Phnom Penh is the must-see destination in Cambodia that always has its name ranked highly. Whether you find Phnom Penh in paper or picture, the city of Cambodia brings you to the antique and charming capital of Khmers. If you want to see the city used to be called “The Pearl of Asia,” then come to Phnom Penh.
About Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the most populous city and also the capital of Cambodia. It is settled at the confluence of the three rivers: Tonle Sap, Mekong River, and the Bassac; so, the capital owns the spectacular view. We can divide the city into three parts: while the north is the charming residential region, the south is featured with the French colonial buildings, and the center has lots of markets, shops, and food stalls. Erected in 1434, the city is famous for the charming and historical architecture. In reality, Phnom Penh has been the capital of Cambodia since the French colonization period and has developed to be the center of economy, industry, politics, culture, and diplomacy of Cambodia. Once ranked as the “Pearl of Asia” in the 1920s, Phnom Penh is one of the prettiest French-built cities in Indochina. Phnom Penh, along with Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, is the true gem for Cambodia tourism. Right in the capital, there remain lots of French colonial buildings along the attractive boulevards. Traveling to Phnom Penh, people are suggested to include in Cambodia package tours the National Museum, Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, Wat Phnom, and Killing Fields (linked to the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s or Pol Pot era). Nowadays, the capital is filled with many expensive dining and recreational establishments, giving Phnom Penh the new light of energy and prosperity. Tourism in Phnom Penh is booming.
Top Tourist Attractions and Activities in Phnom Penh
Wat Phnom Pagoda is erected on a tree-covered and 30m-high hill, in the northeast of Phnom Penh City. Historically, this pagoda was erected in 1373 to hold the four Buddha statues. Up to now, the Cambodians still believe that Wat Phnom is holy and powerful that helps people to make wishes true. Therefore, numerous pilgrims come there to pray for success, healing, and safety. Hence, Wat Phnom is mostly filled with lotus flowers – a kind of offerings. Besides, the pagoda has the grand entrance guarded by the lions and snake balustrades. The spiritual values in Wat Phnom are kept as time passes, and people still frequently come there, day after day. Spiritually significant, this monument also owns the extraordinary Khmer architecture.
Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda
Royal Palace is the outstanding attraction in Phnom Penh City. The Palace stands impressively against the riverfront skyline, which offers the mesmerizing view. Inside the Palace are the silent landscape with the royal buildings and the colorful gardens. It looks like the ornate islands rising from the carefully protected gardens. Know that the Royal Palace functions as the King’s residence, the venue for the court, and the symbol of Cambodian Kingdom. The Palace was first built when the Cambodian capital was moved from Oudong to Phnom Penh under King Norodom in 1866, and also the French protectorate. Therefore, the Royal Palace owns the elements of both Khmer and European styles. Attached to the Palace complex is the Wat Preah Keo Morokat (The Silver Pagoda), which is famous for 5,000 silver tiles. The Pagoda is where royal ceremonies are held, and it protects lots of the inestimable Buddha and historical items. What’s more, unlike other pagodas, no monks live at the Silver Pagoda.
Killing Field – Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21)
Toul Sleng a high school before 1975. Then, the Khmer Rouge came and converted Toul Sleng into the Security Prison 21 (S-21) in which the prisoners were held in the brick cubicles and tortured periodically, and then were inevitably executed at the Killing Field of Choeung Ek. There were more than 17,000 people were killed on the field that left the mass graves in the grounds. History said that the Pol Pot would take a picture of each victim In S-21, sometimes before and after being killed. Then, in 1979, when the Vietnamese armies helped to liberate Phnom Penh, they found merely 7 prisoners alive at S-21. Today, the attraction serves as Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, the evidence to the craziness and crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Here, you find rooms displaying photographs of men, women, and children who were all victims of the Pol Pot. A visit to Toul Sleng is the emotionally memorable experience. There are lots of depressing black-and-white photographs on display that tell the world the real painful history of Phnom Penh as well as the barbarism of the Khmer Rouge.
How to get to Phnom Penh
Flights to Phnom Penh
The foreign tourists can take an international flight to Phnom Penh, and get the visa on arrival at the Phnom Penh Airport. There are some direct flights from other Asian cities to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Some of the outstanding Asia cities that have flights to Phnom Penh are Bangkok, Beijing, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Qatar, Incheon (Seoul), Singapore, Taipei, and Vientiane. Regarding the domestic flights, they are run from Siem Reap or Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh.
As Cambodia shares the international crossings with Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, the residents of these neighboring countries can cross the borders and enter Cambodia so that they head toward Phnom Penh. In particular, the international crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam at Bavet/Moc Bai is the ideal way for the Vietnamese to reach Phnom Penh. Also, you can get the Cambodian visas upon arrival at the international border checkpoints.
Mekong River Cruises or Local Ferry
The passengers today can take river ferries between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh on the Tonle Sap daily. Along with that, it’s interesting to use services of Mekong River Cruises from Vietnam to Cambodia for days and nights. The grand cruise tours to Phnom Penh have been experienced by lots of people, and the best time for it is from August to March. Once arrived at the ferry port in Phnom Penh, on Sisowath Quay, you see many motor taxi and car taxi waiting to drive you to the downtown. The availability of bicycle and motorbike rental, tuk-tuks, and the public buses make it easy to get around the antique capital.
Best Periods to Visit Phnom Penh in Cambodia
Though Cambodia has the two major seasons: the dry (from October to April) and the wet (from May to September), this country is ideal for visiting all year round. In particular, for weather, the best period to see Phnom Penh is from October to December. It is when the capital is coated with the cool condition, and sometimes little chilly with the average temperatures are 240C – 260C. Note that the hottest time of the year in Phnom Penh might run from March to June while the heaviest rainfall happens in August and September.
The ideal time to see Phnom Penh might be up to your preference for the heat, the rainfall, or the number of tourists. In fact, the peak time for Phnom Penh Tour is from November to March. Therefore, if you want to sheer off the crowds and enjoy the lower prices, it’s recommended to visit the capital from May to early October. Since this period is not the peak season, prices seem to go down, and the scenery is less crowded.