For a long time after Phnom Penh’s near-desertion in the wake of the Vietnam War and overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, it was often called the “Wild West of Asia.” Thankfully over the past few decades, great strides have been made in making the city one of the region’s more livable, enjoyable, and culturally rich destinations.
Legend says the city was founded in 1372 when a woman named Penh built a temple on a hill (phnom, in the Khmer language) to house several statues of the Buddha that she found. From there, the city’s fortunes waxed and waned as various conflicts and colonial interests shaped the region, until it was finally declared Cambodia’s capital in 1866. From 1867 until its independence in 1953, Cambodia was under French rule, which is still evident from some of the architecture in the city, although only several good examples remain.
Today Phnom Penh is a vibrant, energetic city, and the feeling of a place coming out of a long slumber is palpable. New hotels and shopping malls are being built, old structures are being restored, and hip, new restaurants are turning up in all corners of the city. That being said, it still lags far behind other Asian cities like Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City, so manage expectations when it comes to medical, transport, financial and communications infrastructure.
You can also learn about some of the darker chapters of Cambodian history through the infamous Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, historical sites that detail the horrors of the occupation by the Khmer Rouge. Although they don’t make for a ‘fun’ outing, they are an important memorial to one of Cambodia’s most chilling periods, and are cherished for the important lessons contemporary visitors take away from the experience.
The energy from this city as it looks toward the future and the quality of the sites and attractions make it a worthwhile destination in and of itself no longer just a short stopover on the way to the Angkor ruins in Siem Reap. Some of the most popular sights are the Royal Palace, with the stunning Silver Pagoda and Temple of the Emerald Buddha; Sisowath Quay, the charming riverside stretch of road with great shopping and dining during the day, and a lively nighttime market atmosphere when things cool off at night; the comprehensive National Museum; and plenty of temples, markets, and friendly locals eager to share their city with visitors.
Take a look at these great hotel deals below to get the most out of any visit to Cambodia’s growing, captivating capital city.
Enjoy 10% off your stay. Expires March 31, 2014.
Enjoy 30% off your stay. Expires January 31, 2014.
Enjoy a US$16 per-night discount when staying between January 1-February 28, 2014.
Stay for a minimum of 2 nights and enjoy a 15% discount off your stay. Expires March 31, 2014.
Enjoy 30% off your stay. Expires March 31, 2014.
Enjoy 40% off your stay. Expires March 31, 2014.
Book at least 15 days in advance and enjoy 35% off. Expires March 31, 2014.
Book less than 30 days before check-in and enjoy a US$10 discount. Expires March 31, 2014.
Enjoy 25% off your stay. Expires January 31, 2014.
Enjoy 15% off your stay. Expires January 31, 2014.