Info Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located on the banks of the Tonlé Sap and Mekong River, Phnom Penh has been the national capital since French colonization of Cambodia, and has grown to become the nation's center of economic and industrial activities, as well as the center of security, politics,cultural heritage, and diplomacy of Cambodia.
Once known as the "Pearl of Asia," it was considered one of the loveliest French-built cities in Indochina in the 1920s. Phnom Penh, along with Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, are significant global and domestic tourist destinations for Cambodia. Founded in 1434, the city is noted for its beautiful and historical architecture and attractions. There are a number of surviving French colonial buildings scattered along the grand boulevards.
Situated on the banks of the Tonlé Sap, Mekong and Bassac rivers, the Phnom Penh metropolitan area is home to about 2.2 million of Cambodia's population of over 14.8 million, up from about 1.9 million in 2008.
|FOUNDED :||Founded 1372
Became Capital 1865
|TIME ZONE :||Cambodia (UTC+7)|
|LANGUAGE :||Khmer (official) 95%, French, English|
|RELIGION :||Theravada Buddhist 95%, other 5%|
|AREA :||+855 (023)|
|ELEVATION :||11.89 m (39.01 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||11°33′N 104°55′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 48.80
• Female: 51.20
|ETHNIC :||Khmer 90%, Vietnamese 5%, Chinese 1%, other 4%|
|AREA CODE :||23|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||+855 (023)|
Despite being liberated from the Khmer Rouge by the Vietnamese in 1979, Phnom Penh has long remained a bit rough. Things are improving, though roads remain shabby, traffic chaotic, and electricity strained.
The city is slowly gaining high rise buildings and traffic lights. The beauty that made it a "Paris of the East" before 1970 is unfortunately well hidden, though a few French colonial buildings remain. The wide boulevards and promenades envisaged by the French have become parking spaces and market stalls: pedestrians are not in favour.
The most pleasant strolling is to be done along the park-like river front, which hosts cafés and restaurants aplenty. Standard tourist sights are few, which makes the city a place to relax, watch the street life and absorb the local colour. Phnom Penh is a worthwhile destination for those who enjoy an "edgy" experience and can brave the downsides of reckless driving, noise, dust, and perennial theft.
Touts and beggars abound. A firm but polite refusal should work. Older or disabled beggars will be happy to accept 500 riel. Bear in mind that anyone old enough to have survived the Khmer Rouge has had a tough life. Generosity here is no bad thing. Some older people may even invoke a blessing on you for your gift. Cocky young kids demanding a dollar should not be encouraged.
The weather is hot and humid, with showers in the late afternoon in the rainy season.
First recorded a century after it is said to have taken place, the legend of the founding of Phnom Penh tells of a local woman, Penh(commonly referred to as Daun Penh(Grandmother Penh/Old Lady Penh) in Khmer), living at the chaktomuk, the future Phnom Penh. It was the late 14th century and the Khmer capital was still at Angkor near Siem Reap 350 km (220 mi) to the west. Gathering firewood along the banks of the river, Lady Penh spied a floating koki tree in the river and fished it from the water. Inside the tree she found four Buddha statues and one of Vishnu (the numbers vary on different tellings.)
The discovery was taken as a divine blessing, and to some a sign that the Khmer capital was to be brought to Phnom Penh from Angkor. To house the new found sacred objects, Penh raised a small hill on the west bank of the Tonle Sap River and crowned it with a shrine, now known as Wat Phnom at the north end of central Phnom Penh. 'Phnom' is Khmer for 'hill' and Penh's hill took on the name of the founder, i.e. Phnom Duan Penh, and the area around it became known after the hill - Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh first became the capital of Cambodia after Ponhea Yat, king of the Khmer Empire, moved the capital from Angkor Thom after it was captured and destroyed by Siam a few years earlier. There is a stupa behind Wat Phnom that house the remains of Ponhea Yat and the royal family as well as the remaining Buddhist statues from the Angkorean era. In the 17th century, Japanese immigrants also settled on the outskirts of present-day Phnom Penh. A small Portuguese community survived in Phnom Penh until the 17th century, undertaking commercial and religious activity in the country.
Phnom Penh remained the royal capital for 73 years—from 1432 to 1505. It was abandoned for 360 years—from 1505 to 1865—by subsequent kings due to internal fighting between the royal pretenders. Later kings moved the capital several times and established their royal capitals at various locations in Tuol Basan (Srey Santhor),Pursat, Longvek, Lavear Em and Oudong.
