Top spots to explore around and about Phnom Penh
A panorama of emerald-green paddy fields stretches out beneath the peak of Phnom Chisor, located about 60km from Phnom Penh in Takeo province. The hilltop not only provides spectacular views but is also home to an 11th-century temple. Given the lengthy journey, it’s best to hire a car to take you to the site in comfort, before hiking up the hundreds of steps that lead to the summit. Brave the heat to be rewarded with a true treasure: a jaw-dropping vista of rural Cambodia.
The clatter of looms rings out from beneath the houses of Silk Island, known locally as Koh Dach, a pastoral idyll set about 30 minutes from central Phnom Penh. Known for its community of weavers, many of whom sell their wares to passing visitors, the bucolic isle is full of shady tracks, river views and fruit and vegetable patches. Take a local ferry – along with a cross-section of Cambodian commuters – to reach the island, which is best explored by tuk tuk. For those who prefer two wheels, Grasshopper Adventures also runs excellent cycling trips to the area.
Any experienced sightseer knows that a hard day of touring is best topped off with a sugar kick, and Phnom Penh is brimming with opportunities to indulge a sweet tooth. The Chocolate Shop provides a surefire endorphin hit with its range of cacao-laced treats paired with local flavours, Bloom is a cupcake-lovers’ paradise, while La Pâtisserie by Christophe offers a range of authentic European delicacies. But for a dose of drama, stop off at Nuk Café near Central Market, which serves up ice cream made with steaming liquid nitrogen.
Set foot in any of the city’s parks at dusk and you’ll find tracksuit-clad folk bopping to the latest Asian techno beats as part of an open-air aerobics class. A small fee will enable you to join in the gently paced action, but for those less athletically inclined there are plenty of opportunities to watch local sportspeople working up a sweat. Cambodian kickboxing, known as Kun Khmer and fought to a soundtrack of hypnotic traditional music, takes place weekly at TV stations across the capital. For football fans, the Cambodian Premier League kicks off at weekends with most games held at the striking Olympic Stadium.
Khmer architecture tours
With gleaming spires, ornate temples and 1960s jewels galore, Cambodia’s capital is alive with architectural wonders. Perhaps the best way to get an insight into the city’s landmarks is to traverse the streets of Phnom Penh with the knowledgeable folk at Khmer Architecture Tours. The group organises a range of trips, all led by local artists, architects and students, but has a particular focus on post-independence buildings, such as those created by national icon Vann Molyvann.
Tel: +855 (0)17 369 743 Website: ka-tours.org