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Whether delving into city life in Phnom Penh, exploring the ancient temples of Siem Reap, wandering the idyllic beaches of the south coast or trekking in deep jungle, tap into the very best the Kingdom has to offer

Yeak Lom Lake
BEST OF GUIDE

PHNOM PENH

From the ornate roofs of the Royal Palace to the glistening steel of Vattanac Tower, Cambodia’s capital is a fascinating blend of traditional and modern. Even as the skyline reaches ever upward, the city manages to retain a small-town vibe. With swanky bars and restaurants fit to grace any capital, this buzzing city is definitely on the up
HOTEL  |  RESTAURANT  |  BAR  |  ACTIVITIES

HOTELS

Photo of RAFFLES HOTEL LE ROYAL
RAFFLES HOTEL LE ROYAL

An unadulterated slice of luxury in the heart of Phnom Penh, Raffles has seen it all over the years. From illustrious former guests such as Charlie Chaplin and Jacqueline Kennedy to modern-day jetsetters with a taste for the refined, nobody leaves Raffles disappointed. Climb the red-carpeted stairs and soak up the atmosphere before being deposited in rooms that feature claw-footed bathtubs and elegant furnishings throughout but be sure to make time for a drink in the rightly famed Elephant Bar for a taste of enduring luxury and times gone by.​

raffles.com/phnom-penh

Photo of RAMBUTAN
RAMBUTAN

Rambutan’s LGBT-friendly properties in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap continue to impress, offering comfortable boutique surroundings and all the personalised service touches that come with it. The Phnom Penh outpost is an ode to sleek, modern design but never compromises on comfort, while the pool area has become renowned in Phnom Penh as a fantastic spot to indulge in a drink and a chat with a modern, fashionable crowd.

rambutanresort.com

Photo of SOFITEL PHNOM PENH PHOKEETHRA
SOFITEL PHNOM PENH PHOKEETHRA

An expansive estate in the heart of Phnom Penh, Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra is a lavish escape from the crowded streets of Cambodia’s capital. With four restaurants dedicated to Cantonese, Italian, Japanese and French cuisine, Sofitel’s sweeping grounds and spacious sports facilities effortlessly blend colonial glamour with Cambodia’s own antique heritage. Of an evening, enjoy a drink in the lobby bar, where a group of soulful local musicians play an enjoyable mix of Western standards and retro Cambodian hits.

sofitel.com

SUN AND MOON

The spectacular rooftop pool and bold colour palette of Sun and Moon add a splash of contemporary pizzazz to the capital. Add into the mix a central location in the lively Riverside district, and it’s no wonder that this most modern of hotels has become a surefire favourite for business travellers and tourists alike. Take inspiration from the celestial namesakes and head up to the impressive Cloud 9 sky bar for a bird’s eye view of the ever-evolving city skyline.

sunandmoonhotel.com

Photo of THE BALÉ
THE BALÉ

The Balé is bringing new levels of luxury to the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Located a short drive from the centre of town and overlooking the mighty Mekong river, peaceful Buddhas keep a watchful eye on proceedings, while minimalist design, fragrant foliage and natural lighting help to create a welcome sanctuary at arm’s length from one of Asia’s most dynamic cities. The resort’s in house eatery Theato is also a destination in its own right, serving up exceptional food and drinks to a crowd of discerning day rippers who pop over from the capital for a few hours.

thebalephnompenh.com

Discover TIP

Finding transport is rarely an issue in Phnom Penh. The most atmospheric way to get around is via tuk tuk, but be sure to negotiate a price before getting in. Taxis are also becoming popular and are easily ordered via ride-hailing apps – we recommend Exnet, though others are available.

RESTAURANT

BISTROT LANGKA

A relatively new addition to the Phnom Penh dining scene, Bistrot Langka is tucked down an alleyway in the city’s colourful BKK1 area. And those who hunt it out will be treated to fantastic, fusion bistro food served in comfortable surrounds and with impeccable service from perhaps the country’s most affable maître d’. The menu, along with a short description of each dish, is presented on his iPad and runs the gamut from a classic beef bourguignon to an exceptional slow-cooked egg with chorizo espuma.

fb.com/bistrotlangka

Photo of CHINESE HOUSE
CHINESE HOUSE

It’s pretty safe to say that Chinese House offers surroundings unlike any other restaurant in the city. Set inside an exquisite old Chinese merchant’s house that dates to the first few years of the 20th century, the restaurant provides a sublime setting for the creative cuisine of South African executive chef Ines Marie Samaai, highlights of which include scallops with green coconut curry and the only chance you’ll get in Cambodia to sample the South African antelope known as a springbok.

