Phnom Penh

Wat Ounalom Temple, Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is the only one Capital of Cambodia. It is burgeoning year after year. Comparing to over last five years, Phnom Penh is now very beautiful and quite different from what we saw before.

It is considered as one of must visiting places in Cambodia. It is a crossroad of Asia’s past and present, a city of extremes of poverty and excess, but one that never fails to captivate the visitor.

Legend has it that the city of Phnom Penh was founded when an old woman named Penh found four Buddha images that had come to rest on the banks of the Mekong River. She housed them on a nearby hill, and the town that grew up here came to be known as Phnom Penh (Hill of Penh).

The story, however, gives no hint as to why, in the 1430ss, Angkor was abandoned and Phnom Penh was chosen as the site of the new Cambodian capital. The move has been much lamented as evidence of cultural decline, but it made a good deal of practical sense. Angkor was poorly situated for trade and subject to attacks from the Siamese (Thai) Kingdom of Ayuthaya.

Phnom Penh commanded a more central position in the Khmer territories and was perfectly located for riverine trade with Laos and China, via the Mekong Delta. The Tonle Sap river provided access to the rich fishing grounds of the Tonle Sap lake.

There are a clutch of main attractions on everybody’s first time visit list. This may include the Royal Palace, as well as sites associated with the Khmer Rouge regime, such as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the poignant Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre. The Russian Market is also on the list as well as some great food at the French Quarter or maybe dinner on a boat as the sun sets on the Tonle Sap.

However away from the usual tourist attractions, consider a visit to tranquil Koh Dach or Silk Island, a 60 minute tuk tuk ride from the city centre, plus a 15 minute make-shift ferry journey or if you’re adventurous a short motorbike ride. This is an excursion away from the bustle and hustle of the capital and a good half or full day excursion.

One advantage of having your own transport is you can go where you want, without being directed to where the guide might like to take you. After a few kilometers we met a number of giant human mannequins racing from house to house collecting money for a temple. As the name of the island suggests, a big occupation here is the silk weaving. There many weavers and several sericulturists (silk producers) on the island.

It is estimated that there are 20,000 weavers and about 50100 sericulturists in Cambodia; with 95% of the raw silk imported from neighboring Vietnam. Not far from the ferry you will see high silted houses with huge intricate looms underneath. At Chong Koh village cooperative, ladies spin and weave individually designed sarongs and scarves. You should politely bargain if you would like to buy something.

If you are tired of bland South East Asian beer, you are in for a treat with a brewery tour on offer afternoons 1pm to 5pm. You can walk around the plant, try some sampler beers, and then more beer if you haven’t had enough. Cambodia’s old capital Oudong, also spelt Udong is worth a half or full day excursion.

It was the capital from 1618 to 1868, until the French persuaded King Norodom to move the royal court to Phnom Penh. You can hire a tuk tuk for the day, but I decided to make full use of the motorcycle I had hired. It is about 40kms out of Phnom Penh, and once out of the city, it is a pleasant ride following the banks of the Tonle Sap for a while.

There is a steep climb, but the views are awesome. You can take a path that runs along the ridge that allows you to visit a number of sites without going downhill. The most memorable is Chedi Damrei Sam Poan, built in honour of Cambodian King Ang Duong, whose official title is Preah Raja Samdach Preah Hariraksha Rama Suriya Maha Isvara Adipati. It was built to house the King’s ashes by his son King Norodom in 1891. A four-faced stupa looks down sternly and ominously on visitors below.

Things to do in Phnom Penh


Wat Ounalom Temple, Phnom Penh

Wat Ounalom Temple, Phnom Penh

Wat Unaloam, located near the Royal Palace, is an ideal monastery for tourist to learn about Cambodian’s Buddhism. This pagoda serves as the headquarters for one o Cambodia’s most revered…

Wat Phnom Temple, Phnom Penh

Wat Phnom Temple, Phnom Penh

Located a short distance from the Royal Palace, the heart of the capital Wat Phnom is popular with Cambodians and tourists alike. It is the center of Phnom Penh that…

Tonle Sap Lake & River in Phnom Penh

Tonle Sap Lake & River in Phnom Penh

Tonle Sap Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia, and one of the most unique ecological water wonders in the world. It was designated as a protected…

Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh

Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh

Cambodia’s Royal Palace, located along Sothearos Boulevard, was built in 1866, during the reign of King Norodom. Points of interest inside the palace include: Prasat Tevea Vinichhay (the Throne Hall):…

National Museum of Cambodia

National Museum of Cambodia

The National Museum of Phnom Penh is instantly recognizable, with its warm red terracotta and its gracefully curved roof topped by dozens of guardian nagas. Located just north of the…

Independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach)

Independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach)

The monument stands majestically on the intersection of Norodom Boulevard and Sihanouk Boulevard in the center of the city. Independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach) built in 1958 as a memorial to…

Central Market (Psar Thom Thmei), Phnom Penh

Central Market (Psar Thom Thmei), Phnom Penh

The distinctive art-deco styling of the Central Market makes it stand out among the architecture of Phnom Penh. The Central Market was built in 1937. Today, most visitors to Phnom…

Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument

Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument

Built in the late 1970s, the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument was commissioned by the Vietnamese communists as symbol of Khmer-Vietnamese friendship following the liberation of Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge. Located…