Phnom Penh is one of the quieter capitals in Southeast Asia. There is also a lot of traffic, too, but without constant honking and crowds. All over in the city you can still feel the remnants of the colonial charm of the French. Great Boulevards, lovely parks, old mansions, fountains, monuments, and so on. We arrived at Phnom Penh from Vietnam by boat and at the pier we were looking for taxis, but there were only motorcycle rickshaws and no normal taxis. The normal Taxis are very few and exists only since 2 years.
We took our full-day sightseeing tour through Phnom Penh, just with such a vehicle. Our first stop was Wat Phnom, a 27 meter high hill with a holy shrine at its top. This hill gave the town its name and is a popular destination for pilgrims and locals.
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The main attraction here in the town is the king palace and the Silver Pagoda. This palace is not so much impressive and old like this in Bangkok but it is very nice too. It was built until the early 20th century. We did not think that all here is so worth seeing. Unfortunately, we could not take any photo of the treasures in the Silver Pagoda (floor tiles made of solid silver), but we understand this, because inside is a life-sized gold Buddha decorated with over 2,000 diamonds and precious stones.
Close by is also the National Museum located in a wonderful worth seeing building. Inside you will find a rich collection of sculptures and art objects and you get a good overview of the early Cambodian sculpture. We liked it very well, especially everything is presented in modern half-open and open spaces and so it has nothing to do with a dusty museum.
Located in the busy roundabout is one of the many historic buildings, the Independence Monument, which remember the redemption of France in 1954. Brand new, however in western concrete/glass architecture, are parts of various government buildings. We found that these seem like a foreign body in this town, but the progress can not be stopped.
Like everywhere in SE Asia, you get the best insight into the lifestyle of the locals by visiting the markets, this is one of our favourite pastimes. The main market here in Phnom Penh is the Central Market. Inside the domed building you can find jewellery, watches, clothes and things of daily use, outside is the food- and vegetable/fruit market.
A visit to the night market near the river was also a must for us. We wonder, that the people here do not sit on small stools, but on floor mats. It looked like a big picnic and the atmosphere was just great.
Who is interested on the horrible new history of Cambodia and have also good nerves should visit the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, with its Killing Fields. Here you can see the torture places of Pol Pot's regime. It is unbelievable what humans are able to do. Every of the visitors who come back from these places are churned up inside and shocked.
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