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  Royal Palace

The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh was constructed over a century ago to serve as the residence of the King of Cambodia, his family and foreign dignitaries, as a venue for the performance of court ceremony and ritual and as a symbol of the Kingdom. It serves to this day as the Cambodian home of King Norodom Sihamoni and former King Norodom Sihanouk. The Royal Palace complex and attached 'Silver Pagoda' compound consist of several buildings, structures and gardens all located within 500x800 meter walled grounds overlooking a riverfront park. Marking the approach to the Palace, the high sculpted wall and golden spired Chanchhaya Pavilion stand distinctively against the riverfront skyline. Inside the Palace grounds, street sounds are silenced by the high walls and the various Royal buildings sit like ornate islands rising from the tranquil, manicured tropical gardens. Except for the area of the actual Royal residence, the Khemarin Palace, most of the Palace grounds and Silver Pagoda are open to the public. Enter from the gate on Sothearos Blvd about 100 meters north of Street 240. Guide pamphlets and tour guides are available near the admission booth. Guided tours are recommended. Multi-lingual tour guides available. Admission: $3.00/person, $2.00/camera, $5.00/video camera. Open every day, 7:30-11:00 / 2:00-5:00. The Palace grounds are closed during official functions.

History of the Royal Palace

he establishment of the Royal Palace  at Phnom Penh in 1866 is a comparatively recent event in the  history of the Khmer and Cambodia. The seat of Khmer power in the region rested at or near Angkor north of the Great Tonle Sap Lake from 802 AD until the early 15th century. After the Khmer court moved from Angkor in the 15th century, it first settled in Phnom Penh in 1434 (or 1446) and stayed for some decades, but by 1494 had moved on to Basan, and later Lovek and then Oudong. The capital did not return to Phnom Penh until the 19th century and there is no record or remnants of any Royal Palace in Phnom Penh 

prior to tprior to he 19th century. In 1813, King Ang Chan (1796-1834) constructed Banteay Kev (the 'Cristal Citadel') on the site of the current Royal Palace and stayed there very briefly before moving to Oudong. Banteay Kev was burned in 1834 when the retreating Siamese army razed Phnom Penh. It was not until after the implementation of the French Protectorate in Cambodia in 1863 that the capital was moved from Oudong to Phnom Penh, and the current Royal Palace was founded and constructed.

At the time that King Norodom (1860-1904) signed the Treaty of Protection wth France in 1863, the capital of Cambodia resided at Oudong, about 45 kilometers northeast of Phnom Penh. Earlier in 1863 a temporary wooden Palace was constructed a bit north of the current Palace site in Phnom Penh. The first Royal Palace to be built at the present location was designed by architect Neak Okhna Tepnimith Mak and constructed by the French Protectorate in 1866. That same year, King Norodom moved the Royal court from Oudong to the new Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and the city became the official capital of Cambodia the following year. Over the next decade several buildings and houses were added, many of which have since been demolished and replaced, including an early Chanchhaya Pavilion and Throne Hall (1870). The Royal court was installed permanently at the new Royal Palace in 1871 and the walls surrounding the grounds were raised in 1873. Many of the buildings of the Royal Palace, particularly of this period, were constructed using traditional Khmer architectural and artistic style but also incorporating significant European features and design as well. One of the most unique surviving structures from this period is the Napoleon Pavilion which was a gift from France in 1876. King Sisowath (1904-1927) made several major contributions to the current Royal Palace, adding the Phochani Hall in 1907 (inaugurated in 1912), and from 1913-1919 demolishing several old buildings, and replacing and expanding the old Chanchhaya Pavilion and the Throne Hall with the current structures. These buildings employ traditional Khmer artistic style and Angkorian inspired design, particularly in the Throne Hall, though some European elements remain. The next major construction came in the 1930s under King Monivong with the addition of the Royal Chapel, Vihear Suor (1930), and the demolition and replacement of the old Royal residence with the Khemarin Palace (1931), which serves as the Royal residence to this day. The only other significant additions since have been the 1956 addition of the Villa Kantha Bopha to accommodate foreign guests and the 1953 construction of the Damnak Chan originally installed to house the High Council of the Throne. From the time of the coup in 1970 when Cambodia became a republic, through the Khmer Rouge regime (Democratic Kampuchea 1975-1979) and the communist regime of the 80s, until 1993 when the Monarchy was restored, the Royal Palace alternately served as a museum and was closed. During the Khmer Rouge regime, former King Sihanouk and his family resided and were ultimately held as prisoners in the Palace. In the mid-90s, many of the Palace buildings were restored and refurbished, some with international assistance.