restaurant-phnompenh.com

ENSO CAFÉ

Just a stone’s throw from the dazzling Royal Palace, the spacious modern environs of Enso Café have won the hearts ofthe capital’s brunch-loving expats. The menu should appeal to both juice-cleansing health junkies and their greasy-spoonloving friends. Whether you opt for the hearty full English breakfast plate or the more health-conscious quinoa porridge, there are few better ways in Phnom Penh to kickstart your day.

enso-cafe.com

IL FORNO

One of the capital’s best Italian restaurants, Il Forno boasts chic interiors and a menu based on the recipes of owner Ed Carminati’s grandmother back home in Italy. This is a fine spot for dinner too, but exceptional lunch deals that include a main, a glass of wine and an espresso for a set price make this a great deal for a high-class feed in the middle of the day.

ilforno.restaurant/phnom-penh

Photo of KHEMA LA POSTE
KHEMA LA POSTE

Almost certainly the plushest place in town to enjoy breakfast and brunch – though lunch and dinner is also available – Khema La Poste is located in the charming French colonial district around the post office. Starched white tablecloths abound, and the beautifully presented food includes Cambodian favourites such as pork and prawn noodle soup as well as Western classics like eggs benedict and egg white omelette. The free flow breakfast is a particular steal and includes unlimited orders from the breakfast, fresh fruit juice and coffee menus.

khema-restaurant.com

LABAAB

Another in-the-know spot in Phnom Penh, Labaab is perched in a residential block above a pharmacy on the main thoroughfare of Monivong Boulevard. The balcony, wrapped around the restaurant, provides a truly unique view of the city in an area not often frequented by tourists. Inside, designer and owner Rith Youen was inspired by the grand wooden houses that were once a feature of northwestern Cambodia, while the menu offers tasty and well-priced takes on Southeast Asian cuisine.

fb.com/LabaabResto

LOT 369

Inspired by the hipsterfriendly coffee shops that dot the streets of Melbourne and Berlin, Lot 369 serves up expertly brewed coffee, indulgent all-day breakfasts and excellent tapas in a leafy courtyard environment just five minutes’ walk from the labyrinthine Russian Market. Get your morning on the right track with a flat white and some smashed avocado and feta on toast.

fb.com/lot369

OSKAR BISTRO

This funky spot on the Riverside strip has been packing them in almost every night since it opened a few years ago, largely thanks to its fabulous cocktails and consistently excellent food, all served in a lively atmosphere with DJs spinning tunes on select nights. Oskar is one of those spots where virtually everything on the menu is solid, running the gamut from sticky short ribs and braised lamb shank to duck parmentier and popular pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven.

oskar-bistro.com

Photo of PHKA SLAA
PHKA SLAA

Phka Slaa has nabbed a wonderful corner spot on the boutiquelined Street 240 and certainly makes the most of it. Open on all sides downstairs, guests can sample refined takes on Cambodian street food at very affordable prices, all while soaking up the atmosphere of one of the capital’s most colourful intersections. The menu is extensive and ticks all the amok- and beef loc lac-shaped boxes, but we’d recommend being a touch more adventurous and going for the laab and the pork rib sour soup for a true taste of Cambodia.

facebook.com/phkaslaa

 

BARS

Photo of BASSAC LANE
BASSAC LANE

Perhaps nowhere has made as big an impact on Phnom Penh’s bar circuit inrecent years as Bassac Lane. Startingin 2013 with corner bar Seibur, entrepreneurialbrothers William and George Norbert-Munns have built a micro-bar empire in the once unassuming lane just off Street 308. The lane is a popular meeting place for well-heeled locals and expats, who hop between the stylish bars with an air of hedonistic insouciance. Particularly impressive are the lane’s regular music nights, when the raucous sounds of live rock’n’roll get people dancing late into the night.

fb.com/bassaclanephnompenh

Photo of DEVA
DEVA

A ninth-floor spot that wouldn’t look out of place among the high-class cocktail lounges of sparkling Singapore, Deva is a total knockout. From its cylindrical bronze light installation and glowing amber bar crafted from onyx to the myriad chesterfield sofas and contemporary sculptures by Sothea Thang, everything here is locally made and all the better for it. Fortunately, the drinks are also some of the best in the city, with unique creations such as the Deva Rose combining aged bourbon with rosé wine, grand marnier and orgeat with great success.

fb.com/deva.lounge.bar.restaurant

Photo of ELBOW ROOM
ELBOW ROOM

Elbow Room is undoubtedly the coolest kid on the block. Taking interior design cues from the romanticised dive bar aesthetic and designed by the same team responsible for the renowned Tippling Club in Singapore, the moody, neon-lit watering hole serves up well-balanced and inventive cocktails. While the venue changes its menu regularly, its bartenders are well versed in the art of cocktails, meaning you can order anything from a martini to a clover club and be confident it’ll be made right.

