Renaissance of Khmer Culture in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The catastrophic policies of the Khmer Rouge included the eradication of Khmer Culture in Cambodia. The efforts of the regime to rewrite Khmer history included the execution or expulsion of all artists. The list of targets included all musicians, painters, actors and singers. Furthermore, in an effort to eliminate Khmer kickboxing the regime executed many boxers.

Fortunately, the reign of terror in Cambodia has ended. As a result, there has been a strong resurgence of Khmer Culture in Phnom Penh Cambodia.

Khmer Culture in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh is the capital city and it is also the center of Khmer culture in Cambodia. To benefit from the resurgence of Khmer culture in Phnom Penh, here is a list of activities.

Activities to enjoy include visits to the Khmer Cultural Museum, Khmer opera, Khmer kickboxing (Pradal Serey) and sample exotic Khmer cuisine if you are so inclined. I will discuss this Phnom Penh things to do list in more detail below.

In addition, Phnom Penh, Cambodia is located on the banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. Therefore, visitors will find riverside promenades and cafes to enjoy.

tonle sap promenade phnom penh
Enjoy the cafes and riverside promenades in Phnom Penh Cambodia.

Khmer Opera in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The Khmer Opera in Phnom Penh is an outdoor theater located adjacent to the Khmer Cultural Museum. The performance is choreographed very well and the story is based on Khmer culture and history.

Unfortunately, the Khmer Rouge was nearly successful in eliminating all of Cambodia’s arts and culture. Under the orders of the regime 90% of the country’s artists would be executed or expelled from the country.

However, Khmer culture and art in Cambodia now has a new beginning after the fall of the regime and the end of Cambodia’s civil war.

Khmer Opera Phnom Penh Cambodia
Enjoy the resurgence of Khmer culture at the Khmer opera in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Khmer Culture, Khmer Opera Phnom Penh Cambodia
khmer opera phnom penh

Khmer Kickboxing in Phnom Penh Cambodia

Unfortunately, Khmer kickboxing (Pradal Serey) was also targeted my the Khmer Rouge regime. Although many boxers were executed or expelled from the country Khmer kickboxing has seen a resurgence in recent years.

Khmer kickboxing is very similar to Muay Thai and it is also very exciting to watch. Therefore, fight night is a must see Khmer cultural attraction in Phnom Penh.

Any tuktuk driver can get you to and from the action efficiently and economically. Ironically, my tuktuk driver just happened to be on the way to the Khmer kickboxing arena when I flagged him! Therefore, he stuck around to wait for me at no extra charge.

Photo Khmer Kickboxing Arena Phnom Penh Cambodia
Khmer kickboxing has benefited immensely from the resurgence of Khmer culture in Phnom Penh.

In Khmer kickboxing, the action is organized in a tiered competition, last man standing takes all type format. Unlike western boxing, the winning fighters will have multiple bouts in the same night.

Photo taken from ringside at the Khmer kickboxing arena. Fortunately, a few of the ringside seats were vacant so I was able to move ringside for the final match.
Photo Khmer Kickboxing Arena Phnom Penh Cambodia
Both of the Khmer kickboxing contenders had fought valiantly through the ranks all night long. The match was close and they both deserved to win.
Khmer Kickboxing Arena Phnom Penh Cambodia
The photo is the Khmer kickboxing champion of the night landing the knock out blow on his opponent. This fighter was done for the night after that last punch.
Khmer Kickboxing Arena Phnom Penh Cambodia
Unfortunately for this Khmer kickboxing contender that was the final blow for the night.
Khmer Kickboxing champion Phnom Penh Cambodia
The champion of the night was making the rounds after the match and posed for photos.

National Museum of Khmer Culture

Luckily, the Khmer Rouge was not able to destroy all the artifacts of Khmer culture in Phnom Penh. In addition, most of the Khmer temples located near Siem Reap were left mostly intact.

national museum phnom penh

Khmer Cultural Cuisine in Phnom Penh

Eating insects in Phnom Penh Cambodia is a controversial matter, even in countries where food is scarce. However, the healthy aspects are indisputable because insects are loaded with protein, vitamins and minerals.

The nutritional value depends on how they are cooked. Unfortunately, the common method of cooking insects is deep frying. Then for added flavor lots of salt and MSG is added. Although, if they are prepared steamed then the will maintain their multitude of healthy aspects.

Eating Insects in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Eating insects is a controversial element of Khmer culture in Cambodia. This photo is of an insect food vendor we passed while exploring Phnom Penh.
Table full of cooked insects at the market in Phnom Penh Cambodia.
I did not partake however, my girlfriend was up for the challenge.

Unfortunately, undernourishment is still a reality in modern Cambodia. According to a World Health Organization survey conducted in 2010, 40% of children under 5 suffer stunted growth, 28% are underweight and 11% are “acutely wasted” or malnourished.

Therefore, insects are a valid substitute for other sources of food when nothing else is available. For example, insects such as crickets require 12x less feed to produce the same amount of protein as cattle.


I hope you enjoyed my list of Khmer cultural activities in Phnom Penh. Visiting Phnom Penh was the last stop of our journey through Cambodia. Beginning in Siem Reap, reaching as far west as Pailin and then south to Phnom Penh.

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