Daun Penh or Doun Penh translates as “Lady Penh” in Khmer. Lady Penh or grandma Penh was the women who found three bronze Buddha sculptures floating in a hollow tree in the Mekong river and built a shrine to them in around 1327.
This was the birth of the city and where Phnom Penh itself gets its name. It is perhaps the most well-known district to visitors to the city and has very well preserved art deco architecture. The district has an area of 7.44 km² and a population of approximately 131,913.
The area is subdivided into 11 communes or sangkat and 134 villages or krom. Duan Penh is home to The Royal Palace and some of Phnom Penh’s most famous temples
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is a series of buildings which is the royal residence of the king of Cambodia. The Kings of Cambodia have taken residence here since it was built in the 1860s. The palace was planned and constructed after King Norodom relocated Cambodia’s capital from Phnom Oudong to Phnom Penh in the middle of the 19th century. It is situated on the western bank of the Tonle Sap river where it converges with the Mekong river in Duan Penh.
It is now the official residence of the current king of Cambodia, King Sihamoni. Some of the buildings on display show some of the best examples of Cambodian architecture post the Khmer empire. Visitors to the palace will be able to visit the throne hall and several other buildings surrounding it.
Tickets can be purchased from the ticket booth at the front of the palace for 40,000 riel or $10. All visitors to the palace must wear shorts that cover the knees and shirts that reach the elbow or clothing can be rented inside.
The main draw of the Royal Palace is certainly its Throne Hall. The Throne Hall is used for many official ceremonies, the king’s coronation and is completed with a magnificent 59-meter tower complete with Bayon temple style carvings.
Just south of the Throne Hall in the rather curious Napoleon III Pavilion. It was given to King Norodom by Napoleon III of France in 1866. It was originally built in Egypt, for the opening of the Suez Canal, and was later presented to the Cambodian king as a gift.
Wat Ounalom was built in 1443 to enshrine a sacred hair of the Buddha, and located north of the National Museum of Arts, this temple is considered the seat of Cambodian Buddhism. When the Khmer Rouge evacuated Phnom Penh in 1975, they vandalized the building and murdered the Abbot along with many of the 500 monks who lived there.
Wat Phnom is located on a hill to the north of the city in Duan Penh and has been restored or reconstructed in 1434, 1806, 1894 and 1926. It is the original shrine built by Lady Penh in 1327 and contains the original remains of the first temple which lies encased in glass in the temple. Its spire can be seen from many vantage points across the city and its surrounding park is a great place to relax or take in a bit of people watching. It can be found at the northern end of Riverside, just past the Night Market. Wat Phnom is a symbol of Phnom Penh and regularly used for prayer, small offerings, and meditation.
Wat Botum is located south of the royal palace and is one of the original pagodas in Phnom Penh. It is also known as the ‘Temple of the Lotus Blossoms’ because the original site was a small island surrounded by a lotus-filled pond. Its current name dates from 1865.
The Silver Pagoda
The Silver Pagoda is a famous Phnom Penh landmark, originally constructed of wood in 1866 and expanded in 1962 by King Sihanouk who had the floor inlaid with 5,329 solid silver tiles, hence its name. The most revered image is the Emerald Buddha, made of Baccarat crystal and dating back to the 17th century.
Behind it, another Buddha statue was cast in 1906, utilizing 90 kg of gold, and decorated with 9,584 diamonds. Cabinets along the perimeter contain gifts presented to royalty and dignitaries. Along the inside of the recently restored 600-metre wall is a colourful mural depicting scenes from the Reamker, the Cambodian version of the Ramayana.