August 21, 2012

Cambodia: Where to go in Phnom Penh

The Must-Visit places in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

1.      Royal Palace and The Silver Pagoda

Royal Palace

Both situated in an adjoining complex in Sothearos Boulevard, the Royal Palace and The Silver Pagoda represents the symbol of the Royal Kingdom.

The Royal Palace is the abode of the King and is also the official venue for court ceremonies. There are 8 notable structures inside the Palace.

Silver Pagoda

      This is the official temple of the King and is also a repository for cultural and religious treasures. The Pagoda is also known as The Emerald Buddha Temple, the primary Buddha of the pagoda. The temple is named after the 5,329 silver floor tiles that cover the entire interior of the temple.

The thing I love the most in this complex is that the grounds are expansive and beautiful. There are ample of spaces wherein you can appreciate the structures. Cambodia’s Royal Palace is not as grand as Thailand’s golden edifices but there’s a balance between the gleaming facades of the building and the green landscape, like a breathing room to take in the royal atmosphere.

Entrance Fee: $6.50
Opening Hours: 8:00 am to 11:00 am, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Address: Sothearos Boulevard, between Street 240 and Street 184

2.      National Museum

National Museum is the largest museum in Cambodia. It houses one of the world’s largest collection of Khmer cultural and archaeological artifacts from prehistoric to post-Angkorian periods.

There are over 1,800 works of art on display, mostly are figures of buddha in stone, wood and metal. There are also stone inscriptions, ceramics discovered from prehistoric sites, khmer art and many more.

The Museum itself is a monument in red, with intricate roof details and bas reliefs, surrounded in lush landscape.

The museum is not air-conditioned but is ventilated with fans throughout. It is also a little musty and gloomy. Some artifacts don’t have tags and information. But if you’re more interested in history, culture and the arts of Cambodia, it’s worth a visit.

Entrance Fee: $3.00 for foreigners / $0.13 for locals
Opening Hours: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Address: 13th Road, Between 178 and 184 Street. Beside Royal Palace and The Silver Pagoda
*Photography is not permitted within the galleries.

3.      Wat Phnom

Wat Phnom is a Buddhist temple built in 1300s. The history of Wat Phnom started with the legend of Lady Penh who constructed a shrine in the city to protect the 4 bronze Buddha statues she found in a large Koki Tree.

The word Wat means a Buddhist monastery temple or a school. It is commonly used in Indochina countries. Meanwhile the Phnom was derived from Lady Penh’s name herself.

Wat Phnom is located in a circular park atop an artificial hill 27 meters in height. On the top are a stupa, a Buddhist shrine and souvenir shops.

Naga, the 7-headed Serpent
The best view of Wat Phnom can be found on the southwest side. From the entrance is a large wooden depiction of the mythical creature Naga, a 7-headed serpent, which divides the large walkway. There’s also the Wat Phnom Clock, 20 meters in diameter placed in the garden. On the upper part of the clock is a shrine of Lady Penh.

Wat Phnom Clock

Entrance Fee: $1.00 for foreigners
Opening Hours: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Address: Norodom Boulevard

4.      Phsar Thmei or The Central Market

The Central Market is another landmark in Phnom Penh. It is a market of all sorts in a shape of a big golden yellow dome with 4 intersecting hallways in Art Deco Style.

Phsar Thmei was built in 1937 and was hailed then as the largest market in Asia.

There are hundreds of small stalls inside, selling souvenirs, trinkets, apparels, household items, jewelries and electronics. Meanwhile on the outer stalls, there’s a wet market, a street food area, flowers and fruit stands.

The prices are a bit steep (well, for us Asians) but this is the best one-stop shop you can go to when in Phnom Penh.

Opening Hours: 7:00 am to 5:00 pm
Address: Intersection of Kampuchea Krom and Street 63

5.      Sisowath Quay or Riverside at Night

The Sisowath Quay, or the riverfront road, is a 3 kilometer strip of park along the intersection of the Mekong and the Tonle Sap rivers.

      At night, the riverfront area is buzzing with locals and foreigners. There are group exercises at night, group dances, and vendors selling souvenirs and street food and more.

Wat Ounalum
      On the other side of the street you can view the Royal Palace’s Moonlight Pavilion, the National Museum and the Wat Ounalum, plus an abundance of hotels, restaurants and pubs.

            Aside from the 5 places I’ve mentioned above, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields of Cheung Ek are 2 other famous attractions in Phnom Penh. Both conveys the dark past of Cambodia’s recent history. Honestly, I didn’t go there because I simple can’t bear it. But if you’re planning to visit Phnom Penh, this is must-visit to learn more of Cambodia’s dark history.

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