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Phnom Penh


Phnom Penh is a graceful capital, a small city of old Asia, unlike the developing metropolises in nearby countries. Situated at the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap Rivers, the city retains much traditional and colonial charm. French villas hidden among tree-lined boulevards remind the visitor that the city was once considered the pearl of Asia. The riverfront area remains one of the most attractive in the region and is great for a late afternoon stroll. Recent political changes have encouraged a boom, with new hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs springing up around the city.

 

 

The Royal Palace

This graceful structure is very much a focus of the city. Standing on the site of the former citadel, it was built for King Norodom in front of the Mekong. Inside its walls are the Throne Hall, the Chan Chaya Pavillion, the Napoleon III Pavillion, and the King's and Queen's residential quarters. Today, only the Silver Pagoda is open. The Silver Pagoda is a gilltering chamber of royal treasures, also known as the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha, Inside, its floor is made up of 5,000 silver blocks. In the centre of the pagoda, there is a magnificent 17th century emerald Buddha statue made of baccarat crystal. The walls enclosing the pagoda are covered with ancient frescoes depicting episodes from the Ramayana.

National Museum

Another elegant city landmark, the museum is housed in a terracotta-roofed structure of traditional Cambodian design, which was built in between 1917 and 1920. It offers a charming setting for a stunning collection of Khmer art. The intricate sculptures date from both the Angkorian and pre-Angkorian eras, complimented by recent examples of Cambodian art and a wooden Buddha collection.

Wat Phnom

Standing atop a small hill is the 15th century stupa containing the ashes of an early monarch. Wat Phnom is a city landmark and a place for worship.

Wat Ounalom

Facing the Tonle Sap near the Royal Palace, this pagoda serves as the headquarters for one of Cambodia's Buddhist Patriarchs.

Tuol Sleng and Choeng Ek

When the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 they converted a former high school in the suburbs of Phnom Penh into a detention and torture centre known as Tuol Sleng, or S-21. A genocide museum was established at Tuol Sleng after 1979 and today it remains as it looked when abandoned by the Khmer Rouge. Hundreds of faces of those tortured line the walls inside the old school. Most of the 17,000 people detained at Tuol Sleng were eventually transported to Choeung Ek, a mass grave site located 15km outside Phnom Penh. Known to locals as the Killing Fields, Choeung Ek serves as a memorial to those killed under the Khmer Rouge rule. These sites can be extremely distressing, but are an essential part of understanding Cambodia’s tragic past.

Koh Dach

This island on the Mekong River is home to traditional silk weaving villages and can be visited as part of a half-day boat trip.

Sunset Cruise on Mekong River

A one-hour cruise takes in the daily life of the people living near the river. The sunset is spectacular, as the reflected rays of the dropping sun cast a golden glow across the water.

Phnom Baset

Phnom Baset is home to a small pre-Angkorian temple, called temple of the Perfect Woman, and a kitsch, cement replica of Angkor Wat. It is 32km to the north-west of Phnom Penh.

Oudong

Oudong served as the country's capital under several monarchs from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Royal ruins stand upon a hillock offering panoramic views of the countryside. It is situated about 40km north of Phnom Penh.

Tonle Bati

Tonle Bati has two important 12th century temples. Ta Prohm was built by Jayavarman VII and is consecrated both to Buddha and to Brahma, and is interesting for its refined bas reliefs. It is 35km southeast of Phnom Penh.

Prasat Neang Khmau

Also known as the temple of the Black Virgin, it may once have served as a sanctuary to Kali, the dark goddess of destruction, it is situated about 55 km south of Phnom Penh.

Phnom Chisor

Phnom Chisor is an 11th century temple set upon a small mountain offering a panoramic view of the Cambodian countryside. It is located 59km southeast of Phnom Penh, just off National Highway 2.

 

 

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