26th.February, Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s busy capital, sits at the junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. It was a hub for both the Khmer Empire and French colonialists. On its walkable riverfront, lined with parks, restaurants and bars, are the ornate Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the National Museum. At the city’s heart is the massive, art deco Central Market. In the morning we started quite early for the round of palaces and temples. They are quite similar to those of Vietnam. The borders of the various countries in Indochina have kept changing over the centuries. At the height of its power the Cham empire included the whole of Thailand as well as parts of Vietnam and Laos.
There are less mopeds (still a lot) and more tuk-tuks than there were in Vietnam. For the first time I managed to get the guide to have the lunch break earlier to split the tour into more equal halves. Usually we had almost finished by the time we had a break:
- The Royal Palace is a richly ornamented palace complex built in1866, home to Cambodian kings and an example of Khmer architecture.
- The Silver Pagoda, named for its floor of silver tiles, is located on the south side of the Royal Palace. It houses many national treasures including gold and jeweled Buddha statues.
- Wat Phnom is a Buddhist temple located at the central point of Phnom Penh. It was built in 1372, and standing 27 metres above the ground, it is the tallest religious structure in the city.
- The National Museum of Cambodia is a leading repository of ancient Khmer art. The traditional Khmer art and religious artifacts are housed in a 1920s building inspired by temple architecture.
- The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in a former Khmer Rouge prison is a grim witness of the Cambodian genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979.
The hotel was fine posessing a great pool area with lots of tropical vegetation, including a philodendron with gigantic leaves growing to the top of a huge palm tree. I spent a good part of the afternoon at the pool again the same as the day before. There were lots of bats flying about as it went dark. If the weather had changed at the weekend when I traveled home it would have been a shock for me. Here it was hotter than ever, about 32 deg.