Phnom Penh: What Does It Mean?

There’s one fact you should know about Asia: names of many destinations can be explained by some fascinating stories and legends . And those...

There’s one fact you should know about Asia: names of many destinations can be explained by some fascinating stories and legends. And those also include the capital city of Cambodia: PhnomPenh. Here’s the story about the foundation of the city.


Legend has it that in 1372, there was a wealthy widow named “Lady Penh” living in a hill within the area that now is Phnom Penh. One day after a big storm, she found a floating hollow koki tree on Tonle Sap River. Inside the tree, there were four bronze Buddha statues and one stone Vishnu statue.


Penh understood this as a sign that Buddha wanted a new home. Thus, she ordered villagers to build a temple using wood of the koki tree to house the statues. A shrine for Vishnu was also built slightly lower on the hill. After years later, the temple became famous within the area and was known under the name Wat Phnom Penh (Penh’s Hill Temple).
Wat Phnom seen from Tonle Sap River in the late 19th century

And a century later when the Siam (Thailand today) invaded the Kingdom of Angkor, the capital was moved to Phnom Penh and the city earned the name Phnom Penh until now. Wat Phnom (Hill Temple) remains one of the most significant and most-visited landmarks of the city today.
Wat Phnom in the background today
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Cambodia Travel Forum: Phnom Penh: What Does It Mean?
Phnom Penh: What Does It Mean?
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