Phnom Penh


Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Security Prison 21)

Cambodia in the 1970s was like a nightmare for Cambodians. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge seized Phnom Penh and established the notorious Democratic Kampuchea, superficially fighting for democracy but actually for totalitarianism. During 1975 and 1979, To maintain its ideology and power, Democratic Kampuchea killed intellectuals and people in connection with foreign powers under a massacre. Urbanites went into exile. Many who were recognised as threatening the regime were all sent to a detention camp called Security Prison 21 (S-21) for trial. Of the tens of thousands of people detained, only seven survived as the Vietnamese army invaded Phnom Penh. 

Security Prison 21 (S-21) or Tuol Sleng, which was once a secondary school, was unfortunately transformed into a detention camp by the Khmer Rouge. While classrooms were used as cells and torture chambers, the playground became an execution fields where many Cambodians were killed.

In this museum, which was formerly a prison, you can see a lot of torture or execution devices made out of ordinary furniture. You will also see many mugshots of the prisoners whose faces only showed hopelessness. The only things that they left are some daily necessities and skulls. There are also some paintings by a surviving painter, depicting all the terror and cruelty he witnessed. All these paintings remind people of the brutality of totalitarian rule and the preciousness of freedom. 

Choeung Ek Killing Fields

Located 15km away from Security Prison 21, Choeung Ek is a former orchard used as one of the numerous killing fields of the Khmer Rouge for collective execution. It witnessed way too many executions, including those of the tried and tortured prisoners in S-21. 

The stupa in the centre might seem plain and simple, but it actually houses 5,000 human skulls. Many of the skulls are filled with holes, mainly because of gunshots or being smashed using hoes. Walk further along the pathway while listening to the guide who tells you about the cruel history, you will see some massive pits from which more than 8,000 bodies were exhumed. They show how ruthless the dictator was.All the remains there seem to be the innocent victims’ most desperate accusation to the cruel dictator. 

Statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Independence Monument

In Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk is known as not only an ordinary king, but also the one who made Cambodia thrive by directly contributing to its peace and modernisation. He achieved the independence of Cambodia twice, first from France and second from Vietnam. He was also the one who brought the war between Cambodia and Vietnam to an end. After he regained his power as the king, he successfully helped Cambodia recover from ruins to a revitalised country. Even today, many Cambodians still pay much respect to this former prime minister and king, who had maintained a friendly relationship with different countries, including China.

In memory of Norodom Sihanouk’s contributions to the country, the Statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Independence Monument were erected in the city centre of Phnom Penh. While the Independence Monument is in the style of a classic Khmer architecture, the Statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk is a statue housed under a gold stupa. Both located by the Mekong riverside, the two monuments are adjacent to each other. They have beenwitnessing the rapid development of Cambodia since its independence and protecting Cambodians across generations.  

Central Market

For ordinary families, markets are their centre of lives, where different daily necessities and food can be found. Therefore, markets are the best place for tourists to observe the locals’ daily lives. 

The Central Market is a traditional market built in a French style of Art Deco. The market is built, layer by layer, in the shape of a cylinder with a unique dome. From the exterior, the windows of the dome may seem small and narrow. They, however, have been well-blended into the design of the dome, admitting abundant natural light for the market. Also, there are lamp posts and a clock tower all in French style. The deliberate “mismatch” between a traditional Cambodian market and a French design will certainly amaze you.

Royal Palace

Cambodia is known as a Buddhist kingdom. Its capital, Phnom Penh, has a resplendent palace just like Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, does. Similar to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the Royal Palace is also famous for its gold spires and stupas. But it is special by having a slight French touch. During the colonial rule of France, Napoleon Pavilion was gifted to Cambodia, thus adding some French elements to the palace.

The Royal Palace serves as the royal residence of the King of Cambodia. Therefore, entry to some areas is prohibited while most parts of the complex are open to the public. The most special things about the palace are the gold Throne Hall used for coronations, and the Silver Pagoda which features a royal temple. The two buildings and their exquisite cloisters will definitely fascinate you. Just walk around the Royal Palace and you will know how royal life is like.