Once known as the “Pearl of Asia”, Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s capitol and largest city. It is sited at the junction of 3 rivers, the mighty Mekong, Tonle Sap and the Bassac River. Once considered as one of the most French of French built cities in Asia, recent history has changed some of those perceptions. Now inhabitant by over 14 million people, Phnom Penh has been developed in steps to keep pace with neighbouring Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City and as a result the city has garnered rapid growth of both domestic and international visitors.
Like the Phoenix, Phnom Penh is rising from the ashes of its devastating history. Without actually burying the past Cambodia is proud to show the tenacity of its people as they climb out of the dark days of the Khmar Rouge led holocaust. Monuments and museums attest not only to the brutality of that time but also the regenerative strength of Cambodians. Alongside all this, historical buildings, temples and cultural attractions serve to attract tourists from all over the world.
Phnom Penh Airport is reachable in less than two hours with a flight from Kuala Lumpur. A 30-minute drive from the airport will get a visitor to the Raffles Hotel Le Royal. This Hotel was originally opened in 1929 and reopened in 1997 after sympathetic extension and refurbishment by the Raffles Hotel & Resort group. The building is a blend of Khmer, art deco and French colonial architecture. Here old colonial grandeur and luxury will evoke nostalgia from its older visitors and titillate the scenes of its younger guests.
Situated in the heart of Phnom Penh and with easy access the city’s main attractions, Raffles Hotel Le Royal offers 170 guest rooms, apartments and suites. The hotel has two swimming pools, the Raffles Amrits Spa, six restaurants and an enticing bar. This is the place to stay in Phnom Penh.
Despite development the city has managed to maintain some of its older buildings and French colonial heritage. The Royal Palace is a good place to start for those with a penchant for history as well as those who just like to gaze on grandeur. Built in 1866 on a land area of 174,870 square meters there is a lot to see here. The Throne Hall, the Silver Pagoda and the Inner Court together make up this very royal site. The National Museum of Cambodia represents the best of Phnom Penh’s architecture with its elegant terracotta structure.
The old temple of Wat Phnom is well worth a visit. As legend has it the Wat was discovered by a woman named Penh so hence the name Phnom Penh. Believed to have the power to grant wishes one can watch colourful processions of people baring offerings of lotus flowers to enhance the chances of having their prayers answered
This fascinating city has a lot to offer historically and culturally. As well as being part of living history it offers a face of Cambodia that wants nothing more than to regain its pre Indo China War reputation as a friendly nation of friendly people. Before leaving, don’t forget to visit Central Market to see its landmark structure and pick up souvenirs from this most interesting capitol.