Written by: Jaii Fredregill
Destination: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Visited: September 2017
There is much to see in Cambodia’s lively capital city Phnom Penh and those passing through with limited time can manage to see quite a lot in a single day. Many major sightseeing attractions are in the Doun Penh District. Wat Phnom, the National Museum, and Wat Ounalom are within walking distance or a short tuk tuk ride from one another.
On foot, there is something to be found at every turn amongst the tumultuous clamor of the city streets. Traffic slows to a crawl during peak hours, so be prepared for calls from tuk tuk drivers offering to cart you through the steady stream of buses, scooters, and cars. Meals are not difficult to come by, follow the enticing aromas from the countless restaurants and food carts to find fish amok, barbecue skewers, lok lak, and heavenly local coffee and donuts. Cambodian hospitality is friendly and warm so you will be well fed and cared for as you make your way around the Doun Penh District.
According to legend, Lady Phen built Wat Phnom in 1372 at the top of the only hilltop around to shelter several bronze Buddha statues she discovered floating in the Mekong River.
Upon completion of the wat, the city became known as Phnom Penh after Lady Phen and her efforts to preserve the statues. “Phnom” is Cantonese for "hill," therefore the English translation of Wat Phnom is “hill temple,” or as some have referred to it over the city’s history, "The hill of the Lady Penh."
Many statues have been added since the original construction of the temple as leaders and politics changed over the years. Reconstruction has been done to maintain the Wat, included the main temple in the 1920s. A stroll around Wat Phnom and its lovely gardens is a pleasant way to break up the day and provides some nice shaded areas to sit and take a short rest in the heat.
Located on Norodom Blvd at St 96. Open daily 6:00am – 6:00pm. Admission to Wat Phnom is USD 1 and an additional USD 2 if you would like to enter the museum. The ticket office is at the bottom of the steps. It is easy to miss due to the number of street food vendors and tuk tuks surrounding it.
A boy chases pigeons at Sisowath Quay
Walking along the Sisowath Quay promenade next to the west bank of the Tonle Sap River is an excellent way to get around and see the sites. The Royal Palace and National Museum are just one block away, and you can see them from the Quay. There are less tuk tuks and street vendors, so it is more peaceful and scenic than the busier main streets. The promenade also takes you past the many shops, hotels and eating houses along the way.
Founded in the 1400s, Wat Ounalom is the HQ for Buddhism in Cambodia. The compound is made up of forty-four structures and is home to the head of the Buddhist brotherhood.
Located on Samdech Sothearos Blvd, Central Phnom Penh. Open daily 6:00am – 6:00pm. Admission is free.
National Museum of Cambodia.
Designed by historian George Groslier, an early leader in promoting interest in Cambodian arts and crafts. The museum contains one of the most extensive collections of Khmer art in the world including items dating back to prehistoric times. Cambodian civilization once dominated the region, and this museum provides great insight into its vibrant history.
Visit the National Museum website for more information.
Located on Street 13 in central Phnom Penh, next to the Royal Palace. The visitor’s entrance to the compound and the admissions ticket booth are at the corner of Streets 13 and 178. Open daily 8:00am-5:00pm.
Admission for foreigners: Children under 10-yrs are free, ages 10-17-yrs pay USD 5. Over 17-yrs pay USD 10.
Preah Tineang Chanchhaya, more commonly known at Throne Hall of the Royal Palace.
His Majesty Preah Bat Norodom, the great-grandfather to current King Norodom Sihamoni, built the palace in 1866. The grounds consist of four main compounds. To the south stands the Silver Pagoda, to the north the Khemarin Palace, west is the private sector called the Inner Court, and in the center stands the most popular of them all, Throne Hall. Assembled in 1917 as a place to conduct official business. It is now used only for special events, such as coronations.
Located Samdach Sothearos Blvd 3. Open daily 8am -10:30am & 2-5pm. Admission is on the eastern side near the Chan Chaya Pavilion. USD 3 + USD 2 for a camera. Guides cost USD 10 per hour.
Cambodians are modest people and it is considered disrespectful to enter temples or other official buildings in clothing that does not cover your knees and shoulders. Skirts and shorts should hit past the knee and shirts and blouses should come to the elbow. Shoes are to be removed in places of worship.
Getting a visa is fastest and easiest through evisa.
A single entry visa is valid for 3-months and will be emailed to you within 3-days of your application.
USD 30 + USD 6 processing fee.
A taxi from airport to the Doun Penh District is USD 12-15.