Cambodia’s Royal Palace, located along Sothearos Boulevard, was built in 1866, during the reign of King Norodom Point of interest inside the palace include:
Prasat Tevea Vinichhay (the Throne Hall): The hall where Kings and Queens are crowned.
Prasat Khemarin: The hall where the monarchs ride the Royal Elephant.
Hor Baku or Hor Preah Khan: The hall where the throne objects and accessories are kept.
Chan Chhaya: The hall where Royal Dance performers train. In front of the Chan Chhaya, there is a platform where the King can hold audiences with his subjects and all levels of officials.
Wat Preah Keo Morakot (The Silver Pagoda)
Wat Preah Keo Morakot is located in the southern portion of the Royal Palace complex. The pagoda was formerly known as Wat Uborsoth Rotanaram because it is where the King worshiped, prayed and practiced every Buddhist Silas Day. In addition, the royal family and officials also held Buddhist ceremonies there.
This pagoda has no monks. However, his Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk lived there for one year when he enter the monk-hood on July 31, 1947. Because the pagoda has no monks, visitors usually refer to is as Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot. When the King celebrates Buddhist ceremonies, monks from other pagodas such as Wat Unaioam and Wat Botumvattey are invited to attend the ceremonies.
Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot was built between 1892 and 1902, during the reign of King Norodom, but at that time it was constructed of wood and brick. Its design is based on Cambodian architectural style. The Banhchos Khan Seima ceremony was held on Feb 5, 1903.
The temple was later damaged and Queen Kosamak Nearyrath asked that it be repaired. Under the direction of her son Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, who at that time was the head of state, the old temple was dismantled and reconstructed in 1962 on the same site with reinforced concrete. The floor was laid with silver tiles, and the columns were covered with glass stone imported from Italy. The architecture, however, remained the same.
This temple is called Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot because the main Buddha statue is made of priceless emerald, which Cambodians call Keo Morakot. Westerners, however, prefer to call the temple the Silver Pagoda because of the 5,329 genuine silver tiles that cover the floor.
There are 1,650 art objects housed in this temple, Most of them are Buddha figures. They are made of gold, silver, bronze and other valuable materials. Some are decorated with diamonds. They are gifts from the King, the royal family, dignitaries and other people who worship at Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot, where they pray for peace and prosperity, for happiness and for the preservation of Cambodian cultural heritage for the next generation.
In front of the throne, sits a Buddha statue made of gold, weighing 90 kilograms (about 200 pounds) and decorated with 2,086 diamonds. The biggest diamond is on the crown, It is 25 millimeters. This statue was commissioned in 1904 by King Sisowath, following the suggestion of King Norodom. King Norodom said, after his body was cremated the gold casket should be melted to make a Buddha statue representing Preah Srei Araymetrey. This Buddha statue is named Preah Chin Raingsei Rachik Norodom.
Objects of particular interest in the Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot include:
The Preah Keo Morakot, the Emerald Buddha, which sits atop a throne in the center of the temple.
There is a small glass cabinet that contains what Buddhists believe are ashes of the Buddha. The ashes were brought from Sri Lanka in 1956 by Samdech Head Monk Lvea Em, who stayed in Wat Lanka in Phnom Penh.
In a nearby cabinet a gold Buddha figure offered by Queen Kosamak Nearyrath, mother of King Norodom Sihanouk, in 1969. This Buddha figure is protected by naga. It represents when the Buddha stayed at the Muchalonti Pond.
Objects in other cabinets are the keepsakes and decorated objects for royal and Buddhist ceremonies.
The temple is surrounded by a lofty gallery. On the wall of the gallery, there are traditional paintings of the entire Ream Ke epic. These paintings were done by 40 Cambodian artists between 1903 and 1904 under the direction of Oknha Tep Nimit. The Ream Ke painting is 642 meters long and 3 meters high. It starts from the south of the eastern gallery and winds its way around the gallery. This means that visitors must walk in a circle to see the entire story.
The ancient epic Ream Ke along the gallery shows a unique scene not copied completely from Indian Ramayana. Because some plots of Cambodian Ream Ke are so mysterious, visitors must look at the painting carefully. Visitors who are familiar with Indian Ramayana will understand the Cambodian Ream Ke easily, even though the two versions are different. Some themes are also depicted by La Khon Khaol or depicted in Sbek Thom and other sculpted figures. Astrologers also use the story to tell fortunes.
Weather, structural damage and destruction by visitors over the year have caused the painting to deteriorate. In 1985, the Cambodian government was cooperating with the government of Poland to restore, protect and maintain the paintings. The venture lasted only five years, however, because the budget was terminated. Today the Cambodian government is looking for ways to conserve, restore and maintain this cultural heritage.
Monks from Phnom Penh and other provinces once studied the Pali language in classes that were held along the gallery before the Pali school was opened in Phnom Penh on Dec 16, 1930.