The 'Silver Pagoda’ 

within the same larger walled compound. The Silver Pagoda's proper name is Wat Preah Keo Morokat, which means The Temple of the Emerald Buddha,' but has received the common moniker 'Silver Pagoda' after the solid silver floor tiles that adorn the temple building. The pagoda compound as a whole contains several structures and gardens, the primary building being the temple Wat Preah Keo Morokat and other structures  including a library, various stupas, shrines, monuments, minor buildings and the galleries of the Reamker. Wat Preah Keo Morokat is unique in several ways. It is the pagoda where the King meets with monks to listen to their sermons and where some Royal ceremonies are performed. It houses a collection of priceless Buddhist and historical objects including the 'Emerald Buddha.' And, unlike most pagodas, no monks live at the pagoda. The temple building, library and Reamker galleries were first constructed between 1892 and 1902 under King Norodom. The equestrian statue of King Norodom was set in place in 1892. Other structures such as the stupas of King Ang Doung Stupa King Norodom (1908), the Kantha Bopha memorial sanctuary (1960) and others were added later. The temple received major reconstruction in 1962 and further renovations 1985-1987, particularly to the Reamker fresco murals. Many of the temple treasures were looted during by the Khmer Rouge 1975-1979, but fortunately the Khmer Rouge chose to keep much of the collection intact for propaganda purposes.

Independence Monument

(At the intersection of Norodom and  Sihanouk) The Independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach) was inaugurated in November 9, 1962, celebrating Cambodia’s independence from foreign rule. Renowned Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann was the architect of the monument which is patterned on a lotus flower bud, adorned with Naga heads (multi-headed cobras,) and obviously reminiscent in design of the towers of Angkor Wat. The Independence Monument now also serves as a monument to Cambodia’s war dead as well as her independence. The Independence Monument sit in the center of the traffic circle at the intersection of Norodom Blvd. and Sihanouk Blvd. and is the site of colorful celebrations and services on political holidays such as Independence Day (January 7) and Constitution Day (September 24.)

National Museum

National Museum (Street 178 & Street 13, next to the Royal Palace - $3.00 - 8:00-5:00, open every day)  The distinctive rust-red National Museum next to the Royal Palace was dedicated by King Sisowath in 1920. Over 5000 objects are on display including Angkorian era statues, lingas and other artifacts, most notably the legendary statue of the ‘Leper King.’ Though the emphasis is on Angkorian artifacts, there is also a good collection of pieces from later periods, including a special exhibition of post-Angkorian Buddha figures. Visiting the museum after rather than before a trip to the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap helps lend context to the Angkorian artifacts. Multi-lingual tour guides are available. Souvenirs and books available. Photography is limited. The museum borders Street 178, aka ‘Artist’s Street’ which is lined with local art galleries and souvenir shops. The Reyum Gallery on Street 178 is of particular note, exhibiting the works of contemporary Cambodian artists.