It was not until 1866, under the reign of King Norodom I (1860–1904) the eldest son of King Ang Duong, who ruled on behalf of Siam, that Phnom Penh became the permanent seat of government and capital of Cambodia, and also where the current Royal Palace was built. Beginning in 1870, the French Colonialists turned a riverside village into a city where they built hotels, schools, prisons, barracks, banks, public works offices, telegraph offices, law courts, and health services buildings. In 1872, the first glimpse of a modern city took shape when the colonial administration employed the services of a French contractor Le Faucheur, to construct the first 300 concrete houses for sale and rental to the Chinese traders.
By the 1920s, Phnom Penh was known as the Pearl of Asia, and over the next four decades Phnom Penh continued to experience rapid growth with the building of railways to Sihanoukville and Pochentong International Airport (now Phnom Penh International Airport). Phnom Penh's infrastructure saw major modernisation under the rule of Sihanouk.
During the Vietnam War, Cambodia was used as a base by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong, and thousands of refugees from across the country flooded the city to escape the fighting between their own government troops, the NVA/NLF, the South Vietnamese and its allies, and the Khmer Rouge. By 1975, the population was 2-3 million, the bulk of whom were refugees from the fighting. The Khmer Rouge cut off supplies to the city for more than a year before it fell on April 17, 1975. Reports from journalists stated that the Khmer Rouge shelling "tortured the capital almost continuously," inflicting "random death and mutilation" on millions of trapped civilians. The Khmer Rouge forcibly evacuated the entire city after taking it, in what has been described as a death march: Francois Ponchaud wrote that "I shall never forget one cripple who had neither hands nor feet, writhing along the ground like a severed worm, or a weeping father carrying his ten-year old daughter wrapped in a sheet tied around his neck like a sling, or the man with his foot dangling at the end of a leg to which it was attached by nothing but skin"; John Swain recalled that the Khmer Rouge were "tipping out patients from the hospitals like garbage into the streets....In five years of war, this is the greatest caravan of human misery I have seen." All of its residents, including the wealthy and educated, were evacuated from the city and forced to do difficult labour on rural farms as "new people". Tuol Sleng High School was taken over by Pol Pot's forces and was turned into the S-21 prison camp, where people were detained and tortured. Pol Pot sought a return to an agrarian economy and therefore killed many people perceived as educated, "lazy", or political enemies. Many others starved to death as a result of failure of the agrarian society and the sale of Cambodia's rice to China in exchange for bullets and weaponry. The former high school is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, where Khmer Rouge torture devices and photos of their victims are displayed. Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields), 15 kilometers (9 mi) away, where the Khmer Rouge marched prisoners from Tuol Sleng to be murdered and buried in shallow pits, is also now a memorial to those who were killed by the regime.
The Khmer Rouge were driven out of Phnom Penh by the Vietnamese in 1979, and people began to return to the city. Vietnam is historically a state with which Cambodia has had many conflicts, therefore this liberation was and is viewed with mixed emotions by the Cambodians. A period of reconstruction began, spurred by the continuing stability of government, attracting new foreign investment and aid by countries including France, Australia, and Japan. Loans were made from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank to reinstate a clean water supply, roads and other infrastructure. The 1998 Census put Phnom Penh's population at 862,000; and the 2008 census was 1.3 million.
Phnom Penh has a tropical wet and dry climate . The climate is hot year-round with only minor variations. Temperatures typically range from 22 to 35 °C (72 to 95 °F) and weather is subject to the tropical monsoons. The southwest monsoon blows inland bringing moisture-laden winds from the Gulf of Thailand and Indian Ocean from May to October. The northeast monsoon ushers in the dry season, which lasts from November to March. The city experiences the heaviest precipitation from September to October with the driest period in January and February.
The city has two distinct seasons. The rainy season, which runs from May to October, sees high temperatures accompanied by high humidity. The dry season lasts from November to April when temperatures can drop to 22 °C (72 °F). But temperatures can approach 40 °C (104 °F) in April.
