Phnom Penh, once known as the “Pearl of Asia”, is the capital and largest city in Cambodia. It is now a cultural, commercial, and political center that offers a unique blend of traditional charm and urban bustle.
Today, Phnom Penh is a place of diverse economic and urban growth. A swift wave of development has brought in new highrise buildings--including a 30-storey business center--restaurants catering to every palate, and stylish hotels promising all levels of luxury. Contributing to this development are burgeoning culinary and nightlife scenes that can rival any other in the region.
The alluring capital city also features a wide variety of historical and cultural attractions, along with myriad opportunities to sample local Cambodian culture. Here, classic colonial facades endure alongside sleek new eateries, golden-spired pagodas, and buzzing markets-- all evidence of the dynamic energy of Phnom Penh's city streets.
Phnom Penh's famous riverfront is lined with trendy pubs, bistros, and restaurants. Stores offering beautiful Cambodian silk products and chic galleries dot the side streets. Add to this a blooming arts scene and a heady dusk-to-dawn nightlife and you'll understand why Phnom Penh has become such a well-loved and compelling tourist destination.
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 tranquility 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.
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.
Phnom Penh, like other Asian-City tourist destinations, is in the midst of rapid change. Over the past few years the number of restaurants and hotels had grown considerably and in the last year there had been a huge increase in the number of visitors. Come and see a real original as it won't be the same in a few years.
Phnom Penh History
Cambodia is the land of the Khmer, the dominated ethnic group in the area stretching from the present deep into prehistory. The Angkorian era Khmer Empire centered near Siem Reap dominated the region from the 9th-13th century AD, at its apex the Empire stretched across most of mainland Southeast Asia. But by the 15th century the Empire was in political and territorial decline and under challenge from the rising Tai kingdom of Ayudhaya in today’s Thailand. By the 14th century Ayudhaya was staging regular incursions, culminating with the sack of Angkor in 1431-32. Shortly thereafter the Khmer court of King Ponhea Yat left the Angkorian capital and established a new capital at Phnom Penh. With a very brief exception, the capital would never return to Angkor.
The choice to move the capital to Phnom Penh at the confluence of the Mekong was probably not only a strategic response to Ayudhhaya’s aggression but may have also reflected a tectonic economic shift. The 15th century was the beginning of a general rise in international commerce throughout the region and Phnom Penh was an ideal location for a trade center. The move may have reflected the country changing focus from the old Angkorian agrarian economy based in the country’s interior to a trade oriented economy based in a riverine port town. During the first Royal occupation of Phnom Penh in the mid 15th century, King Ponhea Yat set the foundations of city, establishing several Wats and laying out the town along moats/rivers which approximate the area and layout of modern central Phnom Penh. Wat Ounalom on the riverfront near the Royal Palace may even slightly pre-date King Ponhea Yat, making it the oldest known Buddhist foundation in the city.
The Original of Phnom Penh's name Long ago in 1372 A.D., there was a wealthy elderly woman named Penh living near the banks of the four river fronts. Her house was built on a plateau east of a hill. One day, heavy rains flooded the area. Daun Penh (Grandma Penh) went down to the dock and saw a koki tree floating towards the river bank. The strong fronting tides kept the koki tree floating nearby that particular river bank.
Immediately, Daun Penh called for her neighbours to help get the tree out of the river. They tied a rope to the tree and gradually pulled it out of the water. While Daun Penh was wiping the mud off of the tree, she saw four Buddha bronze statues and a stone statue of Divinity in the hole of the tree trunk. The statue of Divinity was standing and held a bat in one hand and a conch shell in the other.
Daun Penh and her neighbours were very happy to see those sacred objects and paraded them to Daun Penh’s house. She arranged to have a small hut built to temporarily house the statues.
Later, Daun Penh called on her neighbours again for help to pile up more dirt on the hill west of her house. The koki tree was then cut and fashioned to become pillars of the temple which would be built on that hill.
In 1372 A.D., Daun Penh and her neighbours all agreed to build a temple with a thatch roof on the hill. The four Buddha statues were placed in the temple, while the statue of Divinity was kept in a shrine at the east base of the mountain, for she thought that the statue was from Laos because of its appearance and name “Neakta Preah Chao” which is what is has been called ever since.
After the temple was built, Daun Penh invited monks to stay at the base of that hill. Since then, it was been called Wat Phnom Daun Penh, also presently known as Wat Phnom.