What to do and Where to stay in
Phnom Penh

Sitting at the confluence of three rivers that stretch out to the north, west and southeast; the Mekong, the Tonle Sap and the Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh is the vibrant, bustling capital of Cambodia. Once known as the “Pearl of Asia”, it still retains considerable provincial charm and tranquillity with French colonial mansions and tree-lined boulevards amidst monumental Angkorian architecture.

Experiences in Phnom Penh

This is a city full of energy and creativity, made all the more heart-warming in the context of its recent terrible history and has so much fun to offer visitors alongside the sobering Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the infamous Killing Fields. It’s a context that makes the welcoming atmosphere and the smiling locals even more poignant.

The Khmer people love children and there’s a surprising amount on offer for families here; city tours might include a Diamond Hunt in the Silver Pagoda, a cyclo-scavenger treasure hunt around the bustling streets, a lotus flower-folding lesson at Wat Phnom and then lunch at the charming NGO restaurant ‘Friends’- a vibrant training restaurant teaching street children to learn to cook. It’s so good, its fast becoming a destination in its own right. In the evening, be tempted by the sunset cruise and cocktails (or mocktails!) beside the river, followed by a leisurely stroll along palm lined Sisowath Quay, the city’s social hub at night. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try a ‘dinner with a difference’ with local specialities like fried insects or even a tarantula?

Further afield, how about becoming a zoo-keeper for the day with a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre. While it is not quite ‘zoo’ standard compared with Western ideals, this charity is responsible for rescuing over 200 Malayan Sun Bears along with Asiatic and Black Bears, gibbons and elephants. Even the track to the zoo is exciting enough; filled with welcoming committees of monkeys, tumbling from the trees and rollicking across the road. You’ll need strong hands to chop the vast quantities of fruit and veg which fill bamboo tubes and hollow basket balls – topped with a little side splash of honey (Winnie the Pooh must be a distant relation). These are thrown to the little bears who carefully hold the food between their paws – it’ll take you the rest of your holiday to recover from the cuteness of it all.

For those exploring the Cambodian countryside, then a stop at Skun Spider Market is a must, but be warned – you might look at your house spider a little more fondly here. You’ll find huge trays of deep-fried tarantulas, crickets, scorpions and silkworms served up with a smile by the fashionista market sellers. Whether you take the next step and try one, we’ll leave up to you?

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