Royal Palace and ‘Silver Pagoda’

(Sothearos between Streets 240 & 184 - $3.00/person, $2.00/camera, $5.00/video cam.  Open every day, 7:30-11:00 / 2:30-5:00) Marking the approach to the Royal Palace along Sothearos Blvd the high yellow crenellated wall and spired Chanchhaya Pavilion stand distinctively against the riverfront skyline. Inside the Palace grounds street sounds are silenced by the high walls and the royal buildings sit like ornate islands rising from the manicured gardens. The Royal Palace serves as the residence of the King, a venue for court ceremony and as a symbol of the Kingdom. It was first established at its present location when the capital was moved from Oudong to Phnom Penh in 1866 under King Norodom and the French protectorate, though the Palace did not attain its current general form until about 1920. Khmer and European elements as well as distinct architectural echoes of the palace in Bangkok are present in the design of the various buildings. Attached to the Palace compound, Wat Preah Keo Morokat (the 'Silver Pagoda') is unique amongst pagodas. So named for its silver tiled floor, it is where the King meets with monks, Royal ceremonies are performed and it houses a collection of priceless Buddhist and historical objects including the 'Emerald Buddha.' And, unlike most pagodas, no monks live at the pagoda. The temple building, library and galleries were first constructed between 1892 and 1902. 

Wat Phnom

(Intersection of Street 96 and Norodom Blvd. - $1/person) A small hill crowned by an active wat (pagoda) marks the legendary founding place of the Phnom Penh. The hill is the site of constant activity, with a steady stream of the faithful trekking to the vihear, shrines and fortune tellers on top and a constellation of vendors, visitors and motodups at the bottom. Elephant rides available. The legend of the founding of Wat Phnom is tied to the beginnings of Phnom Penh. Legend has it that in 1372 Lady Penh (Yea Penh) fished a floating Koki tree out of the river. Inside the tree were four Buddha statues. She built a hill (‘phnom’ means ‘hill’) and a small temple (wat) at what is now the site known as Wat Phnom. Later, the surrounding area became known after the hill (Phnom) and its creator (Penh), hence the name of the city ‘Phnom Penh.’ The current temple was last rebuilt in 1926. The large stupa contains the remains of King Ponhea Yat (1405-1467) who moved the Khmer capital from Angkor to Phnom Penh the early 15th century. Look for the altar of Lady Penh between the large stupa and the vihear. She is said to be of particular help to women.

River Cruises

Short river cruises and sunset cruises along the Phnom Penh riverfront are easy to arrange and offer an interesting view of the city. A tour cruise typically takes about 1 - 2 hours and runs up the Tonle Sap River along the central riverfront area providing a picturesque view of the Royal Palace, National Museum, parks and Phnom Penh skyline, and then across the 

Tonle Sap and up the Mekong River to view floating fishing villages. (Photography note: Best lighting in the early morning as the low eastern sun illuminates the front of the Royal Palace and riverfront area.) Longer cruises are also possible and can be tailored to your requirements - upriver tours to villages and paddies, dinner and party cruises, sunset cruises, trips to Silk Island and Mekong Island. Boat trips can be arranged through your hotel or travel agent or you can deal with the operators directly. Tourist boats are clustered together on the river along Sisowath Quay just north of the Passenger Port near Wat Phnom. Boats start at around $10/hour, depending on the duration of the trip and number of passengers.

The River Front

Some of Phnom Penh's most important cultural sites as well as dozens of pubs, restaurants and shops sit along the picturesque park-lined riverfront overlooking the chaktomuk - the confluence of the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac Rivers. The Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda and the National Museum are clustered together between Street 178 and 240 and restaurants and pubs line the riverfront road Sisowath Quay, stretching north from the Royal Palace area all the way to Street 104 near Wat Phnom. Visit the Royal Palace and National Museum and stroll up the riverfront for a drink or a meal or to do some shopping. Just off the riverfront, Street 240 behind the Royal Palace harbors several restaurants and high-quality boutiques and Street 178 next to the National Museum is known as 'Art Street' and is dotted with interesting little art galleries and silk shops. Early risers, check out the spectacular sunrise over the river in front of the Royal Palace area.

