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Phnom Penh is the vibrant bustling capital of Cambodia. Situated at the confluence of three rivers, the mighty Mekong, the Bassac and the great Tonle Sap, what was once considered the ‘Gem’ of Indochina. The capital city still maintains considerable charm with plenty to see. It exudes a sort of provincial charm and tranquility with French colonial mansions and tree-lined boulevards amidst monumental Angkorian architecture. Phnom Penh is a veritable oasis compared to the modernity of other Asian capitals. A mixture of Asian exotica, the famous Cambodian hospitality awaits the visitors to the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The best time to visit Phnom Penh?
The country has a tropical climate – warm and humid. In the monsoon season, abundant rain allows for the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. This year-round tropical climate makes Cambodia ideal for developing tourism. Travellers need not to fear natural disasters such as erupting volcanoes or earthquakes, and the country is not directly affected by tropical storms. Cambodia can be visited throughout the year. However, the best time to visit Phnome Penh is during December and January, which are the driest, least humid and coolest months.
Places to visit in Phnom Penh?
There are many interesting touristy sites in Phnom Penh Capital. Beside the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, the National Museum, the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, the Choeng Ek Killing Fields and Wat Phnom, there are several market places selling carvings, paintings, silk, silver, gems and even antiques. Indeed, an ideal destination for a leisurely day tour. The whole area including the outskirts of Phnom Penh is about 376 square kilometres big. There are currently 2,009,264 people living in Phnom Penh.
Gleaming in gold, the Royal Palace is one of Phnom Penh’s most splendid architectural achievements. It is home to His Majesty Preah Bat smdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and Her Majesty Preah Reach Akka-Mohesey Norodom Monineath. The palace was built in 1866 by His Majeaty Preah Bat Norodom, great grandfather to our current King. The Royal Palace is built on the site of the old town. This site was especially chosen by a Commission of Royal Ministers and Astrologers because it had great geographical significance in relation to the King, who was regarded as a direct descendant of the gods, whose role it was to live and govern on earth under the influence of heaven.
The Royal Palace contains some spectacular buildings. Not least of which is the Throne Hall, situated to the left of the main entrance. It boasts a 59-meter tower. The tower roof is beautiful, having been decoratively tiered with golden coloured tiles. This building is used for high official celebrations, coronations and audiences with foreign dignitaries and government officials.
Old Market ( Phsar Chas)
Old Market (Phsar Chas) is a local market that is not at all geared to the tourist. It carries such items as fruits and vegetable, second hand clothes, hardware, motorcycle parts and religious items. In the late afternoon food vendors and fruit sellers set up mats along Street 13 in preparation for the evening market. The dinner rush hour makes for a confusing, dirty potentially photogenic scene.Located on the river at the south end of the Old French Quarter, Old Market ( Phsar Chas), Phnom Penh is one of the popular markets open to the local people and the tourists as well. Phnom Penh Old Market ( Phsar Chas) is one of the most crowded markets in the city. From fruits and vegetables to motorcycle parts, you can find it all in this market. In the late afternoon food vendors and fruit sellers spread mats along Street 13 and sit with their stocks for the evening market. So, the tourists will find Old Market ( Phsar Chas), Phnom Penh in every aspect a traditional market place to browse and shop.
Between 1975 and 1978,aabout 17,000 men, women, children and infants (including nine westerners), detained and tortured at S-21 prison (now Tuol Sleng Museum), were transported to the extermination to death to avoid wasting precious bullets. The remains of 8985 people, many of whom were bound and blindfolded, were exhumed in 1980 from mass graves in this one-time long an orchard; 43 of the 129 communal graves here have been left untouched. Fragment of Human bone and bits of cloth are scattered around the disinterred pits. Over 8000 skulls, arranged by sex, are visible behind the clear glass panels of the Memoral Stupa, which was erected in 1988.The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are 15 km from Central Phnom Penh. To get there, take Monireth Blvd south-westward out of the city from the Dang Kor Market bus depot. The site is 8.5 km from the bridge near 271 St. A memorial ceremony is held annually at Choeung Ek on 9 May.
