The Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh sits on the banks of the Mekong River and beckons with a vibrant mix of traditional markets, eclectic art, world-class wellness and urban city life. The grand boulevards are still lined with old French colonial mansions that gleam alongside majestic temples and tropical gardens. Immerse yourself in the fantastic Khmer culture, explore the city's impressive historical heritage, go on extensive shopping sprees, marvel at exotic animals and enjoy the delicacies of regional cuisine - Phnom Penh will enchant you.
On the capital's only mountain, there are several sights to discover at once. First, you can roam the well-kept park that is the official center of the capital and offers a welcome respite from the daily hustle and bustle with a beautiful panoramic view. At the top, there's Wat Phnom Pagoda and its impressive 13th-century historic temple, which offers exciting insights into local culture as well as pretty photo opportunities. To marvel at the temple from the inside, you will pay a token entrance fee. You will also have the opportunity to sit on comfortable benches and watch the free-roaming monkeys.
The Royal Palace still serves as the official residence of the king, a place for court ceremonies and a shining symbol of the entire kingdom. Some sections are open to the public. You can stroll through the exotic gardens and explore the ornate temples, ancient library and impressive galleries on the palace grounds. The palace complex also houses the Silver Pagoda, an imposing temple that occupies a prominent spot on the picturesque riverbank and is named after its gleaming silver floor. The ambience is sublime and all visitors are requested to dress respectfully by keeping their shoulders and knees covered.
The famous National Museum of Cambodia is located right next to the Royal Palace and houses more than 5,000 artifacts from the past Angkorian era. Various rooms display an array of rare statues, lingas and valuable treasures, including the remarkable Leper King from Siem Reap and a huge bronze Vishnu from the 11th century. It gives visitors an incredible amount of background knowledge, explaining fabled mysteries and telling the exciting story of an impressive civilisation that was almost lost.
Asia's markets exert a special fascination, there is something adventurous about the bustling vendors, the countless colorful stalls and the fact that they are arranged like mazes. The traditional main market in Phnom Penh is particularly impressive. Here you can try out your bargaining skills and snag some unique bargains. You'll find everything from gorgeous local handicrafts and glittering jewellery to modern designer handbags and trendy clothes. At the adjacent night market, which opens its doors daily from 5pm, you can sample a multi-faceted selection of affordable local dishes.
Cambodian Living Arts is a government organization whose main goal is to bring traditional arts back to life and take them in a new, modern direction. It trains musicians, dancers, singers and comedians and provides them with the basics they need to make a living from their art. Part of their efforts are daily performances at the National Museum, starting at 7 p.m. each night. The traditional show takes the audience on a journey, from Angkor's palaces to today's cities, with beautiful costumes, music and theatre.
The NGO Wildlife Alliance works tirelessly to save and protect endangered and rare wildlife. Animals in their care are brought to Phnom Tamao's sprawling rescue center, where they are nursed back to health before being returned to the wild. The grounds are set up like an animal park and you have the unique chance to experience the creatures up close, with all entrance fees and donations going back into the project. You'll get to hand wash elephants, enter the tigers' private den, feed baby monkeys and marvel at leopards, gibbons and otters.
Koh Dach, also called Silk Island, is about an hour's drive from Phnom Penh. An interesting boat ride by ferry will take you to the idyllic island, located in the middle of the Mekong River. You can learn about the ancient art of silk weaving by visiting the many small weaving villages. There, they can watch as workers use original tools to spin fine silk, creating true works of art. The tranquil island is also home to unspoiled nature and offers a great opportunity to enjoy the sun in peace. Less