The Cambodian capital doesn’t feel in quite so much of a rush to embrace the future as its counterparts elsewhere in Southeast Asia. High-rise buildings are beginning to spring up, but they’re still outnumbered by colonial-era shophouses and the flaking facades of French-style villas.
Begin your sightseeing with a visit to the splendid Royal Palace and adjacent Silver Pagoda, whose central shrine holds a Buddha made from an enormous emerald. Then admire the impressive collection of antiquities at the National Museum before joining our guided tour of Boeung Keng Kang Market, where you’ll sample local delicacies such as pungent durian, and dragon fruit. With its ranks of cafés, trinket sellers and strollers, breezy Sisowath Quay is the place to head as the shadows lengthen. At the Foreign Correspondents Club, enjoy a sundowner while savouring the views over the confluence of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers.
Such easy living is a far cry from the Pol Pot era of the mid-1970s, when a school in the centre of Phnom Penh housed the notorious S-21 prison. Now maintained as a memorial to the victims of the Khmer Rouge, the buildings today comprise the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, where exhibitions of clothing, human remains and photographs document the atrocities perpetrated within its walls – a sobering testament to the horrors of Cambodia’s recent history.