The Architecture of Phnom Penh

Architecturally speaking, Phnom  Penh is a comparatively new city Prior to the late 19th century the city was but a few pagodas and clusters of wooden structures along the riverfront. Almost every currently existing structure was built after the beginning of the French colonial period in 1863. ‘Chinese shophouse’  style buildings dominate the city, characterized by deep narrow apartments made up of a combined ground-floor business-front and upstairs residence. Standing in distinctive difference, old European influenced colonial period structures are interspersed through the central city. At the height of the colonial period Phnom Penh was reputed to be the most beautiful city in French Indochina - recalling Paris in its manicured parks and picturesque boulevards lined with ornate villas. Though sometimes difficult to see through the grime and disrepair of years of hardship and neglect, much of that beauty still exists..For more on the architecture of Phnom Penh and a architecture tour map and guide, see here. 

Phnom Penh City Sights: Khmer Rouge History 

From April 17, 1975 until January 7, 1979, the brutal, ultra-Communist Khmer Rouge regime (i.e. the Red Khmer) controlled the whole of Cambodia, then known as 'Democratic Kampuchea.' The Khmer Rouge was headed by Saloth Sar, who went by the nom de guerre Pol Pot. During their short reign, between one and two and a half million Cambodians perished, some killed outright, others dying from disease, malnutrition, neglect and mistreatment. Some of the horrific remnants of the Khmer Rouge regime can be seen at the Choeung Ek Memorial (the ‘Killing Fields’) and the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum. Though the Khmer Rouge were driven from power in 1979, they retreated to the mountains and border areas, persisting until their final defeat and dissolution in 1998. Surviving Khmer Rouge leaders are only now facing a court for their crimes. Kaing Guek Eav, a.k.a. ‘Duch,’ director of the infamous S-21 prison was recently found guilty and sentences by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). More trials are soon to follow. Pol Pot died in 1998, never having faced justice.

Choeung Ek Memorial (The Killing Fields)

(15 km southwest of  Phnom Penh - Take Monireth 8.5 km past the bridge at Street 271) Many of the Cambodians who perished under the Khmer Rouge regime ended up dumped in one of the dozens of ‘killing fields’ that can be found scattered across the country. The killing fields were essentially ad hoc places of execution and dumping grounds for dead bodies during the Khmer Rouge Rouge regime (1975-1979.) After the Khmer Rouge regime, memorials were set up at many of the sites, some containing the bones and remnants of victims gather from the area. Prior to 1975, the Choeung Ek just outside Phnom Penh was a orchard and a Chinese cemetery. But during the Khmer Rouge regime the area became one of the infamous killing fields. This particular killing field is the site of the brutal executions of more than 17,000 men, women and children, most of whom had first suffered through interrogation, torture and deprivation in the S-21 Prison (now the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum) in Phnom Penh. The Choeung Ek Memorial is now a group of mass graves, killing areas and a memorial stupa containing thousands of human skulls and long bones. The memorial is about a 20-40 minute drive from the center of Phnom Penh. Guided tours through the area are available and reasonably priced multi-lingual guides are available at the site. There is also a small souvenir shop as well. For sake of historical context, combine your trip to Choeung Ek with a visit to Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (the former S-21 Prison) in Phnom Penh. Also see David Chandler’s book, ‘Voices of S-21’ for the most systematic and complete account to date of the history and operation of the S-21 Prison.

Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21)

(Corner of Street 113 & Street 350 - $2.00 - Open every day, including holidays, 8AM-5PM - Closed for lunch) Prior to 1975, Toul Sleng was a high school - a set of classroom buildings in a walled compound. When the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 they converted into the S-21 prison and interrogation facility, administered by Kaing Guek Eav, a.k.a. ‘Duch,’ who is currently on trial for his actions at S-21. Inmates at the prison were held in tiny brick cubicles and systematically tortured, sometimes over a period of months, to extract the desired ‘confessions,’ after which the victim was inevitably executed at the killing field of Choeung Ek just outside the city. S-21 processed over 17,000 people, less than a score of whom survived. The Tuol Sleng compound now serves as a museum, a memorial and a testament to the madness of the Khmer Rouge regime. Much has been left in the state it was in when the Khmer Rouge abandoned it in January 1979. The prison kept extensive records, leaving thousands of photos of their victims, many of which are on display. Paintings of torture at the prison by Vann Nath, a survivor of Toul Sleng, are also exhibited. For more on the S-21 check out Chandler’s book, ‘Voices from S-21.’ 

