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Cambodia

Mention Cambodia and most people think of those fabulous Angkor ruins, but when you spend more time in The Kingdom, you’ll discover that there’s a lot more to see and do. Still well off Asia’s more mainstream tourist trails - and still recovering from wounds  inflicted by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime – this is one of the  world's poorest countries, which can be heartbreaking, but at the same time seems to have given  Khmers a resilient nature and natural curiosity that makes them eager to meet and help travellers. With a fleet of buses in fairly good condition, it’s easy – and cheap - to travel around this bite-sized country, but apart from a sprinkling of popular coastal resorts and the country’s main towns, don’t expect to see much ‘civilisation’. 

Tip: You’ll see hordes of grubby, barefooted kids rag picking and roaming the streets – especially in Phnom Penh. Don’t give them money, which is usually taken by a ringleader higher up in the chain. Instead, head for the nearest food stand and buy them something nourishing to eat - your gift will be really appreciated.

Places to visit


Phnom Penh

Known as PP by the handful of expats who live here, Cambodia’s capital lying at the meeting point of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers is a bewilderingly authentic blend of tatty colonial architecture, kamikaze tuk-tuks, chaotic street markets and great nightlife.

 
Things to do

Head for  Olympic stadium (Sihanouk and Monireth boulevards) at sunrise and join thousands of bendy locals doing aerobics, then pop next door to The Olympic market to buy Cambodian silks and silver betel nut containers. Next flag down a tuk-tuk  and tootle over to The Royal Palace (phnompenh.gov.kh), where costly exhibits include an emerald buddha hewn out of Baccarat crystal. Let your lunch settle then head for Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (tuolsleng.com), the former high school that became S-21, Pol Pot's most terrifying prison.


Where to stay 

When you’re tired of heat and dust The Plantation (theplantation.asia) in a converted Khmer building is a fabulously swish place to kick back. For a budget alternative try Number 9 (number9hotel.com) an Aussie-owned hotel with clean rooms, free wifi and breakfast included.


Going out

Order a sunset cocktail in the colonial-era-style Foreign Correspondents Club (fcccambodia.com/phnom_penh/boutique-hotel.php), where war correspondents holed up before they were forced to flee the Pol Pot regime, and you’ll be living the iconic PP experience. Next, feed at PP’s night market (Psar Reatrey) on the riverfront where vendors sell Khmer snacks for a song. Once you’ve eaten your fill, grab a tuk and make your way over to Equinox (equinox-cambodia.com), the best place in PP for live music and cheap cocktails.  


Talkback


Destination: Cambodia
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