The Paris of the East: Phnom Penh
If you are going to Asia, you surely may want to pass through Phnom Penh. It is the capital of Cambodia. French colonial buildings and streetscapes made this city “the Paris of the East” before 1970. The city had a rough history. In 1975, it was choked with 2 million refugees and then completely emptied of civilians. Still, the city has recovered. New hotels and restaurants have been built.
The name of the city is related to a legend. The legend says that on the banks of the Mekong River, a temple was built. That temple received the name of an old rich widow.
Phnom Penh was founded in 1434 by King Ponhea Yat. It became the capital of the Cambodian state until 1863 when it was conquered by French.
The first thing you should visit is Sisowath Quay, known as Riverside. It is a boulevard along the banks of Mekong and Tonle Sap. Near it, there is a pleasant park. Royal Palace is the next place you may want to visit. It was built in the 19th century with French technology and Cambodian designs. National Museum contains an excellent collection of art from Cambodia’s “golden age”. The thing you might want to see is the statue of King Jayavarman VII. However, you are not allowed to take any photos.
The weather in Phnom Penh is quite pleasant. It has two distinct seasons. The rainy season lasts from May until October, and the dry season from November to April. The best months to visit the city are November, December and January.
If you still have some free time, you can go to Cafe du Centre or at book-stores where you can find books written in French.
The oldest and largest institution of higher education in Cambodia is Royal University of Phnom Penh. The university has over 10000 students.