Phnom Penh (/pəˈnɔːm ˈpɛn/ or /ˈnɒm ˈpɛn/; Khmer: ភ្នំពេញ, Khmer pronunciation: [pʰnum peɲ], formerly anglicized as Panomping) 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.
Phnom Penh (literally, "Penh's Hill") takes its name from the present Wat Phnom ("Hill Temple"). Legend has it that in 1372, an old nun named Lady Penh went to fetch water in the Tonle Sap and found a dead Koki tree floating down the stream. Inside a hole of the Koki tree were four bronze and one stone Buddha statues.
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, Old Lady Penh (Duan Penh,) 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.)
Phnom Penh also has its own dialect of Khmer. Speakers of the Phnom Penh dialect often elide syllables, which has earned it the reputation for being lazy speech. Phnom Penh is also known for its influence on New Khmer Architecture. Phnom Penh is notable for Ka tieu Phnom Penh, its variation on rice-noodle soup, a dish available in sit-down cafes as well as 'street' cafes. The city is both the economic and cultural center of Cambodia.
Music and the arts is making a revival throughout Cambodia, especially in Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh currently hosts a number of music events throughout the city. 'Indie' bands (those without corporate sponsors) have grown in number. Established music shops are few, one of the only ones (focused on pianos) being on Street 13, near the National Museum.
Cityscape and architecture
The oldest structure is Wat Phnom from the founding days of the city, constructed in 1373. The main tourist attractions are the Royal Palace with the Silver Pagoda, and the National Museum, constructed during the French colonial era in the late 19th century in the classical Khmer style and hosting a vast collection of Khmer antiquities. The Independence Monument (Khmer: Vimean Akareach), although from the 1950s, is also constructed in the ancient Khmer style.