By Joshua H. Liberatore
Phnom Penh
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Phnom Penh reveals the outrageous paradoxes of Cambodia's recent and ancient past of both violence and sublimity. The horrors of Pol Pot's murderous regime began in the city and spread like a cancer to the rural areas. Meanwhile, some of the country's finest Buddhist temples are located here, enduring testaments to Cambodia's precolonial imperial splendor. Add to that anxious mix an economy growing in fits and starts, the tension between those benefitting and those left out nearly palpable in the very air. Still, Phnom Penh summons our attention, and according to, you can easily fill a few days in the city absorbing its unusual charms and sordid sights.

Phnom Penh is well equipped with a range of accommodation choices, from small, family-run guesthouses to larger hotels catering to international tastes ( notes that the main city center is fairly navigable on foot, but taxis and pedicabs can be hired for short journeys between the more far-flung sights. History buffs – and really anyone with a conscience – must make thorough visits to two sights of the macabre Khmer Rouge legacy: the Tuol Sleng (S-21) prison camp in an outlying neighborhood and the Choeung Ek ("Killing Fields"), two dozen kilometers outside Phnom Penh.

The first is the detention center occupying the grounds of a former school, which has an added and eerie irony in that Pol Pot and many of his top lieutenants – including the psychopath Comrade Duch, who ran Tuol Sleng – were former schoolteachers. Visiting this sight has all the morbid fascination of a Nazi concentration camp; the striking difference is the nearly complete lack of curation on the standard we are used to at such places. If you decline a guide, the small entrance fee more or less entitles you to free rein. Scarce on captions and useful signage, the facility nevertheless allows a close and intimate glimpse of the cell blocks, execution yard, and interrogation rooms and torture equipment, with some photographs of notable victims and staff members festooning various rooms. Visit on a day when the museum is uncrowded, and the feeling of being essentially alone to wander the place leaves a creepy sensation you will not soon forget.

Proceeding chronologically – Tuol Sleng prisoners were often transported at night to the Killing Fields where they were shot or clubbed to death with pipes – suggests that you head next to Choeung Ek to complete the picture. Pol Pot's paranoid and self-destructive "revolution" required in his view a complete overhaul of Cambodian society, including rapid and forced deurbanization, ethnic and ideological cleansing of staggering proportions (well over a million souls summarily killed), and reorganization and settlement of the countryside by exiled intellectuals and former elites who knew nothing about farming. Massive starvation and death were the results, with upward estimates of 2.5 million people perishing in the process (nearly a quarter of the Cambodian population). Even by the numbers alone, Pol Pot's policies dwarf the genocide of Rwanda and the holocaust of European Jewry in sheer scope and insanity.

The sight of the Killing Fields is a small complex of buildings, a tower of sculls, and field after field of mass graves, again, with not much in the way of curation or informational detail. A good guidebook is the recommended supplement. A few hours spent wandering this monument to a fairly recent spree of mass murder may leave you speechless in wonderment, even as the lush, green countryside around you competes for your gaze. recommends that you plan your visit so that the Khmer Rouge barbarities aren't the last thing you see up close. Leave time to wander Phnom Penh's bustling market areas and visit the colorful temples and examples of local architecture that help to refocus your attention toward the positive aspects of Cambodian culture and history. Cambodian food is quite similar to Thai and Vietnamese fare you may be familiar with, though perhaps disappointingly inferior in quality and variety. Still, as always, make an effort to spend your dollars – the local currency is all but useless – at independent food stalls you find on the streets rather than always eating in hotels or Western-style cafes. Buy bottled water from children selling it on foot. Try to spread your money around as much as possible, without getting ripped off, of course. An unfortunate but real aspect of any visit to Cambodia is the preponderance of beggars, plenty of them children, so be prepared either to give or ignore, as you see fit, recognizing that this is one of the poorest countries in the world.

From Phonm Penh, your main destination will inevitably be Siam Reap in the north, where the spectacular Angkor Wat temple complexes are located, worth several days of patient exploration and study. You can book a bus ride, go by speed boat, or fly a domestic airline from Phnom Penh International Airport. Visit ( to book your flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, today.
Hotels in Phnom Penh
By Adam J. Mohney
InterContinental Phonm Penh
296 Boulevard Mao Tse Toung, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
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Located in the heart of Cambodian capital's business district, InterContinental Phnom Penh offers guests premium access to all of the city's most popular attractions. During your stay at InterContinental Phnom Penh, you will enjoy easy access to the riverfront, the Royal Palace, Silver Pagod and The Killing Fields.

Each room booked on at InterContinental Phnom Penh includes premium amenities, lots of space and connectivity to home and the world. Individual room climate control offers comfort after days in the Cambodian sunshine, while the in-room safe offers peace of mind throughout your stay. Guests can also read a complimentary daily newspaper each morning while sipping on fresh-brewed coffee. Rooms also include a television, a telephone with voicemail, a work desk and wireless internet, available for a one-time fee of $25.

Enjoying Phnom Penh without experiencing an Asian spa would be comparable to missing a theater performance in New York. Luckily, InterContinental Phnom Penh's spa offers hotstone massage, aromatherapy and a sauna for mental and physical wellness. Guests can keep up with workout routines by taking advantage of the health and fitness center, doing some laps in the scenic outdoor pool or organizing a pick-up game on the sports and recreation courts. Also on-site is the business center, which is great for working travelers to stay connected to the office. Guests of InterContinental Phnom Penh will also be able to easily access the city by communicating with the multilingual staff, utilizing the airline and rental car desks and exchanging currency right at the hotel. guests of InterContinental Phnom Penh can enjoy light dining and drinks right on the hotel confines. The Lobby Lounge and Bar offers coffee in the morning, cocktails in the evening and also frequently features live entertainment. The Terrace is a snack bar located outdoors near the hotel pool, offering refreshments and snacks.

The history and culture of Phnom Penh, Cambodia is unique and the InterContinental Phnom Penh, located in the business district, offers guests safety and comfort throughout their Cambodian vacation. Book your room or suite at InterContinental Phnom Penh on now by clicking the following link (