A broad smile and a sumptuous necklace of jasmine flowers. It is with the cambodian touch as we welcome Darith Nhieim and Davann Touch, our local guides in Phnom Penh. At 10 o’clock in the morning it is already 30 degrees. Then the air conditioning excessive the bus is not denied. The journey to reach the hotel, 9 km from here is expected to last thirty minutes. Our guides laugh. “There is no public transport here! Everyone moves by car, tuk-tuk or scooter. They talk about installing an above-ground subway in a few years…”. The avenue links the airport to the centre of the city is often paralyzed by traffic jams. Hard to imagine that between 1975 and 1979, this city has been drained of power and left to decay. Four years of terror, during which the Khmer rouge regime of general Pol Pot exterminated 2 million Cambodians. A heavy past still very much embedded in the minds of the inhabitants, but also in the city and its infrastructure. On the road, the pagodas and historical monuments mingle with skyscrapers that are pushing to speed blitz for the past two years. “It’s the Chinese!”, launch our two chaperones. Today, the capital of Cambodia rebuilt and seduced by this contrast between a city full of life, in constant turmoil and his charm is backward-looking and timeless.
• Stop the time on the Mekong
On the quay Sisowath, a myriad of cruise ships, are waiting to be discovered by the tourists of the four-arm around which the city is located: the Tonle Bassac, the Mekong, the upper and lower as well as the Tonle Sap. A ride essential to enjoy this city in full mutation. We climb on the Kanika, boat held by Jean-Pierre, a Frenchman who fell in love with the city fifteen years ago. The tumult incessant sedans and scooters is already far away. You can see the golden spires of the Royal Palace located in the centre of Phnom Penh. They are strangely in the face of an imposing hotel with fifteen floors and is located on the other side of the shore. This is Koh Pich, the new district of the capital. “What are chinese investors!”, lance in his turn Jean-Pierre. Decidedly. This island is completely artificial, since 2006, the testing ground of foreign investors obviously decided to make this former island of fishermen with the new residential area of the city. A borough of inspiration houseman, called Elysium, has been erected, with a replica of the Arc de triomphe.
let’s Take a little bit of height. Here we are at the 12th floor of the Point Hotel, on the skybar of the connected Juniper Gin Bar, one of the (still) rare roof-top of the capital. The ideal place to discover the evening, when the city is less hectic and fully lit. What to stop time for a moment. In the distance we hear the engines of the fishermen who go to sea. The view is made of cranes, skyscrapers, but also historic monuments and colonial dwelling.
• flavors inimitable
The restaurant Kravanh cuisine traditional khmer. Kravanh
This diversity, the “Pearl of Asia” we reserve also in its plates. We could count on our helpful guides to introduce us to the refinement and user-friendliness legendary cuisine of khmer. Two steps from the Palais Royal, the restaurant Kravanh opens the doors to a royal cuisine traditional khmer. The storefront didn’t look like much, but the décor is refined, the generous service and the traditional dishes of delicate desire. The grilled eggplant with pork and the chicken stir fry is perfumed with the kaffir lime are to fall. Not far from the Independence monument, the famous Malis offers a typical cuisine of the past adapted to the present. The soup moringa, and the panna cotta with jasmine, the dessert course signature of the head, are inevitable. The leafy patio offers a break zen in the heart of the busy Bassac Lane. A town with cobblestone streets where the small bars bonded to each other to ensure an evening of rough!
For a few years, Phnom Penh has seen the rise of restaurants of a different kind. For fresh cuisine, organic and healthy, it is the Farm-to-table as it should be. An oasis right in the centre of the city where the chickens and the turtles are on the loose. Large colorful dishes and refined are to share on a large table. Other atmosphere, other purpose at Friends the Restaurant, not far from the national Museum of Cambodia. It is one of the restaurants school of the NGO Friends International, dedicated to the children of the streets. We are served by young Cambodians smiling, in training. Their cuisine is creative and full of flavors. The fresh salads and typical dishes, accompanied by a lemonade homemade lemon very fresh, are a pure delight. And adventure Friends can continue on the other side of the street.
