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Amazing to say the least, Phnom Penh is a fascinating place of exotic culture and charm that will captivate the visitor and embed memories that will last a life time to all that visit. Situated at the junction of the picturesque Tonle Sap, Tonle Bassac and the mighty Mekong river, Phnom Penh offers the visitor a unique taste of Asia. The hospitality of the Cambodian people is very welcoming and all visitors to this charming city will be amazed at what they find. The city is changing rapidly and the number of businesses such as Hotels, Guest houses, Restaurants, Bars and other Tourist services are ever increasing to cater for the growing number of visitors now traveling to Cambodia and this charming city.

phnom penh history

Cambodia is the land of the Khmer, the dominant ethnic group in Cambodia stretching from the present time deep into prehistory. The Angkorian era Khmer Empire centered near Siem Reap dominated the region from the 9th - 13th century AD, at its apex stretching across most of mainland Southeast Asia. But by the 15th century the Empire was in political and territorial decline and under challenge from the rising Tai kingdom of Ayudhaya in the west. Ayudhaya was staging regular incursions culminating with the sack of Angkor in 1431-32. Shortly thereafter the court of King Pohea Yat left the Angkorian capital and established a new Khmer capital at Phnom Penh.

riverside phnom penh photo
The choice to move the capital to Phnom Penh at the confluence of the Mekong was probably not only a strategic move but also reflected a tectonic economic shift from the traditional Angkorian agrarian economy based in the country's interior to a trade/commerce oriented economy based in a riverline port town. The move to Phnom Penh was a change not only of location but in the nature of the state.

During the first Royal occupation of Phnom Penh in the mid 15th century. King Pohea Yat set the foundations of the city, establishing several wats and laying out the town along moats/rivers which approximate the area and layout of modern central Phnom Penh. Wat Ounalom, on the riverfront near the Royal Palace, may even slightly pre-date King Pohea Yat, making it the oldest known buddhst foundation in the city.

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places to visit in phnom penh

royal palace phnom penh photo

Royal Palace

The Palace is now home to the King and Queen of Cambodia, built in the 19th Century, goes by the full name of Preah Barum Reachea Vaeng Chaktomuk in Khmer. It is located on the riverfront where the three rivers meet. The ground consists of some very interesting architecture and of the unique and world famed Silver Pagoda. The Silver Pagoda got it's name from the 5000 Silver tiles laid on the ground. A few of the other structures within the grounds are the Khemarain Palace, Chan Chhaya Pavilian, the Theatre, Royal Dining Hall and a French styled building given as a gift by Napoleon III.

national history museum pp photo

National History Museum

Located near the Royal Palace, the National Museum is currently housing the most Khmer/Angkor artefacts. It houses all styles of Khmer art from the Funan period through to Contemporary. However it is being dwarfed in size with the new Angkor Museum in Siemreap which will surely take some of the better pieces from the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

tuol sleng photo

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21)

Tuol Sleng Museum was a former High School in Phnom Penh, until it was transformed into a Torture Prison during the Communist years of the Khmer Rouge. During the Khmer Rouge 17,000 people were imprisoned and only 7 survived. Men, women and even children were imprisoned, tortured, starved and then killed once they told the prison guards what they wanted to hear, even if they had to make up the stories so they would stop torturing them. Once they told their stories they were then loaded onto trucks like cattle and taken to the infamous Killing Fields on the outskirts of town and were systematically killed with a bludgeon blow to the back of the head.

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Russian Market

Also known as Psar Tuol Tompoung, is where you can find many bargains. This local market sells everything from souveniers to food, clothes and even electronics and jewerly. Local handicrafts, small and large can be bargained down to next to nothing, if you bargain with a smile and with an easy and friendly joking attitude.

central market photo

Central Market (Psaa Tmey)

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 thing considerably cheap.

wat phnom photo

Wat Phnom

Located at the very centre of town, this little temple and stupa was originally built in 1373. The birth of Phnom Penh began here. According to legend, an old lady, Daun Penh, saw some Buddha statues floating along the river, she then fished them out and asked some of the locals to help build a hill (phnom) and temple to house the statues in. That's also how Phnom Penh got her name, as the Khmers consider Daun Penh to be the founder of Phnom Penh City.

killing field photo

Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek is situated 15km from central Phnom Penh. Here is the devastating reminder of the torturous and barbaric reign of the Khmer Rouge. Thousands upon thousands of men, women, infants and children were transported here from Security Prison S-21 after being detained and tortured. A Memorial Stupa, built in 1988, displays the remains of human skulls arranged in age and sex behind glass panels. A memorial day, 9th May of each year is held at Choeung Ek.

independence monument photo

Independence Monument

Built in 1958 as a memorial to Cambodia's war dead after the gaining of independence from France in 1953, the monument, built in the Angkorian style, consists of five levels decorated with 100 snake heads. It is at its most impressive later in the afternoon with shadows highlighting the complexity of the design and giving the structure a warm orange glow.

riverside photo

Riverside (Sisowath Quay)

The recently refurbished riverfront park 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.

Did you take a cyclo ride in Phnom Penh this morning? #cyclor... on Twitpic

Morning Stroll in Phnom Penh - Short Video

Come with me as I take a stroll around Phnom Penh. Sites include: Royal Palace, Riverside, tourists taking a cyclo ride, and local sellers going about their daily business.

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map of phnom penh


phnom penh map

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