Phnom Penh

City Tour

Phnom Penh has gone from being ignored to being adored. It’s a busy, bustling mix of French Colonial Architecture, Khmer Modernism, and mushrooming office buildings. Despite the fast growing modernity, you might still see an ox cart, or monkeys (frequently near the Post Office).  The Royal Palace is just a few blocks away, and welcomes visitors when the King is not in residence. Enthused about the architectural mix? Try taking a Khmer Architecture Tour. Want to know more about history? Visit the National Museum . You can see traditional music and dance at the performances of Cambodian Living Arts, or Sovanna Phum.  For contemporary art, you can try Java Cafe & Gallery or Meta House, amongst many. To see artists ‘in situ’ try a stroll up Street 178 with its many galleries. Don’t hesitate to stop by Friends Cafe, which does good work helping out street kids. It’s hard to avoid S-21 Museum or the Choeung Ek ‘Killing Fields’. I recommend pairing the sad past with reminder of the presence of living arts. (See above.) Want to skateboard? Hit the rifle range? Go on an epic pub crawl? Sample great food? It all depends on what tickles your interest.  Further references:

Angkor Wat/Siem Reap Siem Reap

For Siem Reap, I generally recommend one ‘off’ day for every temple you visit.

If it’s not too exorbitant, the balloon is a good way to see the overall extent of the ancient roads and canals. Most people try three days and then it’s all just piles of stone. There is a floating village on the lake, ‘Gecko Centre’ and clinic, plus plenty of local and temples. And if you want to give something back? You can donate blood at Angkor Hospital for Children.

Massage: there are branches of ‘Seeing Hands’ everywhere, some legit, some not.

Lots of art activities. Pub Street is a little overly touristy for me, but McDermott photo gallery is in ‘The Passage‘ just behind the street. Try visiting Wat Bo (ask to see the murals in the vihear). Wat Damnak is home of the ‘Center for Khmer Studies‘ and has a great library.

Sunset spots: try Takmao temple in the Angkor Wat complex, or Phnom Krom outside of town. (For the latter you’ll need mosquito spray, the bugs come out when it gets dark.)

Phnom Kulen has imagery carved directly into a stone riverbed, though that’s a day excursion in and of itself. A smaller and easier-to-access example is the now-damaged Kpal Spean.

Further references: Siem Reap Iphone App

Friends who run a tour company: Sheila and Paul at

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