The state capital Phnom Penh is located in southwest Cambodia and has about two million inhabitants. It is the government and economic center of the country. Phnom Penh is also known as the 'Paris of the East' and has recovered after the long years of war. High and modern buildings are still rather rare but this gives the city a very special character. The capital has a lot of modern and comfortable hotels. The variety of international and local restaurants is diverse. In particular the French and Vietnamese cuisine is excellent. It has pubs, bars and some discos and nightclubs.
The Tonle Sap River flows in the city into the mighty Mekong River. In the city and surrounding area are different cultural, historical and natural attractions.
Phnom Penh is a vibrant and exotic town that is able to captivate many tourists. Besides it is also the starting point for trips in all directions, be it by plane, bus or boat.
In 1372, a mound was erected, on which five Buddha statues were placed. The name of this 27-meter high temple hill was called Wat Phnom Daun Penh. This led to the name Phnom Penh.
The Last King of Angkor moved in 1434 his residence to Lovek, in the region of today's Phnom Penh. The reason was the conquest of Angkor by the Siamese army of the Ayutthaya kingdom. They destroyed the vital irrigation systems. Lovek served only a century as a royal city.
In 1866 King Norodom I. moved the capital definitely to Phnom Penh. This came through the pressure from the French, who planned and built the new city. The important connection to the port of Kompong Som, today's Sihanoukville, was created in 1933 by a railway line.
Before the Cambodian independence in 1953, the population of Phnom Penh consisted of equal proportions of Khmer, Chinese and Vietnamese. In the second half of the 20th century it shifted in favor of the Khmer. Nowadays, the Chinese and Vietnamese are a minority. However, in economy they play an important and influential role.
In the years 1969 to 1972 Cambodia was heavily bombed during the Indochina War by the U.S. Air Force. There were also fights between the Cambodian government forces of the Khmer Rouge. Thus, a large number of the rural populations fled to the capital. In 1975 Phnom Penh grew to two million inhabitants.
The Khmer Rouge took in April 1975 the capital and deported the city population immediately to the countryside. A short time later Phnom Penh counted only about 20,000 inhabitants. The reason was the food problem and the people were needed in the agriculture sector. In addition, the regime wanted as soon as possible to create a communist peasant state. Cities should be dissolved, they were considered counter-revolutionary. Due to hunger, disease and executions, a large proportion of the resettled population of Phnom Penh died. Only by end of the last century has peace returned in Cambodia.
The Phnom Penh International Airport is 9 km from the capital away. It is relatively small and therefore clearly arranged. The new terminal is equipped with modern amenities such as foreign exchange offices, ATM cash machines, restaurants and coffee corners, duty-free shops, information desk and business center. There are only a few domestic flights such as to Sieam Reap and Sihanoukville (Sihanouk Phrea). This is the most expensive, but even the fastest travel option.
Since 2014 there is a bus service to the city center and tuk tuk as well as taxis are available. The ride to the center takes between 30 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic. Visitors should always carry enough small money, as the drivers are often not able/willing to give back the change.
Unfortunately, the rail links throughout Cambodia are very poor and a train ride, mostly on a freight train is not advisable.
The buses offer a good and fast transport method. Since 2008, the highways are in fairly good condition. Especially those to major centers such as Siem Reap, Battambang, Sisophon, Poipet and to the southern seaside resort of Sihanoukville.
From the bus station at the 'Central Market' are regularly air-conditioned buses to all major cities available. There are also air-conditioned buses to neighbouring countries as Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
By boat you can travel to Siem Reap. The journey takes longer than the bus but if in no hurry it is a fantastic way and offers wonderful views of the countryside.
There is also a boat service to the Eastern part of the country and further on to Chau Doc in Vietnam.
In the city of Phnom Penh are tuk tuks, taxis and even some bicycle rickshaws for transportation available. Most taxis do not have taxi meters. Therefore the price must be negotiated as with the tuk tuks and rickshaws drivers. The hotels will advise guests about the usual route prices.
