Phnom Penh - a vibrant city with a tragic past


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Asia » Cambodia » South » Phnom Penh
May 13th 2006
Published: September 10th 2006
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12th May (Fri) - We took a "deluxe" double decker bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, the capitol of Cambodia. (The bus is actually 2nd handed... The original signs and labels, written in Chinese, were still in the bus, which was probably made in Taiwan.) In Phnom Penh, after putting our luggage in the hotel, we went to explore the O Russei Market and the Central Market. We also went to a Buddhist shrine to watch a Vesak Day ceremony, and explored the area near the railway station and the Boeng Kak lake. The public infrastructure in Cambodia is rather poor, as the buildings look dilapidated and the roads are full of potholes. But nevertheless the city of Phnom Penh is bustling with energy and the streets are clogged with cars, motorcycles and bicycles. (The traffic is simply chaotic. No proper traffic lights. Random crossing and overtaking. People travelling in different directions on a single lane. You get the idea.)

13th May (Sat) - We booked a tut-tut (a motorcycle fitted with a mini carriage behind) for the whole day, and the driver brought us to the various landmarks in Phnom Penh. The royal palace and the national museum are great. The Tuol Sleng museum is a memorable and thrilling place, as it was the former prison and torture centre of the Khmer Rouge (some crazy political party like the Nazis). There is a gallery displaying photographs of those who were detained and executed in the Tuol Sleng centre. Some of those victims were only children! The Cheung Ek killing field, in the southern suburb of Phnom Penh, is even more poignant, as it was the burial ground of thousands of innocent victims killed by the Khmer Rouge.



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Central MarketCentral Market
Central Market

This art deco style building is one of the few remaining buildings built during the French colonial era. Originally built as an expositional hall, the building was later converted into a market where you can find all kinds of stuffs from jewelleries to clothes and from food to toiletries.
Central Market 2Central Market 2
Central Market 2

The interior of Central Market is for luxury items and accessories, such as watches, jewelleries, clothings, textile, etc. The exterior is for food, toiletries, utensils, tableware, stationeries, toys and other daily items.
Central Market 3Central Market 3
Central Market 3

It is surprising to find a large number of Cambodian Chineses working in Central Market. Many of the store owners can speak fluent Mandarin and Cantonese, much to the delight of my mum and me.
Vesak Day celebrationVesak Day celebration
Vesak Day celebration

Vesak Day, commemorating the birth of Buddha, is celebrated in May by all Buddhists, and it is a public holiday in many Asian countries. My mum and I had the honour to witness a Vesak Day ceremony in Phnom Penh. Cambodia, being a Buddhist country, celebrates Vesak Day with much fanfare.
Phnom Penh railway station 2Phnom Penh railway station 2
Phnom Penh railway station 2

It's amusing to find a Pepsi advertisment in Phnom Penh.
Boeng Kak LakeBoeng Kak Lake
Boeng Kak Lake

The area beside Boeng Kak Lake is a haven for hostels, guest-houses, restaurants, cafes, pubs, clubs, etc.
Boeng Kak Lake 2Boeng Kak Lake 2
Boeng Kak Lake 2

View of the lake
Boeng Kak Lake 3Boeng Kak Lake 3
Boeng Kak Lake 3

Children fishing
Boeng Kak Lake 4Boeng Kak Lake 4
Boeng Kak Lake 4

A mosque beside the lake (The open field in front of the mosque seems to be a popular spot to play soccer. I saw Westerners joining local children for soccer games.)
Independence monumentIndependence monument
Independence monument

It was built in 1958 to commemorate Cambodia's independence from France in 1953.
Cambodian police carsCambodian police cars
Cambodian police cars

The growing economy of Cambodia is reflected by these new police cars.
The confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap riversThe confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers
The confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers

Phnom Penh is located at a strategic location, at the confluence of three important rivers - Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac. The location gives Phnom Penh great historial importance and geographical advantage.
Royal PalaceRoyal Palace
Royal Palace

The palace was built in 1866 under the rule of King Norodom, when Cambodia was a French colony.


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