From ancient temples and religious monuments to quirky statues, dilapidated remnants of a bygone era and stunning contemporary style, Cambodia’s architectural offerings span the board. Here are some of the top spots to visit during your time in Cambodia.
Post Office Square
Coined the historic quarter, this spacious square is home to a series of impressive buildings that hark back to Cambodia’s French colonial period. The Post Office stands at the centre, with the building built in 1890. A huge restoration project was completed in 2004, when it reopened and remains in pristine condition today. Neighbouring Van’s Restaurant is housed in the former office of Indochina Bank and is another example of the architecture of the time. Various other buildings in different states of dilapidation can be seen in the area.
The National Sports Complex, affectionately known as Olympic Stadium, is another Van Molyvann feat. Despite its current gritty appeal, the 84,000-seat outdoor arena in Phnom Penh is a shining example of the New Khmer Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Built in 1964, the stadium has hosted a series of international sporting events, and is a popular spot with Cambodians keen to keep fit. At dusk and dawn, the concrete structure comes alive with crowds of people flocking to take part in the aerobics classes – an interesting way to spend sunset.
You’d better hurry to catch the bamboo bridge in Kampong Cham because rumours are rife that the end of the road is close for the iconic structure. The engineering feat stretches 1km across the Mekong River from Kampong Cham to Koh Paen, is made entirely from bamboo and can hold lorries and horse and carts. The seasonal structure is built during dry season when the water levels are too low for the ferry to operate. When the monsoons come, the bridge is washed away and rebuilt the next year. A new concrete bridge is being constructed close by.
The Marmite of fruit, durian is grown in abundance across Kampot province and whether you love it or hate it, the pungent fruit can be found – and smelled – throughout the city and surrounding countryside. Popular among locals, the province’s durian pride runs so strong that a roundabout in the shape of a giant durian, surrounded by various other tropical fruits, forms Kampot city’s centrepiece.
Once a seaside resort and glamorous weekend getaway for Cambodia’s upper-class, Kep is dotted with stunning villas that span French colonial to the modernist movement. While the majority of these have been abandoned and left to decay – and are being torn down at an increasingly rapid pace – a tuk tuk driver or guesthouse employee in the know can point out some of the spots that are accessible. These include the former royal holiday home, built in 1964, and Villa Romonea, a deluxe six-room boutique hotel set in the former home of wealthy Madame Nhiem, who recruited Khmer architect Lu Ban Hap to build her dream home in 1969. It was taken over by the Khmer Rouge before being abandoned and later restored.
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