As a capital city Phnom Penh is of course filled with all the usual hustle and bustle you’d expect to find. With the likes of Nike and Toyota heading some of their Eastern Asian business from the capital it has a balance of serious business, but also a lot of history, culture and spirituality surrounding the many high-rise buildings and skyscrapers.
A wonderous mix of temples, parks, palaces and places of natural beauty are intertwined within the city’s streets and surrounding areas just waiting to be discovered. We’ve compiled a list of our top five alternative city sights to see.
The story of this ancient Buddhist hilltop temple is more significant than its structure. The widow Penh discovered 4 sacred Buddha statues in a tree on the riverbank and created the shrine to protect it. The surrounding park is a popular place for locals to gather. It is believed the statues bring hope and prosperity to those giving time for blessing and prayer within the grounds.
Royal Palace of Cambodia
The traditional Khmer roof of the Royal Palace stands proudly among the country’s architectural achievements of past and present. Comprised of 4 main structures the Palace has been the home of the Royal family in times of peace since the 1860’s. Although restrictions apply to the direct living quarters of the Royals, the Khemarin Palace, Silver Pagoda, Throne Hall and inner court are accessible for viewing, year-round. The décor inside is both captivating, beautiful and a must see for anyone visiting the region.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Part of Cambodia’s darker history, the museum stands as a reminder of past times that plagued Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge regime converted the school into a prison in 1975 and it incarcerated 17,000 people over 4 years. There are not many known survivors. After it’s discovery by the Vietnamese in 1979, Tuol Sleng was converted into a museum documenting the horrendous actions of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Stocked to the brim with discounted clothing, jewellery, woodcarvings, silk and fabrics as well as food vendors serving up many tasty dishes. The Russian market has been operating since the cold war times of the 1980’s. Market traders love to haggle and it’s a fantastic spot to pick up a bargain or some great souvenirs for friends back home.
Cambodian Living Arts – Apsara and Traditional Khmer Dance
Apsara and traditional Khmer dances performed by the Cambodian Living Arts – a non-profit organisation, take place throughout the week. Preserving the Khmer cultures that were nearly wiped-out by the Khmer Rouge Regime such as costumes, song and dance are passed from generation to generation and performed for your pleasure, ensuring the longevity of these traditions. To really get a feel and knowledge of Khmer culture these shows are a must see for any visitor to the city.
Wherever your interests lie, Phnom Penh has a little something for everyone. Absorbing yourself in local Khmer culture is surprisingly easy, even in the middle of the capital’s business district. Inspired by the colours, creativity and passion of the Cambodian people these must-see attractions prove to be some of the best ways to truly understand the Cambodian people and their culture.