"PHNOM PENH - PEARL OF ASIA" Phnom Penh by ancient_traveler

Phnom Penh Travel Guide: 1,560 reviews and 4,177 photos

The origin 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.

Daun Penh and her neighbors 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.

The Khmer Rouge

The city fell to the Khmer Rouge on April 17, 1975. The city's small class of skilled or educated professionals was systematically murdered by Pol Pot, or driven into exile.

Tuol Sleng High School was taken over by Pol Pot's forces and was turned into the S-21 prison camp, where people were detained and tortured. Many others starved to death as a result of failure of the agrarian society and the sale of Cambodia's rice to China in exchange for bullets and weaponry. The former high school is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, where Khmer Rouge torture devices and photos of their victims are displayed.

Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields), 15 kilometres away, where the Khmer Rouge marched prisoners from Tuol Sleng to be murdered and buried in shallow pits, is also now a memorial to those who were killed by the regime.

The Khmer Rouge were driven out of Phnom Penh by the Vietnamese in 1979, and people began to return to the city. Vietnam is historically a state with which Cambodia has had many conflicts, therefore this liberation was and is viewed with mixed emotions by the Cambodians.

The capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, is located at the confluence of three rivers - the Mekong, the Bassac and Tonle Sap. The city is divided into three sections - the north, an attractive residential area; the south or the French part of the city with its ministries, banks and colonial houses; and the centre or the heart with its narrow lanes, markets, foods stalls and shops.

Cambodian currency is Riel. US dollars are as commonly used as the Cambodian Riel


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  • Pros:nice people
  • Cons:bag snatchings
  • Last visit to Phnom Penh: Mar 2012
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Comments (3)

  • Updated Comment
    ancient_traveler's Profile Photo
    Mar 28, 2012 at 6:09 AM

    i watched apsara dance in Siem Riep. yes i read a brochure about Cambodian Children’s Life Association but the performance was held in the National Museum, I'm not sure its the same association with the Veiyo Tonle Restaurant's traditional or not.

    Other comments
  • akkipaa's Profile Photo
    Jan 29, 2013 at 1:53 AM

    Hi Aisa. I will be in PP next month and found your tips, thank you, those are for good to me. Siem Reap also, I come back to your pages later :) Cheers from Finland.

  • AlbuqRay's Profile Photo
    Mar 28, 2012 at 7:52 AM

    Hi, Aisa! I was just going by your Apsara tip, which I think is right. It is the same association. Their website is ncclaorphanage.org/veiyo-ton... .


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