Ever since its long-awaited independence in 1953 Cambodia
has been welcoming the rest of the world to its turquoise shores, majestic temples and idyllic landscapes. Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city in Cambodia, and it is the most popular destination in the country, drawing the crowds with its enthralling mixture of history and religion, nature and art, tradition and modernity. This city will not disappoint; here’s the top 5 things to do and see whilst here!
As the official religion of Cambodia, Theravada Buddhism is practiced by over 90% of the population, and to really understand the local culture, a visit to a Buddhist temple is absolutely necessary. With hundreds of temples spread over the country, Wat Phnom is one of the most significant. Wat Phnom was built in 1373 and refurbished in 1926, and it is believed that Phnom Penh itself was named after the temple. Located up on a small hill and surrounded by trees, the monastery and colorful religious paintings here are guarded by beautiful lion and naga statues. As well as as stone animals, there are also real life creatures to be found in the temple. The elephants here are very popular with tourists, and there are also many mischievous monkeys who are efficient when swiping the food and belongings of visitors; watch out!
Address: Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The Mekong River is of utmost importance to Cambodians; not only does it offer breathtaking views of the landscape, but, more importantly, the river upholds the fishing and agricultural industries of the country. There are multiple ways to admire the river when visiting the city. You can go on a cruise where you will see the water as well as the different landmarks such as the Royal Palace and Angkor Wat. Or, another way to experience the Mekong River is to either take a walk along the waterway, or go to the many bars and restaurants at Sisowath Quay, the boulevard along the waterfront. It is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, and thanks to the warm tropical weather of Cambodia, it is always pleasant to enjoy the breeze by the river whilst watching the sunset.
Address: Mekong River, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
Phnom Penh is a lovely city, but it was not so in 1975; under the rule of the Khmer Rouge regime two million people were killed in the genocide from 1975 to 1979. Fortunately the country has moved on from this terrible time, but, no matter how unpleasant the history might be, it is always a part of the country and should never be forgotten. The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek forms a place to commemorate the victims of the genocide. Along with over 8000 human skulls of the victims on display there is a small museum showing a documentary about the four-year reign of terror. Although the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are both visually and emotionally overwhelming, visitors can learn about Cambodia’s history here and can reflect on what we as a human race have done in the past, and what should never again be done again in the future.
Address: Sangkat Cheung Aek, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Daughters of Cambodia
Daughters of Cambodia is a non-profit organization which helps victims of sex trafficking to leave the sex industry. They provide countless women with medical treatment, education, counselling sessions, and, most importantly, an opportunity to change their future. Apart from donations you can support Daughters by going to their visitor center, a site which houses a café, spa, boutique and educational center all in one. Not only does the visitor center creates job opportunities, but buying the products here also helps to sustain the work of Daughters.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 9am-5:30pm
Address and Telephone: #65, Street 178, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, +855 77 657 678
Art Gallery, Movie Theater, School
Bophana Center is a cinema and hub for photography, television, film and sound. As a lot of image and sound archives were destroyed during previous wars, Bophana Center aims to collect the remaining heritage items and treastured memories of Cambodia and show them to the public. Bophana Center is also an educational site where young Cambodians are taught everything about audiovisual techniques, multimedia practices, broadcasting and film production. Visitors here can peruse photographs dated as far back as 1866 and can watch films from 1899. Visitors are also encouraged to join the exhibitions and talks, or to watch over 2400 Cambodian films, all for free!
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 8am-12pm, 2pm-6pm, Sat 2pm-6pm
Address and Telephone: 64, 200 Oknha Men, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, +855 23 992 174
by Crystal Au