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10 things you should know about Phnom Penh

Cambodia’s capital and largest city is located on the banks of the Mekong river. Not many cities have a history like Phnom Penh, making it an interesting stop on your itinerary nowadays. Here is a list of 10 things you can do or should know about Phnom Penh.
French flair on the riverside in Phnom Penh
© photo: Gordon Cooke    

Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda

The Kings of Cambodia have lived in the Royal Palace since it was built in 1866 except for the period when the Khmer Rouge reigned the country. The attached Silver Pagoda is a compound located south of the palace complex. The main building houses many national treasures such as gold jewelry and a Buddha statue encrusted with 9584 diamonds.
» discover Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda


Royal Palace

Royal Palace, photo: ?ccdoh1?




French colonial architecture

The French left their mark in Phnom Penh from the 19th century until the 1940’s with many French style buildings such as Phsar Thom Thmei, Hotel Le Royal and French churches and boulevards. Phnom Penh was considered one of the loveliest French-built cities in Indochina in the 1920’s, hence the name ‘Pearl of Asia’. Several French colonial buildings still remain today, either renovated or in disrepair, both being part of Phnom Penh’s identity.

French colonial architecture

photo: Kirk Siang




Tuol Sleng Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung EK

The buildings of a highschool were turned into the Khmer Rouge’s S-21 detention and torture center in the 1970’s. Today it houses the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide Crimes with exhibits and photographs. A short drive southwest of Phnom Penh are the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. More than 17,000 victims were killed and buried in mass graves. Some of the mass graves have been excavated and the skulls, bones and clothes are kept in a memorial stupa.
» discover Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Killing Fields

photo: erik.w.davis




Wat Phnom

On top of an 27 meter high artificial hill, this is the temple after which the city of Phnom Penh is named. Wat Phnom is a typical Southeast Asian wat, including Naga snakes on the corners of the roof and a bell-shaped chedi. The grassy hilltop is a favourite retreat for locals, tourists and dozens of cheeky monkeys.
» discover Wat Phnom


Wat Phnom

photo: LostInInaka




Apsara dance show

A visit to Cambodia is not complete without seeing the Apsara dance. Dancers dressed in beautiful costumes move featherlight with their fingers bend backwards and a modest smile on their faces. The music is played by a pinpeat orchestra using xylophones, drums and gongs.

Apsara dancers

photo: 9.81 meters per second squared

Dining for a cause


Not only can you enjoy a great meal, in dining for a cause restaurants your money is spend to train former street kids in the hospitality business. The students are getting a vocational training with first-hand experience in all areas of the restaurant operation; serving customers, cooking, learning about hygiene in the workplace, designing the menu and creating new dishes. All profits are put back in training centers to keep the children off the street and learn a trade for a better future.


» more information on the restaurants run by friends international



Psar Toul Tom Poung (Russian market)

Psar Toul Tom Poung was the place to buy Russian goods during the Vietnamese occupation in the 1980’s. Today only the nickname Russian market remains. All Soviet items have been replaced by souvenir t-shirts, pirate dvd’s, hand woven silk, local crafs, backpacks and Buddha paraphernalia. You can spend hours browsing the bazaar for the perfect gift.
» discover Psar Toul Tom Poung


Psar Toul Tom Poung (Russian market)

photo: WorldTourer2010



Bonn Om Tuk

This water festival marks the reversing of rivers the Tonlé Sap and the Mekong river at the end of the wet season. The 3 day festival is held on the full moon at the end of October or early November. More than 350 decorated dragon boats with over 25,000 rowers participate in the series of boat races. An estimated 10% of Cambodia’s population attend this festival to party, eat, watch fireworks and give thanks to the moon.

Bonn Om Tuk

photo: hkfuey97




Phnom Udong

The silversmith village of Udong lies about 40km from Phnom Penh. Udong used to be the royal capital from 1618 to 1866. Many historical kings were crowned on top of the mountain. Walk the 509 stairs up to Phnom Udong for spectacular views over the countryside with its many sugar palm trees and explore Udong’s temples, stupas and shrines.
» discover Phnom Udong


Phnom Udong

photo: bjornman

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