The area surrounding the Royal Palace
has magnificent Khmer towers and remains particularly delightful. There
are many open spaces and parks in the center which the locals use for
recreation and relaxation. Pedaled rickshaws, called cyclos, still ply
the streets as in colonial days and provide an excellent opportunity for
sightseeing and people watching. Taxi service is also available. Phnom Penh is the heart of the Cambodia's nightlife. Providing a good balance of fun and safety it's a pleasant change from the hectic Bangkok scene. The recent explosion of bars in the city offers greater choice than ever before.
The Silver Pagoda or The Temple of the Emerald Buddha,
formerly a wooden building, was rebuilt in 1962 in concrete and marble.
The pagoda is floored with more than 5,000 silver tiles each weighing 1
kilo (2.2 pounds). It is famous for its 90 kg (198-pound) solid gold
Buddha made in 1907 and an emerald Buddha said to be made of Baccarat
crystal. Sharing the pagoda are many other interesting artifacts and
jewels. This was one of the few temples to remain intact during the
Khmer Rouge regime.
The National Museum
was built in 1917 in traditional Khmer style and inaugurated in 1920 by
King Sisowat. It houses the world's foremost collection of ancient
Khmer archaeological, religious, and artistic artifacts from the 4th to
the 13th centuries. There are over 5000 pieces and it is the repository
of the Kingdom's cultural wealth. In addition, the roof space is home to
the largest bat colony in the world living in an artificial structure.
Every evening thousands of these bats flock out of the roof and swarm
around in the sky before searching for food.
is a revered place of worship for all Khmers and is the namesake of the
capital. It is located on a man-made hill 27 meters (89 feet) high in
the middle of Phnom Penh. The original pagoda was built in 1373 to house four Buddha statues said to have been deposited by the waters of the Mekong. The temple is the focal point for many Buddhist ceremonies especially Pchum Ben and his highly revered by Phnom Penh
residents. Wat Phnom has a unique atmosphere and is surrounded by
fortune tellers, mystics, and faith healers. Elephant rides around the
site are available.
The Tuol Sleng Museum, known as The Museum of Genocide Crimes
was used by the Khmer Rouge as a detention and torture center from 1975
to 1978. Today the building houses exhibits, paintings and photographs
of many of the victims. Visitors can see the crude cells built in the
classrooms and the torture devices used to extract confessions in
Stalinesque purges of the regime.
The Killing Fields of Cheung Ek are situated 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh
and made famous by the film "The Killing Fields". It was a place where
more than 17,000 civilians were killed and buried in mass graves; many
of them transported here after detention and torture in Toul Sleng. This
place is a chilling reminder of the brutalities of the genocide
perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. In the center of the area is a 17-story
glass stupa which houses 8,000 skulls exhumed from mass graves.
Note: Both Tuol Sleng Museum
and the Killing Fields exhibits may be disturbing for some and aren't
suitable for younger children and adults who are easily shocked.
The Independence monument was built in 1958 as a memorial to Cambodia's war dead after the gaining of independence from France
in 1953. The edifice, built in the Angkorian style, consists of five
levels decorated with 100 snake heads. It is most impressive later in
the afternoon with shadows highlighting the complexity of the design and
giving the structure a warm orange glow.
The riverfront park was recently refurbished is the focal point for the Phnom Penh
residents' leisure activities. Early risers can see the many locals
welcoming the new day with Tai Chi and other exercises while the sun
rises majestically over the river. In the early evening and all day
Sunday many people stroll, picnic or just sit and watch the world go by.
Local delicacies are served by vendors all along the riverfront.
The Central Market is one of the largest and busiest markets in Phnom Penh.
Built in 1937 by French architects and surprisingly cool, even in the
heat of the hottest day, many interesting products are available. The
eastern side, which is the main entrance, has many souvenirs and
ornaments on sale, from T-shirts to large stone heads. In the center are
the many jewelry stores and precious-stone vendors as well as a
plethora of electronic goods merchants, cloth sellers and other dealers;
most of them selling things at low prices.
The Toul Tom Pong Market or Russian Market
is probably the city's best source of objects d'art. Items for sale
include wooden and stone carvings, various ritual objects, silverware,
and old Indochinese notes and coins. There is a large range of
antiquities and curios for those prepared to ferret around the various
stalls and there are also gold and silversmiths inside the market who
can be seen custom making jewelry. This is one of the most popular
markets in Phnom Penh with foreign residents and tourists who can spend an interesting hour browsing before choosing the perfect gift.
The Ta Prohm Temple
not far South of Phnom Penh on the route to Phnom Chisor is a 12th
Century temple. Consecrated to the Buddha and the Brahma, the place is
noted for its refined bas reliefs. Nearby is a smaller temple, Yeay
Peau, which also has remarkable stone carvings. Near Ta Prohm is a small
lake, Tonle Bati with "Water Houses" for rent and various food stalls.
Note: This site should not be confused with Ta Prohm at Angkor.
The Phnom Chisor Temple
is an ancient Khmer temple constructed in the 11th century of laterite
and bricks with carved sandstone lintels. The complex is surrounded by
the partially ruined walls of a 2.5-meter (8-foot) wide gallery with
inward facing windows. There are spectacular views of the surrounding
countryside and Phnom Chisor makes an ideal excursion combined with
Tonle Bati/Ta Prohm Temple.
The city of Oudong
is 30km (19 miles) away from Phnom Penh and located on a hill
overlooking vast plains and famous for the “burial chedis” of the Khmer
kings. Little is left of this once former capital, but the first glimpse
of the ruins on the hill is quite magical.