Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is the vibrant busting capital of Cambodia with plenty to see


This capital city is situated at the confluence of three rivers, the mighty Mekong, the Bassac and the great Tonle Sap, and was once considered the 'Gem' of Indochina. Phnom Penh maintains considerable charm with plenty to see. It exudes a sort of provincial charm and tranquility with French colonial mansions and tree-lined boulevards amidst monumental Angkorian architecture. The city is a veritable oasis compared to the modernity of other Asian capitals. A mixture of Asian exotica, the famous Cambodian hospitality awaits the visitors to the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

What to see

Wat Phnom

It is the symbol of the city. Legend has it that, in the 16th century during the reign of King Ponhea Yat, a rich old lady named Penh lived near the river bank. That year, there was a great flood. The Mekong River has flooded the shore. Mrs. Daun or Daun Penh saw a big “koki” tree (the name of a tree species in Cambodia) floating near her house. She found four Buddha bronze statues and a stone. She called her neighbors to help build a hill (a Phnom). She built a thatched hut to house the Buddha statues. When King Norodom moved to Phnom Penh, he built a pagoda for 4 statues and a large stupa to put the royal relics.

Royal Palace

After the abandonment of the former capital Udong, the new capital was born at the edge of Chaktomuk River in 1866 during the reign of King Norodom. The Royal Palace was officially opened on 14 February 1870. The structure of the buildings (different palaces and pagodas) is inspired by the Khmer sculpture on a surface of about 16ha. It is protected by a high wall. It was built in 1866 during the reign of Norodom and also painted in royal yellow. There one can see the roofs of Khemmarine castle, Chan Chhaya Pavilion, Preah Keo Morakat, Tevia Vini-Chhay, etc.

Silver Pagoda

Among the most visited, Royal Pagoda or Pagoda of Emerald Buddha (Wat Preah Keo, better known as Silver Pagoda) is the shrine of royal ashes. The pagoda was built by King Norodom from 1892 to 1902. The floor is covered with 5329 silver tiles of 1.125k each. We can see in the courtyard the equestrian statue which is dressed as a French general. It could be the statue of Napoleon III, whose head was replaced by King Norodom.

National Museum

Built by the French in 1917, the National Museum of Phnom Penh was named “Albert Sarraut Museum” in 1920, in honor of governor general of Indochina. Open daily to the public, it exposes the statutes of Khmer art (different periods: pre-historic, pre-Angkorian IV-IX century, Angkorian X-XIV century, and post-Angkorian from the XI century).

Toul Sleng Museum

The Toul Sleng Museum is one of the most visited by Cambodians and foreigners. This was previously a high school that was converted in 1975 in Detention Center, known as Security Prison 21 (S21) by Pol Pot’s security forces. It is now recognized as the largest center of detention and fortune in the country. More than 17,000 prisoners were held there and then be transported to the extermination camp of Cheoung Ek and be executed. When Phnom Penh was liberated by the Vietnamese Army in early 1979, only seven prisoners were still alive. In August 1979, Vietnamese transformed the site into a museum. The museum was recently converted and now offers further explanation of the Cambodian tragedy.

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