Phnom Penh



A mixture of Asian exotica, the famous Cambodian hospitality awaits visitors to the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Situated at the confluence of three great rivers, the 'four arms' of the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac, form right in front of the Royal Palace. Phnom Penh is the commercial, political and cultural hub of the Kingdom and is home to over one million of the country's estimated 11.4 million people. It is also the gateway to an exotic land...the world heritage site, the largest religious complex in the world, the temples of Angkor in the west, the beaches of the southern coast and the ethnic minorities of the northeastern provinces.


The fortified city of Angkor Thom, some 10sq km in extent, was built by Angkor's greatest King, Jayavarman VII (ruled 1181-1201). Centered on Baphuon, Angkor Thom is enclosed by a square wall 8m high and 12km in length and encircled by moat 100m wide, said to have been inhabited by fierce crocodiles. The city has five monumental gates, one each in the north, west and south walls and two in the east wall. In front of each gate stand giant statues of 54 gods (to the left of the causeway) and 54 demons (to the right of the causeway), a motif taken from the story of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk illustrated in the famous bas-relief at Angkor Wat. In the center of the walled enclosure are the city's most important monuments, including the Bayon, the Baphuon, the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas and the Terrace of Elephants.


The National Museum offers very interesting exhibits of more than 5,000 artifacts, including an eight armed statue of Vishnu (from 6th or 7th century), a statue of Shiva (9th century), and a statue of Buddha dating from pre-Angkor period. Visitors can also see a statue of King Jayavarman VII (1181 to after 1201), who reconstructed the capital and Angkor Thom that was pillaged by Cham warriors in 1177. Jayavarman VII is the king credited with establishing a network of roads in Cambodia, using innovative building techniques to raise them above the level of swamp and building sophisticated bridges. Also on display are pottery and bronze pieces dating back to the periods of Funan and Chenla (4th to 9th centuries). A massive population of bats estimated to number more than one million, flies out from the museum's attic and circles the capital city of Phnom Penh before sunset and constitutes a spectacular sight for tourists. While Museum authorities want artifacts protected from bat droppings, wildlife advocates want these bats protected as well.