From watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat to visiting massive rice fields and boating past pods of chirping dolphins, Cambodia has adventures aplenty. Perhaps less well-known to first-timers is the thriving nightlife, beautiful museums and rich performing arts scene in Phenom Penh. More than just a scenic destination with beautiful temples, Cambodia is home to fascinating, creative Khmer arts and culture.
Cambodia contains breathtaking rain forests, scenic bike trails and lots of marine life to encounter. The Koh Kong Conservation Corridor – filled with tigers, Asian elephants, bears, Siamese crocodiles and over eight species of tortoises – is a must-see for nature enthusiasts. Located in Southwestern Cambodia, it is the second-largest virgin rainforest on mainland Southeast Asia. Marine enthusiasts will want to check out the town of Kratie, where boat tours of the Mekong River bring visitors close to ever-diminishing pods of dolphins.
“One of the most exquisite forms of dance in the world” is how Frommer’s describes an Aspara dance performance. Occasionally, Aspara dancers will entertain visitors at temple sites, but your best bet is to see the dance at the Alliance Cafe, Shadow of Ankor or at the Aspara Theater. Dance enthusiasts can also peek in on classical ballet classes at the Aspara Arts Association, in Phenom Pen.
The National Museum in Phnom Penh is home to the world’s most extensive collection of Khmer sculptures, including historic statues of Vishnu and Shiva. The museum’s collection contains over 14,000 items and spans thousands of years. Other museums include the Choeung Ek memorial, once an execution site and now a memorial to those who suffered under the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Visitors to Phenom Pen will not have to look hard to find a good bar. Elephant, Gasolina and Riverhouse Lounge are all good choices for a drink with locals. Miles hosts jazz, while Memphis Pub is where to go to find live rock and blues bands. Old-school rock fans will want to check out the Zeppelin Cafe and its collection of vinyl records. Those in the mood for some serious dancing should head over to Salt Lounge, featuring guest DJs and a large dance floor.