Climate data for Phnom Penh
|Record high °C (°F)||36.1
|Average high °C (°F)||31.6
|Daily mean °C (°F)||26.6
|Average low °C (°F)||21.8
|Record low °C (°F)||12.8
|Source #1: Deutscher Wetterdienst|
|Source #2: Danish Meteorological Institute (sun)|
Phnom Penh is located in the south-central region of Cambodia, and is fully surrounded by the Kandal Province. The municipality is situated on the banks of the Tonlé Sap,Mekong, and Bassac rivers. These rivers provide freshwater and other natural resources to the city. Phnom Penh and the surrounding areas consist of a typical flood plain area for Cambodia. Although Phnom Penh is situated at 11.89 metres (39 ft) above the river, monsoon season flooding is a problem and the river sometimes overflows its banks.
The city, located at (11°33' North, 104°55' East), covers an area of 678.46 square kilometres (262 sq mi), with some 11,401 hectares (28,172 acres) in the municipality and 26,106 hectares (64,509 acres) of roads. The agricultural land in the municipality amounts to 34.685 square kilometres (13 sq mi) with some 1.476 square kilometres (365 acres) under irrigation.
Phnom Penh's is Cambodia's economic centre as it accounts for a large portion of the Cambodian economy. Double-digit economic growth rates in recent years have triggered an economic boom in Phnom Penh, with new hotels, restaurants, bars, high rises and residential buildings springing up around the city.
The main economy is based on commercial interests such as garments, trading, and small and medium enterprises. In the past few years the property business has been booming, with rapidly increasing real estate prices. Tourism is also a major contributor in the capital as more shopping and commercial centres open, making Phnom Penh one of the major tourist destinations in the country along with Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism made up 17.5 percent (US$2,053 million) of Cambodia's GDP in 2009 and accounts for 13.7 percent of total employment. One of the most popular areas in Phnom Penh for tourists is Sisowath Quay, alongside the Tonle Sap River. Sisowath Quay is a 3-mile strip of road that includes restaurants, bars, and hotels. The US$2.6 billion new urban development, Camko City, is meant to bolster the city landscape. The Bureau of Urban Affairs of Phnom Penh Municipality has plans to expand and construct new infrastructure to accommodate the growing population and economy. High rise buildings will be constructed at the entrance of the city and near the lakes and riverbanks. Furthermore, new roads, canals, and a railway system will be used to connect Camko City and Phnom Penh. Other projects include:
- Grand Phnom Penh International City (under construction)
- De Castle Royal Condominium (Completed)
- International Finance Complex (Under construction)
- Gold Tower 42 (On hold 32 floors)
- OCIC Tower (Completed)
- Kokling super second floor house
- River Palace (Under construction)
- Vattanac Capital Tower (completed)
- The Peak (under construction)
With booming economic growth seen since the 1990s, new shops have opened as well as western-style malls such as Sorya Shopping Center and the new Sovanna Shopping Center. Two international franchises have also opened up in Phnom Penh.Dairy Queen has already opened up inside Phnom Penh International Airport andKentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has opened up a restaurant on Monivong Boulevardand plans to open more soon. The same company that opened up KFC in Cambodia has now obtained franchise rights to bring Pizza Hut to the country. In addition, a Swensen's ice cream restaurant has opened in Sorya Shopping Center.
The tallest skyscraper in Phnom Penh is Vattanac Capital Tower at a height of 200 metres (656 ft), dominating Phnom Penh's skyline with its neighbour skyscraper Canadia Tower (OCIC Tower). The tower was topped out in May 2012 and scheduled for completion in late 2012. Modern high rises have been constructed all around the city, not concentrated in any one particular area.
The Central market Phsar Thmei is a tourist attraction. The four wings of the yellow colored market are teeming with numerous stalls selling gold and silver jewellery, antique coins, clothing, clocks, flowers, food, fabrics and shoes. Phsar Thmei is undergoing under a major renovation, along with the creation of newer stalls.
Phnom Penh is a municipality of area 678.46 square kilometres (261.95 sq mi) with a government status equal to that of Cambodian provinces. The municipality is subdivided into twelve administrative divisions called Khans (districts) and of these twelve Khans, Dangkao, Meanchey,Porsenchey, Sen Sok and Russei Keo are considered the outskirts of the city. All Khans are under the governance of the Phnom Penh Municipality. The Khans are further subdivided into 76 Sangkats(communes), and 637 Kroms.
