Phnom Penh: An Introduction
Phnom Penh became the capital of Cambodia in 1432 and by the mid-16th century the city had become a powerful port and trading centre before being burned to the ground by invading Thais in 1772. Nearly 200 years later, in 1975, the Khmer Rouge marched the entire population out of city into the surrounding countryside - many were never to return. The Tuol Sleng Museum and the extermination camp at Choeung Ek offer a look into Phnom Penh’s darker history, as the places where tens of thousands of Cambodians were tortured or beaten to death by the Khmer Rouge before being buried in mass graves.
Thankfully today things are a little quieter and Phnom Penh is growing in popularity with visitors who just a few years ago thought of Cambodia as something of a ‘one trick pony’. A must for all visitors to Phnom Penh is the National Museum as well as The Royal Palace whose walls also enclose the Silver Pagoda, famous for its 5,000 silver floor tiles!
Of the city’s many other pagodas Wat Phnom is the most notable, situated on the exact site where a lady named Penh built her sanctuary and founded the city.
Today the city boasts some of the best dining and entertainment options to be found anywhere in the country and the city is undeniably thriving with a new energy and prosperity, a mood that was unimaginable as recently as the 1990's. It's an exciting time to be in the capital and two or more nights is well advised.
Phnom Penh is practically unrecognisable from the city we first visited as backpackers in the 90's.