Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, has been greatly overshadowed by Siem Reap, home of the famous Angkor Wat. Never fret though, this capital city, which is around a 6 hour bus ride away from Siem Reap, has its own set of wonders (and horrors) that are lurking behind the scenes – here we take a look at them and hopefully you’ll decide to visit even for a few days.
A Royal Palace in the middle of the city
The Royal Palace is open to the public, although it remains the residence of Cambodia’s royal family. Several buildings can be visited within the vast compound, with the most notable being the Silver Pagoda. Inside the Silver Pagoda is a precious emerald Buddha, with several other gold and precious-stone encrusted Buddhas that you can see. The Silver Pagoda is a working place of worship, so you will be required to leave your shoes outside and to dress properly (with your shoulders and knees covered). Another interesting building to explore while inside the Royal Palace is the Throne Hall, a long hall with a gold throne at the end, great for photos, as the opulence is outstanding. The Royal Palace costs 6.25 USD / 25,000 KHR to enter, and does close for lunch (from 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM), so plan your schedule accordingly. Do not fall prey to the scams happening outside the palace walls: some people may tell you that the palace is closed and that they know a tuk-tuk driver to take you to alternate places. Just keep walking and check the entrance yourself.
Horror: The Killing Fields
In the late 1970s, a Cambodian leader named Pol Pot ruled over the country with views of a totalitarian dictatorship. Under his rule, all the intellectuals, the rich, and the city folk had to move to the countryside in order to farm or work on forced projects, or they were executed. And thus came the genocide that happened in Cambodia: the Cambodian people were killed by their own in large killing fields, just a few minutes outside of Phnom Penh. Loud music and propaganda was being played to mask the screams of the people being executed or tortured within the killing fields. The government controlled the media, so none of these events were being made known to the outside world. Now, the Killing Fields is open to the public to educate them about the genocide, and volunteers and staff members are still finding remnants within the fields: pieces of clothing, bullets, and bones. The Killing Fields also has many mass graves, so stay on the path and listen to the audio guide; it’s definitely very informative. If you visit, come with an open mind and be prepared for the horrors you will see. This is definitely not your typical tourist spot.
A look back at the past: Robam Tep Apsara Dances & artifacts
While in Cambodia, you definitely have to see a Robam Tep Apsara dance. The National Museum of Phnom Penh hosts dances from November until March from Mondays through Saturdays at 7 PM. Dances costs 15 USD per person for a show that runs from an hour to an hour and a half. In the mornings, the National Museum is a great place to visit to see various treasures and historical artifacts of Cambodia.
Forgive, but never forget
Whenever we visit a new country, we must always try to learn more about their culture and their history. Sometimes, the history we may learn of can be a bit dark, so we must keep an open heart and mind, and learn from the mistakes of the past. We should keep looking forward, and try to see the beauty in everyday life, and be grateful for what we have now. Cambodia is certainly an interesting place to visit, and is a definite must-see.
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