Things to do in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh was once known as the "Pearl of Asia". Even though it has risen from the darkened ashes of war that took place during the 70's and 80's, it still retains much of the look and feel from several decades ago.

If you are lucky enough to get to visit this adventurous city, here are some of the best things to see and do while you are here. So put on your comfortable shoes and dress respectfully as this is a Buddhist country. Be polite, have fun, and enjoy yourself!

1. Wat Phnom

According to legend, the first pagoda on this site was erected in 1373 AD to house four statues of Buddha deposited here by the waters of the mighty Mekong River. These were discovered by a women named Penh. The city is named after this Wat which is set on a 30 meter high hill, the only hill in town. There you will also find the biggest clock in Cambodia.

2. Toul Sleng Museum

Toul Sleng or S21 ("Security Office 21"), was the former Tuol Svay Prey high school.
The Khmer Rouge set up a prison at this site in May 1976 to detain individuals accused of opposing the Pol Pot regime, and was also the Angkor premier security institution. Not for the squeamish.

3. National Museum
This was built in 1958 to commemorate the country's 1953 independence from France. It also serves as a memorial to Cambodia's war dead and is sometimes referred as the Victory Monument.

4. Independence Monument
Was built in 1958 to commemorate the countrys independence from France in 1953. It also serves as a memorial to Cambodias war dead and is sometimes referred as the Victory Monument.

5. Killing Fields
Known in Khmer as Choeung Ek and located 7 kilometers SW of the city, this is just one of the places where Pol Pot's regime slaughtered thousands of people without mercy and buried them in mass graves.

6. Royal Palace
This regal complex is reminiscent of Bangkoks Grand Palace, though on a smaller scale. This can work to the visitors advantage, however, when one realizes that with an early start you can have the whole place to yourself, a near impossibility in the Thai capital. The palace is off limits, but there are plenty of things to explore. (7.30am-11am, 2pm-5pm every day).

7. Silver Pagoda
The floor is covered with silver tiles (hence its name), though most of it is protected by a red carpet.
Inside you will find the Emerald Buddha.

8. Central Market
The market was constructed in 1937 in the shape of a dome with four arms branching out into vast hallways with countless stalls of goods. Open from 7 AM til 5 PM, it is a "must see" for tourists as they sell practically anything and everything you want or need.

9. Tonle Sap
Trips on the river are a popular excursion for visitors. Local tourist boats are available for hire on the riverfront and can usually be arranged on the spot for between $10 and $20 an hour, depending on negotiations and the number of people. Arrange your food and beverage when you are negotiating your voyage.

10. Russian Market
Another shopping paradise with plenty of branded goods on sale for those with good bargaining skills. Be warned, however, that this place is not for the claustrophobic. The aisles are quite narrow, the humidity is consistently high, and it can get uncomfortably crowded.

Dave Courtright

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