The beating heart of Cambodia is the city of Phnom Penh, situated at the meeting point for three great rivers - the Mekong, the Tonle Sap and the Bassac. Today, the city has a real buzz as it continues to develop following its years of isolation. As with many cities across South-East Asia, Phnom Penh has a distinctly French feel to much of its grandest buildings; French colonial mansions stand alongside newly emerging designs. The French ruled Cambodia from 1869 until the country declared its independence in 1953 under King Norodom Sihanouk.
During the 1960s, Phnom Penh was a bustling, busy city with a happy population, growing café culture and vibrant street life. The atmosphere in the city changed completely in a single day - 17th April 1975 - when the Khmer Rouge took over the country and residents of the city fled into the countryside. After four years of brutal rule under Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge fled and the people of Phnom Penh slowly returned to reinvigorate their city.
The transformation has turned Phnom Penh into an exciting capital city, delightfully devoid of skyscrapers and ugly modern developments.