Capital of Cambodia
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Nowhere in Asia exist such wild contradictions; Cambodia is a beautiful country with a brutal, war-torn past. Its two main cities are the capital, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap. Once considered the loveliest of the French-built cities of Indochina, Phnom Penh's charm has managed to survive the violence of its recent history and the present invasion of property speculators and motor vehicles.
WHERE TO STAY
313 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh(00 855 23 218 189)
This hotel took almost a quarter of a century to complete. Begun around 1967, when Prince Sihanouk was chief of state, the unfinished structure and its spacious grounds were used as a military base by the Lon Nol government. Its facilities include restaurants, bars, a beautiful swimming pool, a spa and health centre and shops. £ Price rating: 0/5
INTERCONTINENTAL PHNOM PENH
296 Boulevard Mao Tse Toung, Phnom Penh(00 855 23 424 888)
A five-star hotel located conveniently in Phnom Penh's bustling city centre, the InterContinental has everything you need for a comfortable stay. With 346 rooms, it is far from intimate, but you can make use of the spa, health and fitness centre, and the restaurants are good. Price rating: 2/5
RAFFLES HOTEL LE ROYAL
92 Rukhak Vitehi Daun Penh, Phnom Penh(00 855 23 981888)
Conspicuously luxe, with vast rooms, many named after Western writers including André Malraux. Price rating: 2/5
WHERE TO EAT
The increasing affluence of some urban Phnom Penhois and the large foreign non-governmental organisation (NGO) population of the city, has led to an explosion of restaurants. Visitors are quite literally spoilt for choice.
LE WOK33 Street 178, Phnom Penh (00 855 92 821 857). Le Wok is a cheerful place to stop for a refreshing fruit cooler, or a selection of Western and Asian dishes - stir-fries and smoked-salmon sandwiches coexist happily on the menu.
THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS' CLUB363 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh (00 855 23 210 142; www.fcccambodia.com). This atmospheric restaurant/bar has wonderful views of the Tonlé Sap river on one side and the National Museum on the other. The food is good, if eclectic and the crowd of regulars are friendly. A must. PONLOK RESTAURANT319-323 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh (00 855 23 212 025). For upmarket Khmer cuisine, this is one of the best places around. It has good views of the river from its upstairs dining area, and the English menu takes you on a guided tour of the local cuisine. This restaurant is popular with the Khmer mobile-phone set. RENDEZ-VOUSOn the corner of Sisowath Quay and Street 108, Phnom Penh (00 855 16 736 622). One of the best European restaurants in Phnom Penh. The menu may look small at first, but there are plenty of dishes on the daily specials board. Both the filet mignon in mustard sauce and the Moroccan chicken stuffed with pistachio sauce are excellent. ROMDENG74 Street 174, Phnom Penh (00 855 92 219 565). Set in an ochre-coloured villa with a pool surrounded by lovely gardens, Romdeng is the place to go for lip-smacking Cambodian food. Try spiced beef soup with morning glory and tamarind, or lotus root and chicken salad. This is also a training restaurant for former street kids, in the style of Jamie Oliver's Fifteen.
WHAT TO SEE
Phnom Penh sits at the confluence of the Mekong, the Bassac and the Tonlé Sap rivers. Once considered the loveliest of the French-built cities of Indochina, its charm has managed to survive the violence of its recent history and the present invasion of property speculators and motor vehicles. Most of Phnom Penh's attractions are low-key, which means that visitors spend only a short time here.
BUILDINGS AND MONUMENTSTHE ROYAL PALACESamdech Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh. The Royal Palace is a great sight that can be seen across town. Make sure you visit the Silver Pagoda with its 5000 silver floor tiles and an impressive collection of Buddhist treasures.
MUSEUMSNATIONAL MUSEUMStreet 13 (on the corner with Street 178), Phnom Penh (00 855 23 211 753;www.cambodiamuseum.info).The National Museum, a rust-red, single-storey haven of culture and education displays more than 5,000 objects including Angkorian-era statues, lingas and other artefacts. Open daily.
TOUL SLENG MUSEUMStreet 113, Phnom Penh. Tuol Sleng Museum is a grisly reminder of Cambodia's tragic past, but a visit is essential to understanding how far the country has progressed.