fb.com/elbowrm

Photo of HOPS CRAFT BEER GARDEN
HOPS CRAFT BEER GARDEN

Craft beer aficionados finally found a place to call home last year, when Hops Craft Beer Garden burst onto the capital’s bar scene with their very own German brewmaster in tow. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a spacious courtyard forms the heart of the establishment and is encased by modern, air-conditioned buildings perfect for large groups unwinding after a hard day’s work. If a beer in the sun doesn’t grab you, then perhaps the well-cared-for pool tables and sausage-heavy menu will.

hops-brewery.com

LONG AFTER DARK

Boasting an impressive range of whiskies and quality beers on tap, it didn’t take long for Long After Dark to ingratiate itself to the capital’s bar scene. Housed in a two-storey shophouse with a spacious terrace ideal for catching up with friends, the neighbourhood bar also offers up an appetising selection of Western-style pub fare, all to a soundtrack of vintage disco, motown and hip-hop vinyls. For those with a particular affinity for single malts, we’d recommend the bar’s impressive whisky flights.

longafterdarkcambodia.com

THE BODLEIAN

Taking its name from the main research library of Oxford University, the Bodleian is where good company and whisky fuel intellectual curiosity and exchange. A relative newcomer to the capital’s hospitality scene, the late night lounge exudes an effortless, laid-back cool and prides itself on excellent table service, which it offers to all guests from 5pm to 2am Monday to Saturday. Order a peaty Lagavulin 16-year-old on the rocks, kick back in a plush leather armchair, and let the good times wash
over you.

fb.com/The-Bodleian

Discover TIP

A number of regionally brewed lagers will vie for your attention on menus throughout the country, and which is the best is the subject of much debate. Angkor and Cambodia Beer are the most popular with locals, though the Singaporean brand Anchor and the famed BeerLao from neighbouring Laos are also good options.

ACTIVITIES

Photo of BOAT CRUISE
BOAT CRUISE

There’s nothing quite like floating down a river and enjoying a drink with friends to help escape the stresses of modern life. In Phnom Penh, it’s also a very cheap and easy activity to organise. Rent a large two-decker private boat a few minutes’ walk from the capital’s Riverside bars and enjoy a carefree sojourn around the meeting point of the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers. Head out at about 5pm to appreciate the wonder of a Phnom Penh sunset and get a brand new take on the city from afar.

Photo of CENTRAL MARKET
CENTRAL MARKET

Blending modernism with Angkorian motifs, this buttercup yellow trading hub offers a glimpse into local market culture, minus the intensity of decidedly more cramped alternatives. Selling all manner of tourist fare as well as electronics, jewellery and everything in between, a trip to Central Market should be on every visitor’s to-do list. We’d recommend arriving early and hitting the food section, where you’ll be confronted with all manner of unusual produce, not to mention a cornucopia of fresh seafood and meat being chopped and preened before your very eyes.

Photo of OUDONG
OUDONG

The tall spires that rise above the rice fields at Oudong are nothing short of magnificent. Found around 40 kilometres northwest of Phnom Penh, this well-trafficked sacred hill site – once home to kings, and a former capital of Cambodia – is best reached by car. Once there, climb hundreds of steep steps to reveal a cornucopia of stupas and temples, as well as stunning views of the lush countryside far below.

Photo of PHNOM TAMAO WILDLIFE RESCUE CENTRE
PHNOM TAMAO WILDLIFE RESCUE CENTRE

Run by the non-profit Wildlife Alliance, Phnom Tamao gives a home to animals rescued from the illegal international wildlife trade and cares for them until they are strong enough to be integrated back into their natural habitats. An estimated 1,200 animals – tigers, elephants, leopards, gibbons and more – can be found at the centre in Takeo province, which can be reached easily by bus or taxi from Phnom Penh. While learning more about the region’s inhumane wildlife trafficking, visitors are even given the chance to feed some of the zoo’s less threatening inhabitants.

wildlifealliance.org/wildlife-phnomtamao

Photo of SILK ISLAND
SILK ISLAND

A rich patchwork of fields and orchards greet those who make the daytrip to the bucolic world of Silk Island, known locally as Koh Dach. Surrounded by the Mekong and accessible via a small commuter ferry, the isle – about 30 minutes from the capital – is home to
numerous families of weavers, with tall wooden looms standing beneath many of the community’s stilted houses. Buy a homespun krama scarf direct from the source before traversing dusty tracks by tuk tuk or bicycle, getting an insight into typical village life along the way.

Discover TIP

Log on to utopia-asia.com for LGBTfriendly travel resources for the region and a regularly updated section that deals specifically with Cambodia.


Key phrases:

Hello > Sua s’dei

Goodbye > Lia hao-y

How are you? > Sok sabai?

Sorry > Sohm toh

Yes > Baat (man) – Jaa (woman)

No > Ot-tay

Thank you Awkun

No problem > Ot benh ha

Left > Schweng

Right > Saddam

Straight on > Dow tron

Go back > Dow veng