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PHNOM PENH CITY

HISTORY

In 1975 Phnom Penh was choked with up to 2 million refugees from the war between the then U.S.-backed government and the Khmer Rouge. The city fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975, who completely emptied it of civilians and allowed it to crumble for several years. The city's small class of skilled or educated professionals was systematically murdered by Pol Pot, or driven into exile. Cambodia's developing economy and institutionalised corruption have concentrated wealth into a new rich class that now supports Phnom Penh's new fancy hotels and restaurants. Increasing tourist numbers are also bringing about improving tourist infrastructure.

ORIENTATION

All of Phnom Penh's streets are numbered, some major thoroughfares also have names. The scheme is simple: odd-numbered streets run north-south, the numbers increasing as you head west from the river, and even numbers run west-east, increasing as you head south (with some exceptions, e.g. the west side of what was Boeung Kak lake). House numbers, however, are quite haphazard. Don't expect houses to be numbered sequentially in a street; you might even find two completely unrelated houses with the same number in the same street.

The Royal Palace

Including the two magnificent pagodas in the Palace Grounds, the Silver Pagoda and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, are among the few public buildings in Phnom Penh really worth seeing. They were built in the 19th century with French technology and Cambodian designs, and have survived the traumas of the 20th century surprisingly well intact. In general, the Palace complex has a more structured, formal, organized and harmonious layout with a clear and specific architectural style compared to that in Bangkok, which has more hodge podge of styles.

Notes:

  • Better visitting in the early of the day before it gets too hot.
  • No photography is allowed inside the Silver Pagoda and some of the Palace buildings.
  • You're expected to dress decently (legs must be covered to knees and shoulders must be covered), you can rent sarongs for 1,000 riel (plus US$1 deposit) and buy t-shirts for $2 at the entrance.
  • Opening hours: 8:00AM-11:00AM & 2:00PM-5PM

 

The National Museum

Contains an excellent collection of art from Cambodia's "golden age" of Angkor, and a lovely courtyard at the centre. A main attraction is the statue of King Jayavarman VII (1181-1219) in mediation pose; other exhibits worth seeing include graceful statues of Hindu gods, ancient stelae (tablets) inscribed in Sanskrit and Old Khmer, and artefacts from a prehistoric burial site. In the middle of the courtyard is the original statue of the "Leper King" (actually Yama, the Hindu god of death) from the Terrace of the Leper King in Angkor Archaeological Park. The pleasant little park in front of the Museum is the site of the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony, at which the success or otherwise of the coming harvest is determined

Notes:

  • No photos are allowed inside the museum, although photography is allowed in the central courtyard.
  • Opening time: 08AM - 05PM (Last admission at 4.40PM) 

 

Wat Phnom

Name means "Hill Temple". The temple itself is notable more for its historic importance than physical structure, but the park is a pleasant green space and a popular gathering place for locals. A few monkeys keep quarters there as well and will help themselves to any drinks you leave unattended

Notes:

  • Entrance fee: 1USD/person
  • There is not Eplephant riding anymore
Sisowath Quay

An attractive boulevard running along the banks of the Mekong and Tonle Sap. It's fronted by a large, long open space with manicured lawns, palm trees and open pathways, all recently re-done as part of a Japanese funded project to upgrade the flood infrastructure along the river. The built-up side of the street is home to cafés and shops and the better class of bar, and is popular with tourists and expat Westerners prepared to run its gauntlet of touts selling drugs, girls and tuk tuk rides. The esplanade along the river is also popular with Cambodians, who come here in the cool of the evening to enjoy the quasi-carnival atmosphere. It begins at the riverfront park opposite the Royal Palace, and is perhaps best experienced in the early evening. Dawn at Sisowath Quay is also a busy time, with locals doing calisthenics in front of the Royal Palace, and the sun rising over the river

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

A school converted into Cambodia's most important prison in 1975. More than 14,000 people were tortured here before being killed here or at the Killing Fields; only 8 prisoners survived. The museum is easily accessible and a must-see for everyone interested in Cambodia's horrific recent past. The infamous "skull map" has been dismantled, although there are still skulls stacked in cabinets, implements of torture and disturbing photographs of people dying.

Notes:

  • Entrance fee: 2 USD/person
  • Opening hours: 7AM - 6PM
The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

A former Chinese cemetery, this is where the Khmer Rouge killed many thousands of their victims during their four-year reign of terror. Today the site is marked by a Buddhist stupa packed full with over 8,000 human skulls - the sides are made of glass so the visitors can see them up close. There are also pits in the area where mass graves were unearthed, with ominous scraps of clothing still to be found here and there. It is a serene yet somber place. Regularly throughout the day, a small museum screens a documentary with gruesome video images of human remains that were unearthed when the mass graves were found in 1979.

Notes:

  • Entrance fee: 5USD/person
  • Opening hours: 7.30AM - 5.30PM

 

Wat Botum

Historically the wat favoured by royalty. In the 1930s it housed a charming young novice named Saloth Sar, who later in life he changed his name to Pol Pot

Independence and Liberation memorials

Impressive Buddhist-style Independence Memorial, commemorating the departure of the French in 1953, dominates the centre of the city. Nearby is the Stalin-style Liberation Memorial, marking the Vietnamese capture of the city in 1979. The area is especially popular on weekend nights with locals when the multi-coloured fountains are activated and communal music is played.

TRAVEL BROUCHURE 2013
Spotlight Destination
TESTIMONIAL
  • I spent my 05 holidays in Hanoi and Halong Bay with Vietpremier service. It was a memorable trip for me and my friends. Not only the professional service, but also the intelligent tour arrangement and seasoned tour guide make us feel highly comfortable, minus the cost for us but still bring the best service. This impressed trip made me miss all about the person, scenery, lifestyle and I’m really want to be there again. Those are unforgettable holidays with me and my friends. I’m so excited with my next trip with Vietpremier J
  • Ms. Nguyễn Như Hảo & friends

  • Phung and our guides responded perfectly to our needs. We were tired after the train journey and so the only part of the itinerary we would change would have been to just spend the afternoon by the pool at the resort rather than taking a tour of the Hoi An sites
  • Mrs. Lisa Marie Behan and our family

  • Mr Liem was a wonderful guide he was professional but still showed a good sense of humour. We would never have been able to cross the roads without his help. Your design and management of our trip were excellent. I just realised that I hadn’t given feedback on the meal in the Mekong on the first day – this was at the house on the Mekong river, this was very remiss of me as although all meals were excellent this one was exceptional and the best we had for the entire trip, I should also have mentioned that the guide (a lady) we had on the Mekong cruise was excellent.
  • Ms. Jennifer Grace Agustin & Friends

  • A very well designed tour. We were very thankful to have contacted you and felt that your arrangements for us made everything a lot easier. Mr. Trang He was a fabulous guide who was quite knowledgeable about everything. We really felt like he made our trip even more enjoyable. His English is also extremely good and he tries hard to accommodate. Our favorite was Phu Quoc but we also really enjoyed our tour of the Mekong Delta though didn’t need two nights in Can Tho because there isn’t much to do in the city. Maybe should have done one night on a boat in hindsight but wasn’t sure we would like that.
  • Ms. Marlo Kravetsky & Mr. Daniel Ages

  • Hi Viet Premier!
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