckless driving, noise, and poverty. Touts and beggars abound, the worst area is the tourist strip along the river. Be firm, though a polite refusal should work.

Market in Phnom Penh by Justin Watt

All of Phnom Penh's streets are numbered, some major thoroughfares also have names. The scheme is simple - odd-numbered streets run north-south (the numbers increase as you head west from the river) and even numbers run west-east (increasing as you head south with some exceptions such as the west side of what was Boeung Kak Lake). House numbers are quite haphazard and don't expect houses to be numbered sequentially along a street - you might even find two completely unrelated houses with the same number.
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Phnom Penh

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