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Attention to the scooters crossing! Friends has set up a souvenir shop are also held by young people in learning. It offers a wide choice of small, the benefits of which accrue to the association. Side memories, the cambodian capital is not left out. Phnom Penh is full of shops and markets colorful. For authentic souvenirs, it is undoubtedly to the Artisans of Angkor, street 13, it is necessary to go. This social enterprise took part in the renaissance of the traditional skills of khmer craftsmanship in creating job opportunities for the disadvantaged youth from rural areas. The legendary Russian market is overflowing also present at a few euros. Hundreds of shops and stalls to the shops very various are lined up along narrow alleys. Haggling is de rigueur. The atmosphere, inimitable. But the air quickly suffocating!
• A youth creative
An imposing graffiti painted by artists on the walls of the Street 93. Chloe Joudrier
In case of blow of tiredness, the very lively district is full of places to ask. A few meters away, the Tini Coffee allows you a break a bit special. This narrow bar is a crucial place for the artistic activity of Phnom Penh. Exhibitions are common. It has been thought by Thang Sothea, an artist and architect whose works are regularly exhibited in Phnom Penh and in Paris. “Art is for me a sign of freedom”, he explains on the first floor, with, at its sides, some of his works. His sculptures made of natural materials reflect the contemporary reality of his country. It is this younger generation that relies on the attractive potential of his city. Artists in all genres who wish to give a new impetus to the “Pearl of Asia”, deprived of its intellectuals since the civil war. Evidenced by some streets, such as street 93, dhave the walls had been stained impressive graffiti. The high place of the boil is, no doubt, The Factory, located in the south of the city, up here a little bit forgotten. Launched in January 2018, this former factory is an incubator for young designers khmer. Its walls are a true canvas alive. The year of the launch, artists from around the world were invited to paint the scene. Walking around, you will discover the different spaces of coworking, the bar and the catering, various art galleries, the photography studio, the skatepark, the association for children… projects are flourishing without limit and allow a younger generation to form a community where everyone is inspired and aspires to re-energize a city for too long forgotten.
go: , Singapore Airlines (0.821.230.380 ; singaporeair.com) offers 10 flights per week to Singapore and dessert on a daily basis in correspondence Phnom Penh with SilkAir. From 970 € the round trip in eco class.
housing: Located in the boulevard Sotheros, a few minutes from the royal Palace, the Sofitel Phokeethra is a great drop point to discover the city. Its lush garden is a breath of fresh air in a city where green spaces are rare. The Superior Room and its 40 m2 in a colonial style refined is the price of 246 € per night.
todo: Do not leave without having tried a massage khmer! The particularity of this technique is to work on the energies of the body via the meridians. And as well try to the right place. We highly recommend the Bodia Spa, located in the city centre, close to the royal Palace. This company is dedicated to the development of the region by offering skincare products are 100% natural and local. The brand does not employ at least 350 people and work closely with an NGO for the training of young workers, the deaf and dumb. Via the Bodia Spa Academy, it also forms its own masseuses in two years. The benefit is to the height of the image of the establishment! You are greeted by a foot bath that is both relaxing. Flip-flops put, you follow your therapist in a treatment room in the dim light and the relaxing atmosphere. We advise you to take the hour full-body massage ($32) that you may also fall in the arms of Morpheus.
Discover the secrets of Phnom Penh, its houses, typical monuments unknown and its hidden alleys with Urban Tales, which offers a tour of a half-day designed as a track game. It starts at the national Library and continues throughout the centre of the city, in search of an ancient khmer. The opportunity also to meet the inhabitants of some districts who interact with you to help you to solve the puzzles. An original and playful way to immerse yourself in the cambodian capital. Even the locals admit to rediscover their city through this game ! From 25 € per person.
Organize your discovery: With The Houses of the Trip (01.40.51.95.15 ; maisonsduvoyage.com) and its specialists of the South-East Asia. In Cambodia, they offer itineraries tailor-made, escorted tours and extensions to the seaside. What design a trip to your desires and expectations. Among the circuits and inspirational, this program of 12 days/9 nights called “the Charms of Cambodia” will be offered from 3 690 €.
learn: With the office of tourism of Cambodia (01.45.03.47.20 ; ambcambodgeparis.info).