The capital city of Phnom Penh has undergone staggering changes since the Khmer Rouge regimen ended. Though the devastation of the past might have ravaged the nation, the city has started making its own mark in the world. Phnom Penh’s main attractions are mostly historical and cultural in nature. Except for the Killing Fields (which I will talking about later) which is located 16 km from the city center, most of the city attractions are located within the city and are easily accessible either by tuk-tuk or on foot.
Alternative name: Vimean Ekareach
Open: 24 hours
Inaugurated in November 9, 1962, the 20-meter high Independence Monument was built by Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann to celebrate Cambodia’s independence from French rule and also helps in serving as a memorial place dedicated to the Cambodian’s patriot who died for the country. The style of the monument distinctly resembles the shape of a lotus, with spires resembling the Angkor Vat monuments.
It is accessible from the street and doesn’t require any admission fees. However, despite the ease of accessibility, you are not permitted to enter the monument. At night, the entire structure is lit with the colors of the national flag, which makes for an impressive sight. I didn’t get to capture a picture during night, but I did get to see it while passing by.
Open: 7.00 AM to 6.00 PM
Admission Fees: $1 per person
This is an active Buddhist Wat located at the top of a small hillock and is considered as the founding place of Phnom Penh. Legend has it that in 1372, Lady Penh fished a floating Koki tree out of the river. Inside the tree were 4 Buddha statues. To house these Buddhas, she built a hill (‘phnom’ = hill) and a small temple (wat) at this site. Later on, the surrounding area became known after the hill.
The main entrance to Wat phnom is via a grand staircase, which is guarded by lions and naga balustrades. What I didn’t like was the circus of beggars, street urchins, and children selling birds in cages
Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument
Open: 24 hours
It is a large concrete structure that was built in the 1970s to represent and respect the friendship between the two neighbors – Cambodia and Vietnam, by the Vietnam backed regime that took power after Khmer Rouge. The monument is in the middle of a popular park in the middle of the city and can be easily accessed by foot.
The monument comprises of 2 soldiers standing as a guard and protector over a Cambodian woman holding a baby. The monument has been a focal point to numerous political changes.
National Museum of Cambodia
Open: 8.00 AM to 5.00 PM
Admission fees: $5 per person (for foreigners)
George Groslier (1887-1945), historian, curator and author was the motivating force behind the revival of interest in traditional Cambodian arts and crafts, and it was he who designed this distinctive rust-red building that is today synonymous with ‘traditional Khmer’ architecture. It is can be described as a building enlarged from Cambodian temple prototypes seen on ancient bas-reliefs and reinterpreted through colonial eyes to meet museum-size requirements.
With a total area of 5,190 sq. mt., the museum currently houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Khmer cultural material including sculpture, ceramics and ethnographic objects from the prehistoric, pre-Angkorian, Angkorian and post-Angkorian periods. Other than the beautiful and unique collection, the museum continues promoting the Cambodian culture by arranging cultural programs that is a unique exhibition on its own.
The Royal Palace & the Silver Pagoda
Open: 8.00 AM to 11.00 AM and 2.00 PM to 5.00 PM
Admission: $6.25 per person
The Royal Palace is located adjacent to the National Museum and the gradeur perfectly justifies the whole royalty feeling. Built over a century ago, the Royal Palace serves as the residence of the King of Cambodia, his family and foreign dignitaries. Located within the walled grounds, there are several buildings and structures accompanied with a magnificent garden that can easily occupy visitors for a hour or more. For ease of understanding the entire complex, the admission counter does provide you with a handy and well-labelled map for the areas that are open and accessible to the tourists.
Wat Preah Keo Morokat, also known as the Silver Pagoda, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The name has been given so because of the 5329 silver tiles that cover the floor; each tile was handcrafted and weighs 1.125 kg. It is less of a functioning temple and more of a repository for cultural and religious treasures. The primary Buddha has been reported to be made of emerald. In front of the Emerald Buddha stands the Buddha Maitreya (Buddha of the Future), a 90 kg golden standing Buddha encrusted with 2086 diamonds including a 25 carat diamond in the crown and a 20 carat diamond embedded in the chest. I can’t vouch for how truthful the interiors are since I reached the place towards the end of the evening visiting hour.