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Cambodia hotels and Phnom Penh travel information

Phnom Penh ••
Cambodia and Phnom Penh travel

With the aid of his French 'protectors', King Norodom moved his capital from Udong to the sleepy riverside town of Phnom Penh in 1866. Though having served as the country's capital in 1434 - three years after the fall of Angkor - attempts to rekindle the former Khmer empire only led to the city's destruction by the Siamese in 1473. So it was that French finance and technical know-how were behind the building of the country's new capital.

Many of the Cambodian styled temples and buildings were the work of the French and even King Norodom's Royal Palace was constructed to French design - atop the site of a former, 19th-century, citadel.
Despite building one of the most colonial of French-colonial capitals - with its trademark wide boulevards, mansions and shophouses, France had very little interest in developing Cambodia, other than as a potential, but doomed, thoroughfare, via the Mekong River to China. With their final withdrawal in 1953, Cambodia achieved an independence that it had not known for nearly five hundred years. It was to last less than two decades.

During this time, however, the city prospered with up to two-thirds of the 600,000 population in 1970 consisting of Chinese merchants and Vietnamese workers. But, five years later, the city was almost deserted; it's inhabitants driven into the countryside by the Khmer Rouge. Phnom Penh was left to rot. By the time UNTAC forces arrived in 1992 - after five years of Khmer Rouge decimation, a decade of Vietnamese occupation and several years of civil war - they found a bedraggled city, bowing under the pressure from the influx of nearly a million people, and its once-grand plumbing system in pieces.

Since then, the Royal Palace, the national museum and Royal Hotel have all undergone substantial renovation, while the National Bank - blown up by the Khmer Rouge in 1975 - was rebuilt on the same site in the late 80s. With the help of a great deal of foreign aid and private investment - and if developers can be kept under control - there is every chance that the capital of the once-more independent Cambodia will regain its former beauty.





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