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Thursday, May 15, 2008

48 hours in Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore the boutiques and markets of Phnom Penh? The Cambodian capital may be lesser known than Siem Reap, but
its designer boutiques, colorful markets, art galleries and upscale restaurants are worth visiting.

FRIDAY

7 p.m. - Usher in the weekend with dinner at a European establishment, but the elegant bistro Art Cafe (St. 108) holds regular classical music performances and features a French-German menu. Beautiful artwork by local and international artists adorn the walls and are available for sale.

SATURDAY

9 a.m. - Grab a sandwich from The Deli on St. 178 and rush over to Khmer designer Romyda Keth's "Ambre", the first stop for any fashionista. This two-storey colonial villa on the same street is the place for stunning cocktail dresses, one-of-a-kind office wear or gorgeous wedding dresses. The friendly staff can make adjustments and you can order tailor-made outfits too. There's also a small but equally luxurious men's collection. Cross the Norodom Boulevard for more shops including Reyum Gallery and Silk & Pepper.

11 a.m. - The next stop is Keo (St. 222), home of Cambodia's haute couture king Sylvain Lim. Having worked for Parisian brands including Balmain and Dior, Sylvain's designs are classic. Browse through the small collection of prototypes from which you can order. For those with time and money, Sylvain's bespoke haute couture pieces are spectacular. By appointment only.

1.00 p.m. - Hop over to Street 240 for fuel at The Sugar Palm, a relaxed eatery serving local food -- don't miss the eggplant with pork or beef with ginger. The restaurant is also decorated with antiques that you can buy.

2.30 p.m. - Walk down the length of St. 240 and enjoy the shops. Couleurs d' Asie offers unique silk products to wear and decorate the home, all in big, bold patterns. Next door is Bliss, boasting paisley-print dresses and cotton wraparounds, massive cushions and home spa products as well as a spa with a plunge pool if you prefer a break in between the shopping.

Bead enthusiasts should not miss Water Lilly, showcasing Christine Gauthier's whimsical creations. Opening the hundreds of drawers hiding the jewellery is an experience in itself. Le Lezard Bleu offers top-notch home decor: think bronze sculptures, dark wood tables. Two more not to be missed boutiques are "Song", with its chic resort wear and yoga outfits and "Jasmine" for gowns, skirts and tops in various shades using Cambodian silk.

5.30 p.m. - Relax with a sundowner at the famed FCC on Sisowath Quay, just make sure you face the National Museum if you want to see the sunset. The FCC is also a good place to combine culture with souvenir hunting: there are photo exhibitions with items for sale, T-shirts and other memorabilia.

7.30 p.m. - Dinner at Metro Cafe, a short walk from the FCC. The best way to enjoy the delicious food on the eclectic menu is to share. The martinis, especially the tamarind and chocolate ones, are a must-try.

SUNDAY

9 a.m. - The Russian Market can be noisy and busy but it also has lots of good buys and is best early in the morning. Products to take home include colorful shawls, embroidered handbags, woven baskets, paintings and silver jewellery. Don't miss the Tooit Tooit stall inside the market for fun, funky bags and hats produced by parents of former street children, and NYEMO on the outside for colourful soft furnishings and silk handicrafts.

12 p.m. - Lunch at Romdeng on St. 74. Not only will you get delicious, authentic Cambodian food served by former street children, but you can also take the delicious recipes home as the charity organisation behind the restaurant published a cookbook.

1.30 p.m. - It may not have the same buzz or variety of stalls, but the art deco Central Market (Psar Thmei) is one of the city's landmarks. The souvenir stalls around the entrance hawking T-shirts and other curios are worth a visit while inside is an interesting combination of shops selling glittering gold and jewelery, electronic goods and second hand clothes.

2.30 p.m. - For trendy silk outfits, it's time to stop at Kambuja (St. 110). Local designer Kulikar Sotho specializes in women's clothes using local silk, most of which are intricately embroidered.

3.30 p.m. - Take a break, and enjoy some coffee and cookies at the Camory Cookie Boutique on Sisowath Quay, which sells everything from standard chocolate ones to more exotic flavors such as palm sugar, sesame and pepper.

4.30 p.m. - If all that commercial activity is starting to irk your conscience, its time to do some shopping that soothes the soul. Artisans d' Angkor on St. 49 is trying to revive traditional craft skills and offers gorgeous silk paintings, stoneware and clothes, Smateria on St. 57 is great for recycled products that are stylish and funky and Rehab Craft on St. 322 for quality wood carvings, silk accessories and jewellery made by disadvantaged Cambodians. (Details at www.stay-another-day.org)

6.30 p.m. - End the weekend the way you started it, enjoying and buying art. Java on Sihanouk Boulevard is a well-known art gallery/cafe which also boasts a cosy atmosphere and simple, tasty fare such as pasta and sandwiches.

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Cambodia donates $100,000 to China for quake relief

PHNOM PENH, May 15 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government on Thursday donated 100,000 U.S. dollars for the relief to the earthquake victims in China.

On behalf of the Cambodian government, Hor Namhong, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, handed over the donation to Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jinfeng, along with a letter of condolence from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

"I feel extremely saddened that your country has suffered the loss of thousands of lives, injuries and extensive damages due to the powerful earthquake in Sichuan province, central part of China," Hun Sen wrote in the letter dated May 14.

"On behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia, may I convey to Your Excellency and the People of China, particularly the victims and members of the bereaved families my deepest sympathy and profound condolences for the tragic loss and great suffering brought about by this natural disaster," he wrote.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Cambodian Red Cross donated 10,000 U.S. dollars through the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh to the Red Cross Society of China to facilitate its humanitarian activities for the earthquake-affected areas.

A 7.8-magnitude quake rocked Wenchuan county, 159 km northwest of the southwest Sichuan province's capital of Chengdu, at 14:28 (0628 GMT) on Monday, killing thousands of people in eight affected provinces.

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