Killing Fields of Cheung Ek is situated 15 kilometers south-west of Phnom Penh and made famous by the film of the same name “Killing Field”. 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 genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. In the center of the area is a 17 story glass stupa which houses 8000 skulls exhumed from mass graves. Open daily.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 Cheung Ek genocide museum is located in Cheung Ek commune, Dankoar district, about 15 km from the centre of Phnom Penh. This is the location where the Khmer Rouge took their prisoners for execution. The prisoners were made to wait here for 24 hours before they were killed by a blow to the head after which their throats were slit. Babies were killed by bashing their heads against a tree. There were separate graves for men, for women and for children. Former friends of Pol Pot who were executed here had separate graves too. Visitors can walk along 86 mass graves from which the remainders of 8,985 men, women and children were unearthed after the liberation of the Khmers Rouges. Some of those skulls, bones and pieces of clothing are now kept in the nearby massive stupa.
An Angkorian style tower, the inimitable place in the whole city, located in the heart of the capital. It was built in 1958 to Sybilles Cambodian Independence Day after winning back their independence from the French protectorate on the 9th of November 1953. The monument attracts many tourists for its peculiar looking but unique style distinguishes it from all the buildings in the city. It is also used as a memorial place dedicated to the Cambodian’s patriot who died for the country.
Wat Preah Keo Morakot (Silver Pagoda) is located in the southern portion of the Royal Palace complex. The pagoda was formerly known as Wat Uborsoth Rotannaram because it is where the King worshiped, prayed and practiced every Buddhist Silas Day. In the additional, the royal family and officials also held Buddhist ceremonies there.This pagoda has no monks. However, this Majestic King Norodom Sihanouk lived there for one year when he entered the monkhood on July 31, 1947. Because the pagoda has no monks, visitors usually refer to it as Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot. When the King celebrates Buddhist ceremonies, monks from other pagoda such as Wat Unaloam and Wat Botumvattey are invited to attend the ceremonies. Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot was built between 1892 and 1902, during the region of King Norodom, but at that time it was constructed of wood and brick. Its design is base on Cambodian architectural style. Then Banhchos Khan Seima ceremony was held on Feb 5, 1903.
Central Market (Phsar Thmei)
The dark-yellow Art Deco Phsa Thmei (New Market) is also referred to as the Central Market, a reference to its location and size. It was constructed in 1935 37. The Art deco building is shaped in the form of a cross with a nice central dome. And has four wings filled with shops selling gold and silver jewelry, antique coins, fake name-brand watches and other such items.
Around the main buildings are stalls offering Krama (checked scarves), stationery, household items, cloth for sarongs, flowers and second hand clothes, usually from Europe and the US. For photographers, the fresh food section affords a lot of opportunities. There are a host of good value food stalls on the structure’s western side, which faces Monivong Blvd. Central Market is undoubtedly the best of Phnom Penh’s markets for browsing. It is the cleanest and has the widest range of products for sale. Opening hours are from early morning until early evening.
Cheung Ek Killing Field
Between 1975 and 1978,aabout 17,000 men, women, children and infants (including nine westerners), detained and tortured at S-21 prison (now Tuol Sleng Museum), were transported to the extermination to death to avoid wasting precious bullets.The remains of 8985 people, many of whom were bound and blindfolded, were exhumed in 1980 from mass graves in this one-time long an orchard; 43 of the 129 communal graves here have been left untouched. Fragment of Human bone and bits of cloth are scattered around the disinterred pits. Over 8000 skulls, arranged by sex, are visible behind the clear glass panels of the Memoral Stupa, which was erected in 1988. The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are 15 km from Central Phnom Penh.
Wat Phnom Hill
Set on top of a tree-covered knoll 27m high, Wat Phnom is the only hill in town. According to legend, the first pagoda on this site was erected in 1373 to house four statues of Buddha deposited here by the waters of the Mekong and discovered by a woman name, Penh. The main entrance to Wat Phnom is via the grand eastern staircase, which is guarded by lions and naga (snake) balustrades. Today, many people come here to pray for good luck and success in school exams or business affairs. When a petitioner’s wish is granted, he or she returns to make the offering (such as a garland of jasmine flowers or bananas, of which the spirits are said to be especially fond) promised when the request was made.
Where to stay in Phnom Penh?
There are a few different areas to stay in Phnom Penh, however, you can easily reach most things by Tuk-Tuk too. The main areas are Duan Penh and Chamkar Mon. Duan Penh is the area that contains the most sights and the riverfront area with restaurants and bars. It attracts a lot of tourists and can be quite busy, but is walking distance to a lot of attractions. Street 240, in particular, has some great cafes. Chamkar Mon may be a little further to most sights, but has a slightly more local feel about it. It’s home to some great places to eat in Phnom Penh and Bassac Lane (a lane of small bars).
What to eat in Phnom Penh?