In front of Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot, are two stupas and a statue under the roof. The south stupa holds the cremains of King Ang Duong, the great-great grandfather of King Sihanouk. The north stupa holds the cremains of King Norodom, the great grandfather of King Sihanouk. Both stupas were dedicated on March 13, 1908.
The statue of King Norodom riding a horse was erected in 1875. It was the keepsake of the French King Napoleon III. It was kept in front of Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot in 1892, but at that time there was no roof. During King Sihanouk’s crusade to win independence from France, he prayed in front of the statue. After Cambodia won its independence on Nov 11, 1953, King Sihanouk had the roof built in honor of King Norodom.
South of Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot beside Thamma Hall, a place for praying, and the stupa of King Sihanouk’s father, King Norodom Soramrith, which was built in 1960, visitors will find:
Keung Preah Bat
Keung Preah Bat houses the footprints of the four Buddhas who have already reached enlightenment. Those Buddhas are Kok Santhor, Neak Komonor, Kasabor and Samonakodom. In addition to the four Buddhas who have reached enlightenment, there is one Buddha, Preah Srei Araymetrey, whom Buddhists believe has not yet been born. They believe that he will come 5,000 years after the fourth Buddha reached Nirvana. Buddhists believe that Preah Srei Araymetrey will come and help the people.
Phnom Khan Malineati Borapat Kailasha
Phnom Khan Malineati Borapat Kailasha or Phnom Mondul is the man-made hill that represents Phnom Kailasha, where the Buddha left his footprints on the stone. On the Phnom Mondul, there is a statue of the Buddha and 108 small figures describing the 108 blessings of life before the Buddha reaches enlightenment.
Kunthabopha stupa was built in 1960 as the resting place for the ashes of Princess Norodom Kunthabopha, the daughter of King Norodom Sihanouk. She was 4 years old when she died of dengue fever. The stupa’s design is based on the ancient Banteay Srei temple in Siem Reap.
West of Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot is a bell hall. The bell is used in various ceremonies and to mark the opening and closing of the Silver Pagoda. In the past, the bell was also used to call the monks who studied Pali in the palace. To the north, is a building that houses Tipitaka, the fundamental scriptural canon of Buddhism.
The Sutta Pitaka, a collection of discourses, is primarily composed of dialogues between the Buddha and other people. It consists of five groups of texts: Digha Nikaya (collection of long discourses), Majjhama Nikaya (collection of medium length discourses), Samyutta Nikaya (collection of discourses on numbered topics), and Khuddaka Nikaya (collection of miscellaneous texts). In the fifth group, the Jatakas, comprising stories of former lives of the Buddha, and the Dhammapada (religious sentences), a summary of the Buddha’s teachings on mental discipline and morality, are especially popular.
The Vinaya Pitaka, the code of monastic discipline, consists of more than 225 rules governing the conduct of Buddhist monks and nuns. Each is accompanies by a story explaining the original reason for the rule. The rules are arranged according to the seriousness of the offense resulting from their violation.
The Abhidharma Pitaka contains philosophical, psychological, and doctrinal discussions and classifications. It consists of seven separate works. They include detailed classifications of psychological phenomena, metaphysical analysis, and a thesaurus of technical vocabulary.
The building also houses a Shiva’s mount Nandi. This figure was found buried in Koh Thom district in Kandal province in 1983. It is estimated to be 80 percent silver and 20 percent bronze, copper, lead, iron and zinc.
The National Museum of Phnom Penh is instantly recognizable, with its warm red terracotta and its gracefully curved roof topped by dozens of guardian nagas. Located just north of the Royal Palace, off the street of Artists (178 Streets), it was designed in 1917 by famed French architect George Groslier and the Ecole des Arts Cambodgiens, who made the most of traditional Khmer style. It was inaugurated by King Sisowath in 1920.
Worth visiting for its beauty alone, the National Museum also houses the world’s foremost collection of ancient Khmer archaeological, religious and artistic artifacts. The Angkor era is the museum’s specialty, but it also features other important periods such as the Funan AND Zhenla, the two empires most closely seen as precursors to Angkor. More than 5,000 objects dating from the 4th to the 13th centuries are on display. And these are only the tip of the iceberg Lack of funding and special restraints have meant the museum’s vaults remain full of thousands more objects, many of them priceless.
The museum is open daily from 8 am to 11:30 am and from 2:30 pm to 5 pm. French and English spoken guides are available, or visitors can purchase one of the books or pamphlets available and wander the four courtyards, each facing out into a garden, and try to piece together the complex history through these magnificent works of ancient art themselves.
Among the most memorable of these is an eight-armed-statue of Vishnu dating from the 6th century, but even the smaller, less imposing pieces gives a unique insight in to the skills of the craftspeople that had inhabited this area through the centuries.
