The Phnom Penh City : Situated at the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap Rivers, Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, has a population of approximately 1.5 million people. Despite the dilapidation resulting from decades of war, the city retains its traditional Khmer and colonial charm. French villas along tree-lined boulevards remind the visitor that the city was once considered the gem of Southeast Asia. Recent political changes have triggered an economic boom of sorts, with new hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs springing up around the city.
The Royal Palace
Situated on the site of the former Citadel, it was built by King Norodom in 1866 on the banks of the Mekong River. Inside its gleaming yellow walls are the Throne Hall; the Chan Chaya Pavilion, specially made for performances of classical Cambodian dance; the Napoleon III Pavilion, offered to King Norodom by Queen Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, and the King's and Queen's residential quarters. Nowadays, only the Silver Pagoda can be visited.
The National Museum
Located near the Royal Palace, Cambodia's National Museum offers a charming setting for a stunning collection of ancient Khmer art. Predominantly constructed of sandstone, the sculptures date from both the Angkorean and pre-Angkorean eras. These exhibits are complemented by more recent examples of Cambodian art. The museum is housed in a terra-cotta-roofed structure of traditional Cambodian design, which was built between 1917 and 1920. Apart from artistic treasures, the building is also home to a large colony of Cambodian freetail bats. The colony has lived in the building's rafters for years and is believed to be the largest group of bats living in a man-made structure anywhere in the world. But visitors need not worry about becoming a guano target, as the Australian government reinforced the ceiling of the museum in 1997.
The Silver Pagoda
Also called the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha, it is located in the compound of the Royal Palace. Inside, its floor is constructed of 5000 silver blocks. In the center of the pagoda, there is a magnificent 17th-century emerald Buddha statue made of baccarat crystal. The walls enclosing the pagoda are covered with frescoes depicting episodes from the Khmer version of the Ramayana.
Atop an artificial hill built in the 15th century stands a stupa containing the ashes of a king from the same period. There is also a small Buddhist pagoda. Wat Phnom is a city landmark and a popular place for worship.
Facing the Tonle Sap River near the Royal Palace, this pagoda serves as the headquarters for one of Cambodia's most revered Buddhist patriarchs.
Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek
When the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 they converted a non-descript high school on the fringe of downtown Phnom Penh into a detention and torture center known as Tuol Sleng, or S-21 (Security Prison 21). A genocide museum was established at Tuol Sleng after the 1979 Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and today it appears precisely as it was left by the fleeing Khmer Rouge. The non-descript facade belies the horrors and trocities committed inside. Hundreds of photos of those tortured line the walls inside the old school. Most of the 17,000 people detained at Tuol Sleng were subsequently transported to Choeung Ek, a longan orchard 15 km outside Phnom Penh, slaughtered and buried in mass graves. Known to locals as the Killing Fields after the popular movie of the same name, Choeung Ek also serves as a memorial to those killed under Khmer Rouge rule.
Traditional silk weaving villages on a Mekong River island. A half-day boat trip from the capital.
A one-hour boat trip from Phnom Penh brings tourists to this resort situated on Mekong Island. Tourists can dine in the restaurant, visit the zoo and the weaving villages, ride elephants and watch traditional dance performances.
Sunset Cruise on The Mekong and Tonle Sap
A one-hour cruise from the capital takes you along the river to watch the daily life of the people living on and around the rivers. You'll enjoy a magnificent sunset, when the reflected rays of the setting sun cast a golden glow across the river.
Located 32 km to northwest of Phnom Penh, Phnom Baset features at the top of the hill a brick sanctuary called Prasat Srey Krup Leak ("Temple of the Perfect Woman"). The extraordinary design of the temple resembles a cave and faces the west, which contrasts with many Khmer temples, which usually face east. The site had been used as a place of worship for many years before the Brahmans transformed it into a specifically Hindu-oriented site.
Located about 40 kilometers north of Phnom Penh, Oudong served as the country's capital under several monarchs from the 17th-19th centuries. Royal ruins stand upon a hillock offering panoramic views of the countryside. Oudong is an easy day trip from Phnom Penh.
38 kilometers southeast of Phnom Penh, Tonle Bati hosts two noteworthy 12th-century temples. Ta Prohm, built by Jayavarman VII, is consecrated both to Buddha and to Brahma, and is interesting for its refined bas reliefs. Yeay Peou also features intricate bas reliefs.
Prasat Neang Khmao
Also known as the "Temple of the Black Virgin," which may once have served as a sanctuary to Kali, the Dark Goddess of Destruction, it is situated about 55 km south of Phnom Penh.
59 kilometers southeast of Phnom Penh, Phnom Chiso is an 11th-century temple set upon a small mountain offering panoramic vistas of the countryside.
This 1200-hectare animal sanctuary is located about 30 km southeast of Phnom Penh. In recent years, it has been upgraded, and the sun bear enclosure is now one of the best of its type in Asia. There are also other rare species housed here, including tigers, leopards, a lion, and several species of exotic birds. The geography of the sanctuary is quite interesting in itself.
Angkor Borie is a town in the area of several ruins and archaeological digs. The area contains artifacts dating from the Funan (4th/5th century) and Water Chenla (8th century) as well as the later Angkorian period. The prasat ruins on top of nearby Phnom Da are 11th century Angkorian. There is a smalll museum in the town.