Unlike the A-list star of Cambodia's tourism show -- Siem Reap -- Phnom Penh doesn't have an ancient UNESC0-listed temple complex filled with beautiful archeological wonders to seduce global tourists.
Most visitors hit the riverside capital as a quick stopover on the way to or from Angkor Wat -- the real reason they flew across the globe to visit Cambodia.
It's to be expected, really.
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Not many bucket lists are topped with visits to the ghosts of genocidal dictatorships. Among Phnom Penh's most popular tourist attractions are a former killing field that exhibits skeletal remains from its Khmer Rouge era and a haunting memorial at the site where thousands of executions took place under their rule.
But a cosmopolitan buzz that's lately been humming through the cracks of this city of 2 million-plus (and growing) is helping Phnom Penh drown its rep as just a sobering war history stop on the Angkor trail.
Boutiques run by French-Cambodians trained at some of the top Paris design schools dot city streets.
New pubs where well-dressed locals enjoy cocktails seemingly open every week, venues holding no likeness to the decaying hostess bars of Street 51 that once dominated the nightlife scene.
Though Cambodia's French colonial period ended in 1953, France's cobwebs remain.
Colonial architecture still lines the streets.
The local love of crusty baguettes means good bread can be found citywide.
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Impressive restaurants serving innovative cuisine from as far off as Latin America and fine dining venues that celebrate the underrated Khmer cuisine are also on the rise.
It's an exciting time for Phnom Penh, which is slowly laying the groundwork to become a top weekend urban getaway for those in the region.
Affordability brings visitors
It'd be foolish to pretend price isn't a big factor in the city's growing bag of allures.
Phnom Penh is cheap.
A dinner for two at a high-end restaurant with a bottle of good wine will rarely put you out more than $50.
A night at the hottest hotel ticket in town, the incomparable Raffles Le Royal, starts from $180, even lower on some booking websites. A transfer from the airport in one of its BMW series 5 cars costs $30.
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Well-designed boutique hotels range from $50 to $100 a night.
An impeccably made original full-length gown can be purchased from one of those aforementioned boutiques for less than $200.
Returning Cambodians fueling the city's rise
Though expats are contributing to the cosmopolitan growth, another exciting segment is making a mark -- returning Cambodians bringing experiences from abroad.