Phnom Penh City : Situated at the confluence of the Mekong,
Bassac and Tonle Sap Rivers, Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, has
a population of approximately 1.5 million people. Despite the
dilapidation resulting from decades of war, the city retains its
traditional Khmer and colonial charm. French villas along tree-lined
boulevards remind the visitor that the city was once considered
the gem of Southeast Asia. Recent political changes have triggered
an economic boom of sorts, with new hotels, restaurants, bars
and nightclubs springing up around
The Royal Palace:
Situated on the site of the former Citadel, it was built by King
Norodom in 1866 on the banks of the Mekong River. Inside its gleaming
yellow walls are the Throne Hall; the Chan Chaya Pavilion, specially
made for performances of classical Cambodian dance; the Napoleon
III Pavilion, offered to King Norodom by Queen Eugenie, wife of
Napoleon III, and the King's and Queen's residential quarters.
Nowadays, only the Silver Pagoda can be visited.
The National Museum:
Located near the Royal Palace, Cambodia's National Museum offers
a charming setting for a stunning collection of ancient Khmer
art. Predominantly constructed of sandstone, the sculptures date
from both the Angkorean and pre-Angkorean eras. These exhibits
are complemented by more recent examples of Cambodian art. The
museum is housed in a terra-cotta-roofed structure of traditional
Cambodian design, which was built between 1917 and 1920. Apart
from artistic treasures, the building is also home to a large
colony of Cambodian freetail bats. The colony has lived in the
building's rafters for years and is believed to be the largest
group of bats living in a man-made structure anywhere in the world.
But visitors need not worry about becoming a guano target, as
the Australian government reinforced the ceiling of the museum
in 1997. The only time you are likely to see the bats is when
they fly from the roof en masse at dusk each evening.
The Silver Pagoda:
Also called the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha, it is located in
the compound of the Royal Palace. Inside, its floor is constructed
of 5000 silver blocks. In the center of the pagoda, there is a
magnificent 17th-century emerald Buddha statue made of baccarat
crystal. The walls enclosing the pagoda are covered with frescoes
depicting episodes from the Khmer version of the Ramayana.
Atop an artificial hill built in the 15th century stands a stupa
containing the ashes of a king from the same period. There is
also a small Buddhist pagoda. Wat Phnom is a city landmark and
a popular place for worship.
Facing the Tonle Sap River near the Royal Palace, this pagoda
serves as the headquarters for one
of Cambodia's most revered Buddhist patriarchs.
Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek:
When the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 they converted a non-descript
high school on the fringe of downtown Phnom Penh into a detention
and torture center known as Tuol Sleng, or S-21 (Security Prison
21). A genocide museum was established at Tuol Sleng after the
1979 Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and today it appears precisely
as it was left by the fleeing Khmer Rouge. The non-descript facade
belies the horrors and trocities committed inside. Hundreds of
photos of those tortured line the walls inside the old school.
Most of the 17,000 people detained at Tuol Sleng were subsequently
transported to Choeung Ek, a longan orchard 15 km outside Phnom
Penh, slaughtered and buried in mass graves. Known to locals as
the Killing Fields after the popular movie of the same name, Choeung
Ek also serves as a memorial to those killed under Khmer Rouge
Traditional silk weaving villages on a Mekong River island. A
half-day boat trip from the capital.
A one-hour boat trip from Phnom Penh brings tourists to this resort
situated on Mekong Island. Tourists can dine in the restaurant,
visit the zoo and the weaving villages, ride elephants and watch
traditional dance performances.
Sunset Cruise on The Mekong and Tonle Sap:
A one-hour cruise from the capital takes you along the river to
watch the daily life of the people living on and around the rivers.
You'll enjoy a magnificent sunset, when the reflected rays of
the setting sun cast a golden glow across the river.
Located 32 km to northwest of Phnom Penh, Phnom Baset features
at the top of the hill a brick sanctuary called Prasat Srey Krup
Leak ("Temple of the Perfect Woman"). The extraordinary
design of the temple resembles a cave and faces the west, which
contrasts with many Khmer temples, which usually face east. The
site had been used as a place of worship for many years before
the Brahmans transformed it into a specifically Hindu-oriented
Located about 40 kilometers north of Phnom Penh, Oudong served
as the country's capital under several monarchs from the 17th-19th
centuries. Royal ruins stand upon a hillock offering panoramic
views of the countryside. Oudong is an easy day trip from Phnom
38 kilometers southeast of Phnom Penh, Tonle Bati hosts two noteworthy
12th-century temples. Ta Prohm, built by Jayavarman VII, is consecrated
both to Buddha and to Brahma, and is interesting for its refined
bas reliefs. Yeay Peou also features intricate bas reliefs.
Prasat Neang Khmao:
Also known as the "Temple of the Black Virgin," which
may once have served as a sanctuary to Kali, the Dark Goddess
of Destruction, it is situated about 55 km south of Phnom Penh.
59 kilometers southeast of Phnom Penh, Phnom Chiso is an 11th-century
temple set upon a small mountain offering panoramic vistas of
This 1200-hectare animal sanctuary is located about 30 km southeast
of Phnom Penh. In recent years, it has been upgraded, and the
sun bear enclosure is now one of the best of its type in Asia.
There are also other rare species housed here, including tigers,
leopards, a lion, and several species of exotic birds. The geography
of the sanctuary is quite interesting in itself.
Angkor Borie is a town in the area of several ruins and archaeological
digs. The area contains artifacts dating from the Funan (4th/5th
century) and Water Chenla (8th century) as well as the later Angkorian
period. The prasat ruins on top of nearby Phnom Da are 11th century
Angkorian. There is a smalll museum in the town.
Wat Nokor is an 11th-century Mahayana Buddhist shrine built of
sandstone and laterite. Certain areas of Wat Nokor bear a strong
resemblance to the Bayon at Angkor, with the walls in particular
being very similar. It was rebuilt and dedicated to Hinayana in
the 15th century and, today, there are many Buddha images scattered
throughout the complex. There is also small contemporary
wat located within its walls.
A covered market distinguished by
its central dome (built in 1937). It is filled with shops selling
jewelry and souvenirs. It is a great place for browsing.
Visit the School of Fine Arts to
see young apprentice Apsara dancers train.
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