Phnom Penh City Sights: Traditional Markets

In Cambodia it is the women who take charge of trade... Market is held every day from six o'clock.. they display their goods on matting spread upon the ground. Each has an allotted place...

- excerpt from The Customs of Cambodia by Zhou Daguan circa 1300AD

 'Phsar’ means ‘market’ in Khmer. A visit to at least one traditional market (phsar) is a must. If you visit only one or two markets, begin with the Russian Market and the Central Market. Both offer curios, souvenirs and a cultural shopping adventure. Other markets such as the Old Market (Phsar Chas) have far fewer items for tourists but can still be culturally and photographically interesting. The markets open and close with the sun but are fairly sleepy between 11:30AM and 2:00PM.

Central Market (Phsar Thmei)

This distinctive building is a city  landmark - a unique art deco version of a traditional market Four arms of the market converge in a soaring dome at the hub, perhaps reflecting the four arms of the chaktomuk (the convergence of the Mekong River.) Prior to 1935 the market ‘New Market’, but ‘Central Market’ has caught on in English.)area was a swamp/lake known as Beng Decho that received the runoff during the rainy season. The lake was drained and the market constructed in 1935-37, during the French colonial period, and originally dubbed the ‘Grand Market.’ Phsar Thmey is currently undergoing renovation but most of the project is complete. The central section of the main market building displays an amazing collection of gems and jewelry. The souvenir vendors are all back along the central entrance walk - offering curios, statuary, handicrafts, silks, t-shirts, postcards, etc. Book and map vendors sit to either side of the main market entrance. (‘Phsar Thmey’ would be properly translated ‘New Market’, but ‘Central Market’ has caught on in English.)

Russian Market  (Phsar Toul Tom Poung

This market became the foreigner’s market during the 1980’s when most of the foreigners in Cambodia were Russians, hence the name ‘Russian Market.’ It is of far less architectural interest than the Central Market but has a larger, more varied selection of souvenirs, curios and silks. Like the Central Market, there are several jewelers and gold-sellers, but it also carries huge selection of curios, silks and carvings, it is one of the best markets in town to buy fabric, and it offers the largest selection of VCDs, DVDs and CDs of the traditional markets. Most of the DVD vendors are located on the south side near the southeast corner of the market. Most of what the visitor might want is in the same general area on the south side but the rest of the market is well worth exploring. Food and drink stands in the middle of the market for hygienically adventurous visitors.

Old Market  (Phsar Chas) 

Phsar Chas not at all geared to tourists, carrying such items as fruits and vegetables, hardware, second hand clothes, motorcycle parts and religious items. The late afternoon shopping hour along Street 110 and Street 108 makes for a confusing, dirty, potentially photogenic scene. There has been a market on this site since at the earliest days of the French colonial period (and probably much longer) when it sat next to a now reclaimed river inlet.

 

Night Market (Phsar Reatrey)

Phnom Penh’s new Night Market on the riverfront is aimed squarely at visitors and tourists, offering a wide and varied selection of Cambodian handicrafts silks, art, curios and souvenirs. Currently the Night Market opens only on the weekends, starting up at about 5:00PM and runs until at least 9:00 or 10:00PM. Located in the park between Street 106 and 108 on the riverfront. Stop in as you stroll up the riverfront

 

Phsar Kandal

A typical, sprawling, low-slung local market similar to Phsar Chas. Meat, vegetables, fruits and tailors fill the north half  while jewelers and electronics stalls are located in the building next door. It’s a very local scene but as the market is only a couple of blocks off the riverfront tourists occasionally find their way to the coffee stalls and noodle shops.There is a comparatively large Vietnam-ese population living in the area around Phsar Kandal, which and is reflected in the character of the market - the food, the dress and the language.