Cambodia ranks among the world’s poorest countries, so it comes as a pleasure surprise to find that Phnom Penh has a vast range of restaurants to suit all pockets and tastes, from noodle shops and market stalls to sophisticated, pricey Western places; even guesthouses often have small restaurants offering Western style fare, including American breakfasts, and Khmer and Chinese dishes.
Many of the restaurants catering to tourists and visitors line the riverfront dining and shopping area near the Royal Palace. Street 278 (near Independence Monument) and Boeng Keng Kang 1 is dotted with local and foreign restaurants. Budget restaurants and relaxing bars can be found along Street 93 next to the Boeung Kak Lake, an area popular with backpackers.
The Corner Restaurant and Bar
Is mainly catering the local Khmer Food, the Fresh Fruit Shake and Juices specialties for this hot month from Oct to May. It is located at the first floor of Mittapheap Hotel, corner street 174 next to Wat Koh high school and Pagoda.
Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia (FCC)
This famous international bar and restaurant is still as much a journalist?s meeting. It is located on the second floor of a beautiful old Colonial era building with open balcony providing a spectacular, sweeping view of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. The FCC kitchen offers a good selection of nicely prepared contemporary, modern, and mainstream western dishes as well as some of the best wood-fired oven pizza in town. Also displaying photo shows and exhibitions. Fresco Delicatessen on the ground floor. Upper price limit. St. 363 on the riverside.
Garden Center Caf 2
This international restaurant is the Street 278 area annex of the very popular Garden Center Caf, offering the same excellent western meals like steaks, baked ham, baked salmon, burgers, sloppy joes, Asian dishes and a great selection of salads and vegetarian dishes. All home cooking and generous portions. Relaxed, clean, green and family atmosphere. Conveniently located on Street 57 just around the corner from the Boeng Keng Kang 1 Street 278 hotel area.
Java Caf and Gallery
This international caf and restaurant is genially set in a nice gallery ambiance. They offer a brilliant selection of coffees, teas and muffins. Nice selections of salads, sandwiches made to order on homemade bread, fajitas, lots of veggie dishes and all-day breakfasts including omelettes, pancakes, French toast, muesli and more. Indoor gallery seating and airy balcony seating overlooking the green park and the Independence Monument. Changing art and photo exhibitions. WiFi Hotspot. St. 56, Sihanouk Blvd. (Near to the Independence Monument).
This is an authentic classical Thai and Khmer food restaurant with dishes at reasonable prices. Shop house sized restaurant with pleasant indoor seating. Fairly large selection of dishes. Very good preparation. Good selection of vegetarian offerings. Good reviews from patrons. Located on Street 130 just off the riverfront.
How to get to Phnom Penh?
Phom Penh can be reached by either domestic flights, international flights or overland and speedboat from neighbouring provinces and countries. Phnom Penh is a fairly easy city to get around. Though traffic is getting more congested these days, you can still travel the length of the city in less than 40 minutes. Regarding the economic boom these days, the traffic increases significantly.
Shopping in Phnom Penh
Shopping in Phnom Penh is a major attraction for tourists who love to buy back some souvenirs from this exotic Asian land. Central Market (Phsar Thmei) in Phnom Penh is one of those busy bazaars that are always filled with effervescent crowd from one end to the other. The Central Market (Phsar Thmei) of Phnom Penh stocks everything right from food items to clothes, silverworks and jewelries. Where the Central Market (Phsar Thmei) in Phnom Penh is now located was previously a swamp that was used to accumulate runoff rainwaters. The market building is a beautiful one, a spectacular instance of Cambodian architecture. Central Market (Phsar Thmei) of Phnom Penh in Cambodia also sells electronic items and there is also plenty of secondhand stuff that you can buy here at an affordable rate. The gateway to the market is lined with hawkers who sell different kinds of tidbits.
The jewelries are found in the interior of the market and some of the gold ornament that you will find here are really unsurpassable in design and style. Central Market (Phsar Thmei) at Phnom Penh should have been actually called the New Market for that is what “Phsar Thmei” means in English. However, today it is popular to the tourists by its present English name. Coming to Central Market (Phsar Thmei) in Phnom Penh and then going back to your respective hotel is easy as there are plenty of transportation facilities near the marketplace. A taxi stand can be found at the northwest corner of the market and the southwest exit will take you to a bus stand. Whoever loves to browse endlessly through small yet enticing shops, will find the Central Market (Phsar Thmei) in Phnom Penh an enchanting place.