Monday, March 14, 2011

Phnom Penh: Capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia

A mixture of Cambodian hospitality, Asian exotica and Indochinese charm await the visitor to Phnom Penh. Situated at the confluence of three great rivers - known as the 'Chaktomuk' (four faces) or 'Quatre Bras' (four arms) of the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers
- Phnom Penh is a city of more than 2 million people, the capital of Cambodia and the country's commercial, economic and political hub. It is also comparatively new travel destination. An adventure destination just a decade ago, the city is now a center of diverse economic and urban development and is quickly morphing an air of edgy chic with bistros and boutique hotels lining the riverfront, smart little silk boutiques and galleries dotting the side streets, a budding arts scene and a heady dusk-to-dawn nightlife.
As the capital city Phnom Penh is fairly young, only rising to the role in 1866, but is still steeped in history and offers several cultural and historical sites. The city was under French colonial control from 1863-1953, flourished in independence in the 1960s, besieged and then evacuated under the Khmer Rouge in the late 70s, repopulated in the 80s, revitalized in the 90s and now undergoing rapid change and development. Much of the central city including the Royal Palace and National Museum (both open to visitors) was built during the French period. You may notice the old French buildings in colonial yellow amongst the Southeast Asian shophouses and classic Khmer pagodas. The National Museum in Phnom Penh is the most significant public repository of Khmer artifacts in the country, displaying many important Angkorian artifacts and rare pieces from later periods. Historical sites from the Khmer Rouge period in Phnom Penh include the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Memorial. Other historical sites such as the old capital of Oudong and the Angkorian ruins of Phnom Chisor and Phnom Da lie within an easy day-trip of Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh is also a gateway to Cambodia...the
temples of Angkor near Siem Reap City in the west, the beaches of Sihanoukville and coastal towns on along the southern coast (Kampot, Kep and Koh Kong,) the minority peoples, jungles and wildlife of the northeast provinces and a wide-open, unspoiled countryside of rice paddies, little villages and lost temples across the country.

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