Phnom Penh City Sights: Pagodas (Wats)

Well over 95% of the Cambodian population is Buddhist and in Phnom Penh you are never far from a Buddhist pagoda (wat.) Dozens of pagodas dot the city with one located in almost every neighborhood in town. Though many of the pagodas are comparatively modern, Phnom Penh’s original five wats were established in the 15th century, all still functioning. Pagoda ground are colorful photogenic places and most are open and welcoming to the general public. But if you visit a pagoda please be respectful of the place and people. Dress conservatively (long sleeves and pants,) respect the privacy of monks and worshippers and ask before taking photos, especially of people. The following short list of pagodas are some of the cities more historic and photogenic wats. See Ray Zepp’s highly recommended book ‘A Field Guide to Cambodia Pagodas’ for an introduction to Cambodian Buddhism and a guide to Phnom Penh’s pagodas.

Wat Phnom

(Intersection of Street 96 and Norodom Blvd. - $1/person)  A small hill crowned by an active wat (pagoda) marks the legendary founding place of the Phnom Penh. The hill is the site of constant activity, with a steady stream of the faithful trekking to the vihear, shrines and fortune tellers on top and a constellation of vendors, visitors and motodups at the bottom. Elephant rides available. The legend of the founding of Wat Phnom is tied to the beginnings of Phnom Penh. Legend has it that in 1372 Lady Penh (Yea Penh) fished a floating Koki tree out of the river. Inside the tree were four Buddha statues. She built a hill (‘phnom’ means ‘hill’) and a small temple (wat) at what is now the site known as Wat Phnom. Later, the surrounding area became known after the hill (Phnom) and its creator (Penh), hence the name of the city ‘Phnom Penh.’ The current temple was last rebuilt in 1926. The large stupa contains the remains of King Ponhea Yat (1405-1467) who moved the Khmer capital from Angkor to Phnom Penh the early 15th century. Look for the altar of Lady Penh between the large stupa and the vihear. She is said to be of particular help to women.

Oudong

About an hour west of Phnom Penh, just off Route #5, lay the hills of the abandoned royal city of Oudong. Oudong was the capital of Cambodia from the early 17th century until 1866 when the capital was moved to Phnom Penh. Several temples, stupas and other structures cover three hills. The walk up the hill provides an excellent countryside view. The hill is crowned with stupas containing the remains of several Cambodian kings including King Monivong (1927-1941) and King Ang Duong (1845-1859). The earliest structure is from the 13th century. These hills were also the site of some of the Khmer Rouge’s most prolonged resistance against the encroaching Vietnamese army in 1979. Several new temples and shrines have recently been installed on the hill. For something completely different, take a side trip to ‘Prasat Nokor Vimean Sour’, a concrete, unduly ornate, semi-replica of Angkor Wat built circa 1998. Take a Kampong Chhnang/Oudong bound bus. Get off at the billboard in Oudong town and take a motodup the rest of the way to the site.

Phnom Chisor

At the top of Phnom Chisor sit some very nicely preserved 10th/11th century AD Angkorian era ruins. The temple was constructed under King Suryavarman I during a period when Angkorian Empire was powerful and on the rise. As most Angkorian temples of the period, this temple is Hindu, dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. Scenes including Brahma, Shiva and Visnu are still visible, carved on some  lintels and pediments.The 503 steps to the temple on top of the hill make for a fairly vigorous climb but the quality of the ruins and the amazing view of the countryside make the effort well worth it.

Bus: Buses depart for Takeo every hour from the Phnom Penh Sorya Transport bus station. Get off at at the turnoff marked by a big ‘Phnom Chisor’ sign (52km road marker) and take a motodup to the base of the hill.

