I know Phnom Pehn is not at the top of everybody’s sightseeing list but I think it is an absolute must see for its history and even its culture.
Phnom Pehn is a chaotic, dirty city filled with people who try to swindle you out of your money if you dont know how to barter, se be careful. Getting a motorbike taxi or a tuc-tuc is the easiest way around the city. Just be sure to negotiate a price beforehand otherwise you will be charged a ridiculously high price at the end of the trip.
My mom and I got into a tuc-tuc with our luggage and asked him to head to the main area where we were going to book into a hotel. First our tuc-tuc driver drove us down a very dodgy alley where he wanted us to check into his friend’s hotel and then refused to take us to where we wanted to go to in the first place. After some shouting he took us, very reluctantly, to the tourist area where we searched for a hotel, as we did not book anything in advance. It was relatively easy to find a place to stay in along the riverfront as the area is filled with hotels, little bars and restaurants.
As we walked along the riverfront to Wat Phnom, a Buddhist temple, constructed in 1373 the heat started to get to me a bit. If you want to go into a temple or shrine you have to be dressed a bit conservatively with knees and shoulders covered, which is not always the easiest thing to do in the heat.
Along the way we passed some of the most dilapidated apartment blocks that I have ever seen. I could not believe that the buildings were still standing, let alone still housing people.
Wat Phnom is the tallest temple and religious site in Phnom Pehn and its name translates as “Pagoda Mountain. ” The Royal Palace with the Silver Pagoda is the first thing you see when you walk into the temple grounds.
The complex is divided by walls into three main compounds, the Silver Pagoda , the Khemarin Palace and a central compound containing the Throne Hall.
The Throne Hall, its real name meaning the “Sacred Seat of Judgement” was the first structure we entered. It is still in use today as a place for religious and royal ceremonies as well as a meeting place for guests of the King. Inside the Throne Hall is a royal throne and busts of Cambodian kings of the past…unfortunately I couldnt take any pictures as my camera’s flash was giving a little trouble. The beautiful ceiling frescoes of the Reamker is definitely worth taking a couple of pictures of and I got some lovely photos of the wall frescos.
The whole place is filled with rows and rows of little Buddha’s and lotus flowers everywhere. The most magnificent temple though is the Silver Pagoda. Its main building houses many national treasures such as gold and jeweled Buddha statues. You will most definitely notice a small 17th century baccarat crystal Buddha (the “Emerald Buddha” of Cambodia) and can not possibly miss the near-life-size, Maitreya Buddha encrusted with 9,584 diamonds and dressed in royal regalia. During King Sihanouk’s pre-Khmer Rouge reign, the Silver Pagoda was inlaid with more than 5,000 silver tiles and some of its outer facade was remodeled with Italian marble. The silver floor is now covered with a red carpet but you can still see an exposed part of the silver stunning silver floor.
Our last stop was the Khemarin Palace which is used as residence by the King of Cambodia. This compound is separated from other buildings by a small wall and is located to the right of the Throne Hall. The main building is topped with a single spired prang but not even closely as magnificent as the silver pagoda.