The municipality is governed by the Governor who acts as the top executive of the city as well as overseeing the Municipal Military Police, Municipal Police and Bureau of Urban Affairs. Below the Governor is the First Vice Governor and 5 Vice Governors. The Chief of Cabinet, who holds the same status as the Vice Governors, heads the Cabinet consisting of 8 Deputy Chiefs of Cabinet who in turn are in charge of the 27 Administrative Departments. Every khan (district) also has a head Chief.
|List of Phnom Penh Administrative Districts|
|Name of district (khan)||Number of communes (sangkat)||Number of villages (krom)||Population as of 2008|
|Chamkar Mon||12 sangkats||95 kroms||182,004|
|Doun Penh||11 sangkats||134 kroms||126,550|
|Prampir Meakkakra||8 sangkats||33 kroms||91,895|
|Tuol Kouk||10 sangkats||143 kroms||171,200|
|Dangkao||15 sangkats||143 kroms||257,724|
|Mean Chey||4 sangkats||16 kroms||327,801|
|Ruessei Kaev||6 sangkats||21 kroms||196,684|
|Sen Sok||3 sangkats||32 kroms||147,967|
|Pou Senchey||11 sangkats||158 kroms||183 826|
|Chrouy Changvar||5 sangkats||22 kroms|
|Preaek Pnov||5 sangkats||59 kroms|
|Chbar Ampov||8 sangkats||30 kroms|
Cheap SIM cards from $2 for GSM phones are available on almost any major street. A vendor should have an activated test card to be used to make sure your phone will operate on that network. Calls between mobile networks can be spotty and Skype calls from abroad to mobiles in Cambodia are sometimes dropped, so be prepared to redial frequently. SIM cards, phone credit and internet packages can be bought and activated at the airport located just after passing through customs. A great time and place to do so if you know you going to buy a local sim card in Cambodia. Its a good idea to have your phone sim unlocked before leaving home. It seems all phones sold in Cambodia are unlocked. Dual sim phones are cheaply available which are useful for travellers who want to use their home sim card and a local sim card at the same time.
Mobitel and metfone have the best coverage around the whole of Cambodia. Metfone is particularly good for their internet packages (e.g. 2.5Gb for one month for $5) and they allow hotspot tethering from you smart phone unlike Mobitel. Useful if you use a laptop a lot and want to use wifi via your hotspot enabled smart phone.
Most of the major networks, such as metfone, have kiosks at the Phnom Penh airport located just after walking through customs where you can buy a local sim card, some credit and an Internet data package. If so, check that it all appears to be operating OK before heading off, such as by loading up a web page and checking your balance.
Wi-Fi is available in most of the hotels that welcome Western tourists and backpackers. Speed and reliability is on par with neighbouring countries. There is no shortage of Internet cafés in Phnom Penh. Most are in the 1,500 riel/hour to 2,000 riel/hour bracket (~USD0.50)
Wireless and wired connections for laptops are available at a number of outlets. Most up-market hotels provide high-speed broadband access, but at a premium. A number of cafés along Sisowath Quay including the Foreign Correspondents' Club (expensive), Fresco Café (under the FCC, also expensive), K-West Café (at the Amanjaya Hotel), the Jungle Bar and Grill, and Phnom Penh Café (near Paragon Hotel), and Metro Cafe (free).
- Cybercity 8, 17 & 1, St 271 (In front of Sovanna Shopping Centre beside KFC Sovanna), , e-mail: [email protected]. 24/7. A modern Internet cafe with 3Mb fiber optic cables. Open 24 hours with promotional rates at night. USD0.50/hr.
- Galaxy Web (St 63 Near Sihanouk Boulevard). Excellent service, popular with Westerners.
- Sunny Internet, 178 St (Opposite Foreign Correspondents' Club, also Sisowath Quay, next to the Riverstreet restaurant.). Provides a faster service at USD1/hr and is popular with tourists and expats.
The main, impressive French colonial-style post office is at the intersection of St 13 and 102, roughly between Wat Phnum and the Riverside. Another branch is more downtown, at the intersection of Sihanouk and Monivong Blvd. Both offices offer full range of postal services, including PO boxes for affordable prices, and are open 7 days a week.
Postage for international postcards is 3,000 riel. Very nice picture stamps are available. Philatelists: ask for mix and match options. Letters and especially parcels to Phnom Penh's post office frequently go missing, or are not made available to recipients for up to one year.
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