"The Capital With a History and a New Future" Phnom Penh by thedouglas
Phnom Penh Travel Guide: 1,505 reviews and 3,973 photos
Despite the ravages of the Khmer Rouge regime, the Grand Palace complex shows little signs of damage. Amazing "gifts" from Napoleon, such as magnificant chandeliers, remain intact, as well as a number of artefacts, inside the various buildings.
A visit to the Grand Palace and Silver Pagoda complex is enough to see the history of significant relatively recent French influence in this city, which has been the Capital of Cambodia since the 15th century. Location at the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac watercourses gave this site an excellent location to become a trade capital - which is was, by the 16th century. Of course, that all changed over the next centuries, with Cambodia increasingly caught between the conflict between Vietnam and Thailand. The French colonised in the 19th century. Cambodia today is shrunken version of the original 54 Provinces in the times of Angkor.
Phnom Penh was apparently once quite a lovely city in Indochina, with many examples of French architecture. The crumbling, dirty streetscape now is far from lovely. However, there are restorations and renovations going on, and the increasing tourism is giving hope to this city.
We read some books about Phnom Penh's lawlessness, and, sheltered folk that we are, did not see or experience any of this side of the city. We did hear a gunshot (either real or vivid imagination concoction!) one night! We saw a shop sign stating "sex tourists not welcome", which would be a great sentiment, if it caught on. There are increasing numbers of organisations emerging, which are providing shelter and alternatives to women - encouraging the survival of traditional craft, and opportunity to earn a wage this way.
Its impossible to visit Phnom Penh and not visit the Tuol Sleng Museum and killing fields of Choeung Ek - if you want to gain some kind of insight and understanding into Cambodia today.
After seeing the grandeur of Angkor Wat, seeing the many mine victims in that area, and hearing personal stories from people we met in Cambodia, visiting these places was a validation of the horror of what went on in this country - not that there was anything to disbelieve. Seeing the killing field, the mass graves, seeing that underfoot were rain and traffic exposed scraps of discarded clothing and shards of bones from unearthed victims, was quite affronting.
The presence of such persistent and brazen children beggars, handling bones and offering "give us $1 to share and we will leave you alone..." was also somehow offensive - but, I guess, their lives have to go on now......
- Pros:Survival of a city with a past - and option of a self directed future
- Cons:Exploitation in various ways continue
- In a nutshell:Not the cleanest city in Asia, but pockets of charm
After the "developing" nature of Phnom Penh, and the arrival process, by boat from Siem Reap, we were quite surprised by... more travel advice
Samlors are a popular non-motorised way of getting around Phnom Penh at a slower pace. I had a chuckle when i saw this... more travel advice
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