Phnom Penh - the place to be

Just days after he came to power in 1975, Pol Pot ordered the depopulation on Phnom Penh. He and his henchmen forced the cities hundreds of thousands (the people, not the sugary topping of the same name) to leave their homes and head for the countryside. His cover story? The Americans were about the bomb the city, and in order to be safe people must leave it. Pol Pot assured them they'd be able to return within a couple of days. And how's this for trusting? He demanded that everyone leave their doors unlocked, and that he and his men would keep an eye on everything. They sure did.

29 years later on Phnom Penh is a bustling metropolis. The city is home to one and a half million people, and there's a palpable energy in the air. Typically Asian commerce takes place on the streets, with every imaginable commodity - both legal and illegal - available widely and at a fair price. It's hard to imagine anyone going hungary in PP, but plenty do. There's also a strong European influence in the city. The French colonised Cambodia, and it's affect on PP remains strong. Half a dozen tree lined boulevards criss-cross the city with French elegance (arrogance?) and the streets through the middle heave with traffic of all kinds. In every sense, Phnom Penh is alive.


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