Posted April 10, 2016

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is the capital and really does highlight Cambodia’s past. With signs of the French colonial period, Vietnamese occupation and the cruel rule of the Khmer Rouge, travellers can get to grips with this country’s chequered past by just walking the capital’s streets.

Along with its temples and former religious sanctuaries, is the opulent Royal Palace. A citadel formerly occupied this spot but was later replaced with a timber palace. In 1927, this was replaced with a stone structure. During the rule of the Khmer Rouge the structure fell into decay but was returned to it’s former glory in 1991. The palace is positioned amongst extravagant gardens that look out to where the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers join. Directly next to the king’s residence is one of Cambodia’s finest temple complexes – the Wat Preah Keo Morakot which at its heart has The Silver Pagoda.

Located just a few kilometers south of the Royal Palace is the Tuol Sleng Museum. Converted from a high school into a government centre under the Khmer Rouge, there is an eerie contrast between this building as a school and a makeshift prison. The cells and torture devices are only a hint of the cruelty that took place and it’s believed that 20,000 prisoners were interrogated here. Tuol Sleng Museum puts a lot into perspective and communicates this dark chapter in a very fitting way.

Tonle Sap Lake

The largest lake in South East Asia, every 6 months the direction of the water changes in Tonle Sap Lake. A boat trip makes for a fantastic experience for anyone wishing to gain an insight into life on the lake. Here lies a fascinating world of floating villages, forests and countless varieties of colourful birds. During the dry season, the river can shrink to an area as small as 2,800 km² compared to a vast 15,000 km² during the wet season. The floating villages and their houseboats that move according to the water level are an intriguing sight. For the locals here, the Tonle Sap provides a traffic route, food, a home, and of course, water.

Khmer cuisine

With a presence of contrasting flavours the use of fish sauce, lime, chillies, sugar, and coconut milk is abundant throughout Khmer cuisine. Colourful pomelo salads, stir frys, and edible flowers such as banana blossoms can usually be found accompanying many dishes, adding a freshness to both the palate and eye.

A nod to European influences can be found in Twa Ko, a barbecued Khmer sausage that is made from beef and sometimes pork belly. Cambodian spices are added to the meat of the sausage that is served with steamed rice.

With the great influence of the Tonle Sap, its not surprising that freshwater fish plays a big role in Cambodian fare. Amok is the national dish and is a mild yellow curry cooked in coconut milk with large chunks of white fish. Cambodia’s colonial history is highlighted with this dish that sometimes uses snails as a substitute for fish; however, the emphasis on freshness always remains the same.

Check out our tours with these unique experiences below

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Hidden Indochina

Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos

Capture the true essence and diversity of Indochina

£4,195 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
21 days
Call us on:020 7183 6371

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