Phnom Penh is the vibrant bustling capital of Cambodia. Situated at the confluence of three rivers, the mighty Mekong, the Bassac and the great Tonle Sap, what was once considered the 'Gem' of Indochina. The capital city still maintains considerable charm with plenty to see. It exudes a sort of provincial charm and tranquillity with French colonial mansions and tree-lined boulevards amidst monumental Angkorian architecture. Phnom Penh is a veritable oasis compared to the modernity of other Asian capitals. A mixture of Asian exotica, the famous Cambodian hospitality awaits the visitors to the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Once one of the gems of French colonial Indochina, after years of terror and poverty Phnom Penh is finally re-emerging as a fine South East Asian capital.
Its wide, tree-lined boulevards are now busy with sparkling late-model cars, and more of her long-neglected magnificent colonial architecture is under restoration. The city’s river junction location lends it an added charm, with the riverside Sisowath Quay once again thriving. Waterfront parks and cafes, open-air Western and Khmer restaurants, hotels and even internet cafes are all taking advantage of the city’s new found stability and optimism, and Psar Thmei, the city’s classic Art Deco central market, affords one of the best value and most enjoyable shopping experiences in Indochina.
Phnom Penh also offers the traveler a range of historical and cultural attractions. These include the finest collection of Khmer sculpture in the National Museum - the 13th Century bust of King Jayavarman 7 is perhaps the most celebrated piece of Khmer art. The Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace grounds, despite their massive looting at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, are also impressive testaments to the artistic skills of the Khmers.
Phnom Penh also holds some disturbing reminders of its darkest days under the Pol Pot regime: Tuol Sleng, the eerily peaceful former school grounds which became a detention and torture center under the Khmer Rouge, and outside the city the ‘Killing Fields’ of Choeung Ek where the remains of thousands of murdered Cambodians were uncovered.
Here in the capital, are many interesting touristy sites. Beside the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, the National Museum, the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, the Choeng Ek Killing Fields and Wat Phnom, there are several market places selling carvings, paintings, silk, silver, gems and even antiques. Indeed, an ideal destination for a leisurely day tour. The whole area including the outskirts of Phnom Penh is about 376 square kilometres big. There are currently 2,009,264 people living in Phnom Penh.
The city takes its name from the re-known Wat Phnom Daun Penh (nowadays: Wat Phnom or Hill Temple), which was built in 1373 to house five statues of Buddha on a man made hill 27 meters high. These five statues were floating down the Mekong in a Koki tree and an old wealthy widow named Daun Penh (Grandma Penh) saved them and set them up on this very hill for worshiping. Phnom Penh was also previously known as Krong Chaktomuk (Chaturmukha) meaning "City of Four Faces". This name refers to the confluence where the Mekong, Bassac, and Tonle Sap rivers cross to form an "X" where the capital is situated.
Phnom Penh is also the gateway to an exotic land - the world heritage site, the largest religious complex in the world, the temples of Angkor in the west, the beaches of the southern coast and the ethnic minorities of the North-eastern provinces. There are also a wide variety of services including five star hotels and budget guest houses, fine international dining, sidewalk noodle shops, neighbourhood pubs international discos and more.
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