Just a short journey from Phnom Penh brings you to a landscape of rice paddies and sugar palms, scattered with small villages and isolated pagodas. The Chroy Chung Va peninsula, the tip of land facing the city centre at the confluence of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, is home to a collection of villages and feels very removed from the bustle of central Phnom Penh; its western side, facing the Royal Palace, is being transformed into a riverside park. The southernmost tip is now the property of the Sokha Resort group whose newest concrete monolith is rapidly growing. A short way further northeast, reached by a short ferry trip from Phnom Penh, lies Koh Dach, a lush green island in the Mekong, whose inhabitants weave silk and grow a wide variety of produce on the fertile alluvial soil. Wat Champuk Ka-Ek, east of town off NR1, has a remarkable collection of ten thousand Buddhas and can be tied in with a trip to Kien Svay, a popular riverside village about 15km from the city. Phnom Brasat, some 27km northwest of town off NR5, is home to a kitsch collection of pagodas, while further north rise the distinctive hills of the old capital Oudong, dotted with the chedi of various kings; you might want to combine a trip here with a visit to the scant remains of nearby Lovek, its predecessor as capital.
A short moto-ride southwest of the city, the killing fields and memorial at Choeung Ek make a logical, if macabre, progression from a visit to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum. Also south of the city, off NR2, the compact Angkorian temple of Tonle Bati enjoys a riverside location, and is a good place for a picnic and a swim. Further south, there are spectacular views from the ancient hilltop temple of Phnom Chisor. Both sites could be combined as a day-trip, along with Phnom Tamau, Cambodia’s only state-run zoo and wildlife rescue centre.