PHNOM PENH

Situated at the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap Rivers, Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, has a population of 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, guesthouse, restaurants, bars and nightclubs springing up around the city. Tourism is growing in leaps and bounds and volunteers abound, from the many NGO’s doing their part to rebuild and support the growing nation. The sum of these recent booms in tourism and the large expatriate community means finer services for visitors.

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 Chhaya 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.

 

 

 

  • Wat Ounalom

Facing the Tonle Sap River, this pagoda serves as the headquarters for one of Cambodia’s most revered Buddhist patriarchs.

 

 

 

  • Wat Phnom

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. With Phnom meaning “hill” in Khmer, legend has it that Phnom Penh was named after this small hill.

 

 

  • Toul Sleng

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 centre known as Toul Sleng, S-21 (Security Prison 21). A genocide museum was established at Toul Sleng after the 1979 Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and Today it appears precisely as it was left by the fleeing Khmer Rouge.

 

 

  • Choeng Ek Memorial

This memorial is on the site of a Khmer Rouge extermination camp where almost 9,000 bodies were exhumed from mass graves after the fall of the regime. The centrepiece of the memorial is a solitary stupa in which the bones of the dead are displayed along with many personal possessions buried with them.

 

 

  • Wat Preah Keo (Silver Pagoda)

Also called the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha, it is located in the compound of the Royal Palace. Inside, the floor is constructed of 5000 silver blocks. In the centre of the pagoda, there is a magnificent 17th Century emerald Buddha made of baccarat crystal. The walls enclosing the pagoda are covered with frescoes depicting episodes from the Khmer version of the Ramayana.

 

 

  • 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.

  • Mekong Island

A one-hour boat trip from Phnom Penh brings tourist to Mekong Island. Tourist can dine in the restaurant, visit the zoo and the weaving villages, ride elephants and watch traditional dance performances.

 

 

 

  • Udong

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 Penh.

 

 

 

  • National Museum

This 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. Sharing the terracotta-roofed structure of traditional Cambodian design built in 1917 is a large colony of Cambodian freetail bats, believed to be the largest group of bats living in a man-made structure anywhere in the world. However, the only time you are likely to see the bats is when they fly from the roof en masse at dusk each evening.

 

  • Phnom Tamao

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.

 

 

 

  • Angkor Borei

Angkor Borei is a town in the area of several ruins and archaeological digs. The area contains artefacts dating from the Funan (4-5 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Pedicabs (Cyclos)

The pedicab, or cyclo, is a quaint icon of colonial Phnom Penh. Introduced in the 1920s, the three-wheeled cyclo was the main form of transport in the city until the mid 1990s. For visitors, a ride in one of these pedal powered cabs provides a comfortable and leisurely way to see the city.

 

 

 

  • Phnom Chiso

59 Kilometres southeast of Phnom Penh, Phnom Chiso is an 11th Century temple set upon a small mountain offering panoramic vistas of the countryside.

 

THING TO DO

  • Enjoy a sunset cruise on the Mekong
  • Have your photo taken with a sun bear
  • Visit an archaeological dig
  • Explore the city on a cyclo
  • Watch a Khmer Classical or folk dance show
  • Dine at Mith Samlanh, run by street children
  • See the bats returning to roost at museum

 

SHOPPING

Silver Boxes
Often animal shaped, these are popular traditional souvenirs. These pounded silver containers were once used in ceremonies and everyday life to hold betel leafs.

Silk
Still hand made using traditional ikat methods and styles. The pattern is dyed into the threads before the silk is woven. The process of dying and weaving a single piece can take weeks.

Gems
Western Cambodia is a fertile source of coloured stones, especially rubies, sapphires and emeralds, and there are plenty of gem dealers in Phnom Penh.

Carvings and Statues
Popular and distinctively Cambodian, these weighty souvenirs may be bronze busts of ‘The Leper King’ or carved wood apsaras.

Koh Dach
Koh Dach is an island of around 30 Square kilometres situated in the Mekong River just upstream from Phnom Penh. The island offers an abundance of traditional handicrafts such as silk weaving, dyeing, pottery and wood carving. Many of the artisans have their workshops open to the public so visitors can see how the souvenirs they purchase are made.

Phsar Thmei (Central Market)
This unique, art-deco style building was completed in 1937 and is a Phnom Penh landmark. The entrance is lined with souvenir merchants hawking everything from T-shirts and postcards to silver curios and kramas. Inside is a dazzling display of jewels and gold.

Phsar Toul Tom Poung (Russian Market)
This market has a more interesting and varied selection of souvenirs, curios and silks than the Central Market. A cluttered and intense shopping experience, the Russian Market is becoming the tourist market in Phnom Penh. Locally made textiles, handcrafts and jewellery are among the best buys here. Bargaining is expected and you can expect prices to fall significantly with some good humoured haggling.

Disabled Handicrafts Promotion Association (DHPA)
Located on Street 63, this cooperative offers handicrafts and jewellery produced by disable individuals and widow using silk, wood and coconut.

OPTIONAL TOURS

Half Day Phnom Penh – Mini Angkor Wat Tour
Half Day in the morning. Depart Phnom Penh at 8:00 AM Proceed to visit Mini Angkor or Tonle Bati.

Half Day Phnom Penh – Killing Field Tour
Half Day in the morning. Depart Phnom Penh at 13:00 PM. Proceed to visit Killing Fields & Russian Market

Full Day City Tour with Lunch (Buffet)
One day tour (Lunch included) Pick up from your hotel at 8:00AM. City tour visit: Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, National Museum, Wat Phnom, Independent Monument & Central Market.

Half Day Phnom Penh – Shopping & Mekong River Cruise Tour
Half Day tour in the afternoon. Pick up from your hotel at 13:00PM. Visit Russian market & Central Market. Enjoy a boat ride to see the people lifestyle along Mekong River.

Full Day Phnom Penh – Udong Tour with Lunch
Depart Phnom Penh at 8:00 am to visit Udong (Former Capital). Visit Phnom Preah Reach Throap, Chet Dey Mak Proum. Three of Stupas of the King ancestor.

Full Day City Tour
Visit National Museum, Wat Phnom, Independence Monument and Victory Monument. Lunch at a local restaurant. Afternoon visit Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, Toul Sleng Museum and Russia Market.

Full Day Mini Angkor Tour
Visit Mini Angkor (Tonle Bati). Lunch at local restaurant. After lunch, shopping at local market.