South of the Royal Palace complex, flanking Sothearos Boulevard, the peaceful Wat Botum Park gets its name from the adjacent temple. Within the park is a golden stupa commemorating the sixteen people killed outside the old National Assembly (corner of Street 240 and Sothearos Blvd) building on March 30, 1997, when grenades were thrown into a rally led by the Sam Rainsy party. Further south, the Cambodian-Vietnamese Friendship Monument – massive sandstone figures of a Khmer woman holding a baby, flanked by two armed Vietnamese liberation soldiers – commemorates the Vietnamese liberation of Phnom Penh from the Khmer Rouge in January 1979.

The park is a lovely place to stroll just before sunset, when a handful of trainers set up boom boxes and Cambodians pay 1000 riel to join them in a rigorously choreographed, unofficial aerobics class. You will see others taking a gentler, but equally serious, approach to exercise by walking determined laps around the park.

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