Phnom Da/Angkor Borei

Angkor Borei is a town in Takeo province in  the area of several ruins and archaeological digs. The area has been continuously inhabited for at least 2500 years and has yielded artifacts dating from the Neolithic period, the Funan period (4th/5th century AD) and Chenla (8th century AD) as well as the later Angkorian period (9th-15th century AD.) There are no significant temple ruins at Angkor Borei but there is a very interesting little museum displaying artifacts from the area and providing information on recent archaeological digs. About 20km from Angkor Borei is the hill of Phnom Da, crowned by an impressive 11th century Angkorian-era prasat (tower) with some carvings in good condition. The temple was constructed under King Rudravarman and dedicated to Shiva. Further down the hill is the unique little temple ruin Ashram Maha Rosei, quite unlike other Khmer monuments in both design and adornment. The design is reminiscent of Prasat Ashram Isay in the Sambor Prey Kuk group in Kampong Thom. Ashram Maha Rosei was constructed in the late 7th-early 8th century, during the pre-Angkorian Chenla period, under Bahavavarman and shows signs of non-Khmer influence. Note the unusual north-facing entrance. Getting there: During the dry season, Phnom Da can be reached by road or boat. In the wet season, it can only be reached by boat. By road: Take the Takeo bound bus to the Phnom Chisor turnoff (52km from Phnom Penh.) Take a motodup or taxi to Phnom Chisor and then on to Phnom Da. Two hours on a rough road. By boat, take the bus to Takeo town. Pick up a boat to Angkor Borei and Phnom Da. $25 for the whole boat. During the dry season you will stop well short of the hill and will have to hike a ways.

Prasat Neang Khmau

Standing next to an active pagoda, Prasat Neang   Khmau consists of two deteriorating brick prasats  (towers) built in the Angkorian-era in the 10th century A.D. under King Jayavarman IV. There was probably at least one more ancient prasat where the modern pagoda now sits. Prasat Neang Khmau was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The temple complex is named after  Neang Khmau, ‘Black Lady’, a modern-era statue located in front of the temples.

Bus: Buses depart for Takeo every hour from the Phnom Penh Sorya Transport bus station. Get off at at the 51km road marker. The temples are on a small hill right next to the road

Tonle Bati/Ta Prohm

Tonle Bati is a small lake and popular picnic spot  for the locals - bamboo picnic stands and mats by the water. On the road to Tonle Bati there are two Angkorian era temples, Ta Prohm and Yeay Peau. Both temples were built under Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century during the same period that Bayon and Angkor Thom in Siem 

Reap were constructed.Ta Prohm is the more extensive and impressive of the two, displaying a number of very well-preserved carvings. Yeay Peau is a single sandstone tower situated next to an active pagoda displaying some carvings. The area has been occupied since the pre-Angkorian Funan period and Ta Prohm was modified and extended as late as the 16th century.

Bus: Buses depart for Takeo every hour from the Phnom Penh Sorya Transport bus station. Get off at at Tonle Bati at the 35km road marker and take a motodup to the base of the temples.

Ta Khmau Zoo / Phnom Tamao / Prasat Tamao

Tamao area is a popular destination for weekend holidayers from Phnom Penh, offering picnicking, a zoo and some minor Angkorian-era ruins. The Ta Khmau Zoological Gardens is Cambodia’s newest and best zoo displaying a variety of animals including lions, tigers, bears, birds  and more. An 11th century, Suryavarman I temple ruin in very poor condition (Prasat Tamao) sits at the top of Phnom Tamao. Located off of Route #2 at the 39km mile marker. Turn right. 1000 riel entrance fee.

Silk Island (Koh Dach)

For those with an interest in Cambodian silks and silk weaving, set aside a half-day for a boat trip to a rural weaving village on Koh Dach (aka ‘Silk Weaving Island,’) a nearby island about an hour‘s boat trip up the Mekong River. The weaving village is a typical rural Cambodian stilted village, dedicated almost entirely to silk weaving - people operating hand looms under most of the houses, others dying and spinning silk on spinning wheels made of bicycle parts. The are no regular tours to the village and only a few tourists go there these days. Arrange a visit through a guesthouse, travel agent (for about $10/person) or arrange it yourself through one of the riverfront cruise boats that can be found along the Sisowath Quay near Street 136 (map.) It should cost $10-$15/hour for a private boat and take about 2 hours round trip plus the time you want to spend there. The boat may stop at ‘Mekong Island’ (Koh Okhna Tey) and some other weaving houses along the way. Make sure that the boat operator understands that you want to go all the way to the silk village on Koh Dach