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- Phnom Penh
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Phnom Penh is a fascinating Southeast Asian city and capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The city has an intriguing pre and post-colonization history. Tourists come to the town to get a taste of the tremendous Cambodian culture.
Phnom Penh is known as the “Gem” of Indochina and is at the intersection of three great rivers, the majestic Mekong River, the Tonle Sap, and Bassac. The city derived from the name inspired by Wat Phnom, Daun Penh (now simply Wat Phnom or Hill Temple), which can accommodate 5 Buddha statues at the man-made hill that is 27 meters high.
Cambodia had its darkest times during the Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-1978, when Pol Pots’s security forces, tortured and massacred thousands of people in Security Prison 21. The Tuol Museum of Genocidal Crimes in the city has preserved the memories of the brutal killings to show the world how the country emerged from the ashes of the Khmer Rouge’s barbaric rule.
Recently, the city has emerged as the political, economic and cultural center of the country. Many new skyscrapers, commercial and shopping centers, as well as luxury residential properties, are attracting tourist to the city. It has a population of 2 million people that is growing at a rate of 4 percent per annum.
Phnom Penh has a decent expat population. The city is developing and offers endless housing options for foreign nationals who come to work in the city on long contracts.
Modern Condos provide amenities like pools, gyms, cleaning services, reception desk, and 24/7 security. Condos are available from single bedroom to six bedrooms in areas like Boeung Keng Kang (BKK) 1, 2 and 3, Tuol Tom Poung, Doun Penh, Prampir Meakkakra, Tuol Kork, and Chrouy Changvar. The monthly rental will range from as low as $300 to as high as $3000 depending on the floor area, the number of bedrooms and the facilities.
Luxury condos are the most expensive among all the other housing options. However, in recent times, condos are being developed with middle-class affordability in mind.
Phnom Penh consists of many districts; the following regions are popular for condos:
1. Chamkar Mon – This district has four sub-districts, Boeng Keng Kang Bei (BKK1), Boeng Keng Kang Muoy (BKK2), Boeng Keng Kang Pir (BKK3) and Tuol Tom Poung. Builders in these sub-districts develop more condos to attract expats as they can afford expensive properties when compared to locals. BKK 1 and BKK2 are the most expensive housing areas as they are the upmarket areas with many modern restaurants and bars, International food and beverage brands, international schools, and retail stores. BKK3 which is close to Tuol Sleng is also a popular neighborhood, but rentals here are relatively cheaper than BKK1 and BKK2.
Tuol Tom Poung is a major residential area with a famous and traditional Cambodian market called “Russian Market.” It has many cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops.
2. Doun Penh – This district takes its name from the local legend, Lady Penh who found the statues of Buddha in a hollow tree on the Mekong River. It is one of the biggest business hubs in the city as it has several local markets. It has a large condo rental market for the expat community.
3. Tuol-Kouk– A relatively newer suburb that is gaining favor with expats for its large Villas and condos. It’s just 30 minutes away from the Independence Monument.
4. Prampir Meakkakra – It’s the smallest district in Phnom Penh, but has many housing options, which include condos.
5. Chrouy Changvar– This district has the famous Chrouy Changvar Bridge, also called the Cambodia-Japan friendship bridge and was originally constructed with the help of the Japanese. The Civil war damaged and collapsed the bridge in 1972-73 and it reopened in 1994.
Life here can either be simple or extravagant. You can rent a small condo and travel around on a bicycle or rent a luxury condo and travel around in a car. Cambodia does not recognize International Driving Licenses. So, you will need to get a Driver’s license from the local government, if you don’t want to get into trouble and fined.
Public transportation facilities within the city are good. The tuk-tuk or the remork-moto is a carriage fixed to a motorcycle, its top is open and tourists prefer to travel in these to get an unobstructed view of the city and its attractions. Backpackers also ride the cyclo (pedicab) or the moto (motodups), which are found around the markets.
The education system in Cambodia has undergone several reforms. According to the latest changes introduced in 1996, students need to complete six years of primary education and six years of secondary education. The city has many prominent International schools, and most expats send their children to these schools.
Phnom Penh does not have extensive medical facilities yet there has been some improvement in recent years and there are a few International clinics and professional surgeons now employed in this city. Calmette hospital and the International clinics manage most of the standard medical problems.
Phnom Penh presents historical and cultural sightseeing attractions which are mainly in the old city near the river. The attractions include the ornate Royal Palace, Rhe National Museum, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Memorial outside the city.
Phnom Penh is an excellent place to shop, whether it’s traditional Khmer handicrafts or modern shopping. It also has contemporary art galleries, fashion boutiques, and trendy shops. The Russian Market and the Central market are other important locations to experience local shopping.