We got held up in heavy traffic on the way from the airport to the hotel, leaving us a shorter afternoon than planned for tourist activities. Our guide, Daream, suggested visits to the National Museum and Wat Phnom as probably the best options for the time we had.
The National Museum houses a collection of historic artefacts, some of which date back to pre-Angkor civilisation, while others originate from the height of Angkor, which was once one of the world’s dominant civilisations. The early influences are Hindu, but Jayavarman VII converted to Buddhism, which became the religion of the Khmer people during and after his reign. Many of the statues on display are in excellent condition and it’s heartening to see that they survived the destructive Khmer Rouge years.
Wat Phnom is the hilltop pagoda in the centre of Phnom Penh that commemorates the discovery by the lady Penh of some Buddha statues centuries ago. This auspicious event was responsible for the foundation of the city of Phnom Penh, which literally translates to the ‘Hill of Penh’.