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.
Independence Monument (aka Vimean Ekareach)
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 patriots who died for the country. The style of the monument distinctly resembles the shape of a lotus, with spires resembling the Angkor Vat monuments.
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.
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, there were 4 Buddha statues. In honour of these statues, she built a hill (‘phnom’ = hill) and a small temple (wat) at this site.
The main entrance to Wat phnom is via a grand staircase, which is guarded by lions and naga balustrades.
Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument
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, after the Vietnam backed regime took power from Khmer Rouge.
The monument comprises of 2 soldiers standing as protector over a Cambodian woman holding a baby. The monument has been a focal point to numerous political changes.
National Museum of Cambodia
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 larger version of the Cambodian temple prototypes seen on ancient bas-reliefs, mixed with colonial style of museum.
The museum currently is known as the world’s greatest collections of Khmer culture including sculptures, ceramics and ethnographic objects ranging 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 Royal Palace is located adjacent to the National Museum and 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.
The Silver Pagoda
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