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Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, at the confluence of the Mekong and the Tonle Sap Rivers, is the capital of Cambodia and its largest city.

Despite being liberated from the Khmer Rouge by the Vietnamese in 1979, Phnom Penh has long remained a bit rough. Things are improving, though roads remain shabby, traffic chaotic, and electricity strained.

The city is slowly gaining high rise buildings and traffic lights. The beauty that made it a "Paris of the East" before 1970 is unfortunately well hidden, though a few French colonial buildings remain. The wide boulevards and promenades envisaged by the French have become parking spaces and market stalls: pedestrians are not in favour.

The most pleasant strolling is to be done along the park-like river front, which hosts cafés and restaurants aplenty. Standard tourist sights are few, which makes the city a place to relax, watch the street life and absorb the local colour. Phnom Penh is a worthwhile destination for those who enjoy an "edgy" experience and can brave the downsides of reckless driving, noise, dust, and perennial theft.

Touts and beggars abound. A firm but polite refusal should work. Older or disabled beggars will be happy to accept 500 riel. Bear in mind that anyone old enough to have survived the Khmer Rouge has had a tough life. Generosity here is no bad thing. Some older people may even invoke a blessing on you for your gift. Cocky young kids demanding a dollar should not be encouraged.

Domestic flights to Phnom Penh city:

PEK

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