Note: Phnom Penh is normally a save town. But on the streets please take care of your belongings. Don’t carry a handbag or small pack over the shoulder or back, better in front of you and closed. While riding in a tuk tuk or bicycle rickshaw, place the bag in the middle. During the night do not walk alone and better drive with a tuk tuk or taxi to the desired location.
The Royal Palace
It is the city’s main attraction. Besides the impressive Palace the compound is home to the fantastic Silver Pagoda and the Emerald Buddha Temple. The buildings were built in the 19th century with French technology in Cambodian style.
National Museum of Cambodia
This attraction should not be missed. Most of the 5,000 displayed artefacts are dedicated to the golden age of Angkor. There are also objects from prehistoric excavations. Outside the museum is a beautiful little park.
The Genocide Museum was a former high school. During the Khmer Rouge regime it served as a concentration camp, also called Security Prison 21. Toul Sleng means "Hill of the Poisonous Trees”. Thousands of Cambodians were tortured and sentenced to death. After that, they were executed in the 'Killing Fields'.
Because of its historical significance the temple hill is a much visited place. The compound is located in a pleasant park, which is also a popular meeting place for the locals. A small group of monkeys also live in the park.
Independence Monument & Liberation memorial
The impressive monument was erected in 1953, when Cambodia got independent. The nearby Freedom Monument refers to the Vietnamese occupation of the city in 1979. During weekends it is after dusk a popular playground. The fountains are illuminated in different colors and music sounds from the speakers.
Sisowath Quay Boulevard
It is an attractive and delightful place for an early-evening stroll. However, one should exercise caution and stay near other tourists.
By late afternoon is a boat trip on the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers a fantastic experience. It offers a magnificent view of the Royal Palace and the silhouette of Phnom Penh. The cruise takes you past picturesque floating villages and a romantic sunset can be enjoyed.
Markets and shopping
Market friends will love Phnom Penh’s photogenic and extremely diverse markets. The most important ones are the Central Market near the river promenade and the Olympic- as well as the Russian market.
The Sorya Shopping Center is air-conditioned, but has the atmosphere of a market. The City Mall is the newest shopping center in the city.
This is the former capital of Cambodia and has some magnificent royal stupas. A few kilometers before Udong is the island of Koh Chen, where copper and silver smiths are located.
This popular recreation spot is situated on the Bassac River and a very cosy place for a picnic. Nearby is the Phnom Chisor Mountain. 500 steps lead to the top which contains some temple ruins, dating back to the 10th and 11th century. The view of the city and surrounding countryside is fantastic. In the same area is the Phnom Da temple, built in the 6th century. This site can only be reached by a motorboat. The drive leads through a wonderful area.
The silk villages in this area are worthwhile a visit. The fantastic woven products are often exported to Europe.
It is probably the saddest spots in Cambodia. Here are the 'Killing Fields'. This is certainly not a place for everyone to visit.
Just outside the city are two upstanding 18-holes par-72 golf courses with international standards.
The Cambodia Golf & Country Club was designed by a team of experts from Taiwan and Japan. The beautiful design and the idyllic environment with a big variety of indigenous vegetation make the place not only for golf enthusiasts attractive, but also provides for non-golfers for relaxing hours.
The Royal Cambodia Phnom Penh Golf Club is a huge site and irritates with its natural environment. The course runs through the surrounding marshes and with its ponds and rivers to a variety of birds. He also shines with its majestic palm trees, many shrubs and numerous flower beds.
The climate of Phnom Penh is known as tropical hot. During November to February it is dry, with temperatures around 25 ° C. In the evening the thermometer may occasionally drop to 20 ° C. In March till May it gets up to a maximum of 35 degrees and its dry. The rainy season lasts from May to October with temperatures around 30 ° C. But in May to August it does rains mostly for a short time in the late afternoon or at night. The strong rainfalls are during September and October.