In pictures: Phnom Penh, the Paris of the East

Phnom Penh Cambodia

Discover why one of the most undeveloped capital cities in Asia is the perfect destination for a vacation with an edge. Source: Shutterstock.

LOCATED in the southern heard of Cambodia and fully surrounded by the Kandal Province, Phnom Penh sits at the junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers.

Once known as the “Paris of the East” and the “Pearl of Asia”, Phnom Penh is the vibrant capital and most populous city in the country, with a charming riverside promenade to boot.

Phnom Penh has been the national capital since French colonization of Cambodia.

In the 1920s, Phnom Penh was considered one of the loveliest French-built cities in Indochina.

Despite its dark chapters in the country’s history, it has grown to become the nation’s economic, industrial, and cultural center, and is a significant tourist destination for Cambodia.

Till this day, there are still a number of historical attractions scattered in and around the busy capital, such as its beautiful French colonial buildings.

Phnom Penh Cambodia

Source: Shutterstock.

Phnom Penh has no shortage of stunning Buddhist wats, monuments, palaces, and other artifacts, each with its own story to tell.

Majestic and gleaming in gold complete with glittering spires is its Royal Palace, one of the country’s most splendid architectural achievements and a sight to behold.

Built in 1866 by His Majesty Preah Bat Norodom, the site is believed to have great geographical significance in relation to the king.

In Cambodia, the king is regarded as a direct descendant of the gods, whose role it was to live and govern on earth under the influence of heaven.

Currently, the Royal Palace is home to His Majesty Preah Bat samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and Her Majesty Preah Reach Akka-Mohesey Norodom Monineath.

Phnom Penh Cambodia

Source: Shutterstock.

Within the Royal Palace compound is the extravagant Silver Pagoda, also known as Wat Preah Keo or Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

The pagoda was originally constructed of wood before it was rebuilt in 1962 and preserved by the Khmer Rouge to display the brilliance and richness of the Khmer civilization.

More than half of the pagoda’s contents were lost, stolen, or destroyed during the Vietnamese invasion, but visitors can still take a peek at its floor, which is covered with five tonnes of silver.

Another centuries-old sacred site that is not to be missed is Wat Phnom, which sits on a 27 meters-high hill and is the tallest religious structure in the capital.

Legend has it that the first pagoda on this site was erected in 1373 to house four statues of Buddha deposited here by the waters of the Mekong and discovered by a woman named Penh.

Phnom Penh Cambodia

Source: Shutterstock.

Phnom Penh is incomparable with the rapid development of neighboring capitals of Yangon in Myanmar and Bangkok in Thailand, but the beauty in that is it has not yet become jaded by mass tourism.

Tucked away from its high rise buildings is a charming riverside loved by both locals and tourists alike.

The walkable riverfront is lined with cafes, restaurants, and bars aplenty, where patrons can kick back and relax while watching the people and the day go by.

Standing out among Western-style shopping malls at the heart of the city is the massive dome-shaped Central Market where you can discover bargains and buys ranging from street food to authentic silver.

Take a look at why Phnom Penh, albeit one of the most undeveloped capital cities in Asia, is the perfect destination for a vacation with an edge.

For more information, head on over to the Tourism of Cambodia website.