Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s bustling capital, offers stunning sights. Here you’ll find the stunning Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda as well as the National Museum.
Visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to gain insight into Cambodia’s recent tragic history and book a tour. Tours are available.
Wat Ounalom on Sisowath Quay is one of the city’s most significant wats, housing an Apsara dancing and shadow puppet theatre that showcases traditional performances. Several Cathay Pacific flights are available for easy access.
Choeung Ek Killing Field
Choeung Ek is one of Cambodia’s most important sites and serves as an indelible reminder of its grim history under Khmer Rouge rule, when an estimated 1.7 million people died during four years through starvation and murder.
At this site, a memorial center has been constructed, complete with a stupa featuring acrylic glass sides filled with skulls found upon initial discovery of the site. Visitors can also observe pits used to exhume bodies.
On-site there are displays with personal items belonging to victims and a small museum detailing the Khmer Rouge regime. A chilling audio tour offers insight from an ex-guard and executioner at this site, detailing how tortured victims were killed; ceremonies take place annually on 20 May as a mark of respect to those who perished here.
Visits to the Killing Fields are never pleasant experiences, and it is wise to dress accordingly when visiting this mass grave and memorial. In order to arrive early enough and avoid crowds and heat exhaustion, arriving as early as possible in the day is also advised.
Visitors to Phnom Penh can visit both Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Killing Fields either independently or as part of a tour that includes both. There are various good options, including this full-day tour which offers transportation. The dry season is the ideal time for visiting, with lower temperatures and decreased chances of rainfall; alternatively you could join one of Mad Monkey Hostel’s group trips or arrange your own private guided tour!
Wat Phnom Temple
Wat Phnom is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and serves as a sacred temple that serves as the center of celebrations during Cambodian holidays such as Khmer New Year and Pchum Ben (Ancestor’s Day). What sets Wat Phnom apart from other landmarks in Cambodia is its combination of mythology, faith and architecture that makes it such an amazing structure.
The wat is a pilgrimage site offering Buddhist temples and stupas dating back to 1373, including its main shrine dating from 1373 and has been rebuilt many times since. French gardens were enhanced while Pol Pot made changes that catered to his interests resulting in many Buddha statues being added as well as those representing Taoist and Hindu beliefs.
As well as its religious significance, this site features an exquisite series of stairs and pagodas which make a striking first impression from far. People flock to make wishes or pray for success in exams or business affairs at this site.
As you approach Wat Phnom, you will be met by an abundance of sounds and sights – from vendors selling merchandise to street urchins hanging around, this temple is always bustling with activity! Though this may be overwhelming for some visitors, its lively environment contributes to its charm while providing a glimpse into everyday life in Phnom Penh.
Wat Phnom’s top features a vihear or stupa with Lady Penh standing upon it, drawing worshipers near and offering food offerings as they pray to her goddess form all over Cambodia and Indochina tours alike. Locals flock here frequently for advice from her when making decisions in life – something many locals consult her about for advice! In addition, Wat Phnom serves as the hub of celebration during various Cambodian holidays as well as being an attraction worth visiting during Indochina tours.
Phnom Penh Night Market
Phnom Penh Night Market, situated along the river, is one of the city’s premier shopping destinations, famous for offering an eclectic selection of goods ranging from traditional handicrafts to trendy fashion items and delicious local street food. Open until late in the evening, it has become a go-to spot both tourists and locals alike.
Phnom Penh’s night markets offer many popular shopping items, including silk paintings, recycled handbags and traditional Khmer silk scarves made using ancient weaving techniques – an especially special souvenir to take home! Additionally, many products in these markets are fair trade; thus, a portion of proceeds from purchases go back into supporting artisans and their families.
Night markets provide an ideal place to shop for more cultural souvenirs; handmade jewelry and other handicrafts make great keepsakes from your Cambodia trip while supporting local economies at the same time. Additionally, clothing, accessories, food and drinks can all be found there too!
Phnom Penh’s night markets can become very crowded, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring cash. Additionally, be wary of pickpockets who operate in these spaces; pickpocketing can happen more easily in such areas than elsewhere.
Phnom Penh Night Market provides more than products; it also features activities like food tasting and live entertainment – the ideal opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture and experience life firsthand. For more information about visiting this unique market, reach out to Travel Authentic Asia Company; one of their expert travel advisors will be glad to assist in planning a memorable trip through Cambodia!
The National Museum is an excellent way to experience Khmer history and tradition, offering visitors a breathtaking collection of bronzes, ancient Sanskrit inscribed steles, Buddhist and Hindu sculptures and objects used for religious ceremonies – among many other items – as well as being home to one of the finest collections of Khmer art anywhere. Make sure you pay for audio headphones or take an guided tour so you can engage fully with these stunning items on display!
The Silver Pagoda is an exquisite temple complex known for the 5,329 exquisitely-decorated silver tiles adorning its floor. Situated near Royal Palace, this sacred space offers visitors an opportunity to escape crowds and appreciate this iconic landmark.
Phnom Penh offers an efficient public transport system of buses, tuk-tuks and minibuses for easy travel around the city. Sightseeing on a river cruise offers another relaxing way of experiencing Phnom Penh; especially at sunset when its colors reflect off of its waters.
Even with Khmer Rouge’s attempts at eliminating Cambodian culture, many traditional arts and traditions remain vibrant today. Of particular note is shadow puppetry – an age-old performance art dating back to pre-Angkorian times. Theater troupes such as Sbek Thom offer performances. Shows typically last an hour and tickets cost approximately $15. Watch silk being created at a loom, or learn about Cambodian drumming – another of its oldest traditions. Phnom Penh stands out as an oasis of classic architecture and traditional markets, unlike Saigon which has succumbed to modernity’s grip on its soul.
UNESCO has honored Cambodia’s mesmerizing art form of Khmer Shadow Theatre with inclusion on their Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, signifying its worldwide significance and encouraging more troupes to form. This distinction represents a milestone achievement for an under-recognized tradition such as this in Cambodia.
Sbek Thom, or Khmer Shadow Theater, dates back to before the Angkor era and features two-meter-high puppets made of cow leather. It is one of Cambodia’s oldest forms of shadow theatre.
This form of theater has its roots in Thai nang sbek and wayang kulit from Indonesia and Malaysia, but unfortunately is an art form on its way out as modern forms such as movies and videos have replaced it.
Sbek thom, which takes place outdoors against a backdrop of rice fields or pagodas, often tells the Cambodian version of Ramayana (Reamker). Ten to twelve manipulators dance around an adjustable screen while wooden figures are backlit by a brazier made of coconut shells.
Leather puppets adorned with vibrant colors and decorated with Ph’nhi Tes (Angkor-style ornaments) stand in for audiences during performances in Siem Reap. Many hotels and restaurants in Siem Reap offer dinner shows featuring Sbek Thom that combine an immersive performance with authentic Khmer cuisine to provide guests with a memorable dining experience. Performances typically feature an orchestra of large and small xylophones (roneat); large and small gongs (kong); pair of barrel drums played with hands (sampho); pair of barrel drums played with hands (sampho); double-headed barrel drum with mallets (skor thom). Many hotels and restaurants in Siem Reap offer dinner shows featuring this mesmerizing performance while guests dine out while enjoying authentic Khmer cuisine!