Located a short distance from the Royal Palace, the heart of the capital Wat Phnom is popular with Cambodians and tourists alike. It is the center of Phnom Penh that gives the city its name. At 27 meters above sea level, it is the highest point in the area, and, as a town gradually grew up around it, the settlement became known as Phnom Penh, the hill of Penh. It is zero point of the city.
Legend has it that a wealthy widow named Yeay Penh was walking by the Mekong River one day when she spied a koki tree log floating near the bank. She found some locals to help her pull it to shore, and inside she found four statues of the Buddha. In AD 1372, she built a hill, or Phnom, and placed a shrine on top to house the precious artifacts. In AD 1434, King Ponhea Yat came and constructed a city and gave the name Phnom Penh.
Today, the original shrine has been rebuilt many times – in AD 1434, 1806, 1894 and 1926 – and each incarnation has seemed more beautiful than the one before.
On the hill there is a large stupa that holds the cremains of there is a Buddha statue from the Angkorean era, from the 9th and 13th centuries. At the base of the hill, on the southern side, a huge clock, illuminated at night, has become one of Phnom Penh’s nighttime landmarks. To the north, at the beginning of French Street, purveying fine wine with French and Italian cuisines.
The climb up the hill via the grand eastern staircase takes visitors on a path guarded by stone nagas and lions and through tree-lined lushness to the temple, which glitters with golden decorations and is always piled high with offerings. On weekends especially, locals flock here to pray for good luck and prosperity, returning when their wish is granted to bring offerings of thanks such as bananas or fragrant rings of orange blossoms.
Plenty of hawkers sell offerings for the gods of the hill. People with wire cages filled with small birds offer tourists and locals alike the chance to pay a small birds offer tourists and locals alike the chance to pay a small sum to set a pair of their charges free, and thus earn merit from the gods. Children selling lotus flowers and incense may follow visitors up the hall asking their name and where their come from.
During the Khmer New Year, Wat Phnom becomes the center of festivities. No one visiting at that vibrant time of year can escape the good-natured throwing of powder and water, all of it accompanied by shrikes of laughter, that mark new year’s celebration.
Wat Unaloam, located near the Royal Place, is an ideal monastery for tourists to learn about Cambodia’s Buddhism. This pagoda serves as the headquarters for one of Cambodia’s most revered Buddhist patriarchs. In addition to the pagoda, there is a post-Angkorean stupa at this monastery.
A stroll or cyclo ride along the park lined riverfront is a must – pubs, restaurants, shops and tourist boats line the way. Chhroy Changva park is another newly attraction at the other side of the river opposite the Royal Palace. The view of the confluence of the Mekong and the Tonle Sap is geographically unique. Early risers, check out the spectacular sunrise over the river in front of the Royal Palace.
In addition to the main tourist attractions above, Phnom Penh offers a number of other cultural sites and places to relax. They include Chatomuk Hall, south of the Royal Palace and along the riverfront, where dancers perform traditional Cambodian dance. Independence Monument, near downtown, is the site of many ceremonial events. It adjoins a long mall Hun Sen Park, near the Naga Casino Resort Complex. There are also numerous popular bars and nightclubs for visitors looking for something to do after dark.
Center Market (Psar Thom Thmei)
The distinctive art-deco styling of the Center Market makes it stand out among the architecture of Phnom Penh. The Center Market was built in 1937. Today, most visitors to Phnom Penh tour this market, where they can shop for souvenirs. Clothes, jewelry, silver products, house wares, postcards, flowers, and electronic good are in abundance in fact just about anything visitors could wish for.
Russian Market (Psar Tuol Tom Poung)
So-named because of the prevalence of items from the Eastern Bloc in past times, the Russians Market today is a treasure trove for tourists. Particularly items worth seeking out include CDs, fabrics, jewelry, carved handicrafts and ceramics. There are also a large number of clothing outlets and on site tailors and seamstresses can make alteration quickly. The food and drinks stalls are a good place to take a refreshment break between the bargaining.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum is the former Tuol Sleng High School. In 1975, during the Khmer Rouge regime, the school was used as a prison and torture center, known at the time as S-21. Thousands of Cambodians and a number of foreigners were housed and tortured there until they were executed. Today the site is a museum, where visitors can walk among some of the cells and look at the photos of hundreds of people who died there. There are also painting, painted by artist Vann Vath, a former prisoner that depict the torture of prisoners.
Choeung Ek Genocide Site
In addition to Tuol Sleng, there is another place where Khmer Rouge killed people. That place is in Wat Chheung Ek, in Chheung Ek commune, Khan Donkaor, about 15 kilometers from the center of Phnom Penh. Visitors to the Killing Fields of Chheung Ek can walk among 86 mass graves where hundreds of men women and children were buried. Nearby is a massive stupa that holds skulls and bones unearthed at the site, as well pieces of clothing, According to statistics, 8985 corpses were unearthed from the mass graves in Chheung Ek area.