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Phnom Penh

 

Once known as the "Pearl of Asia," it was considered one of the loveliest French-built cities in Indochina in the 1920s. Phnom Penh, along with Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, are significant global and domestic tourist destinations for Cambodia. Founded in 1434, the city is noted for its beautiful and historical architecture and attractions. There are a number of surviving French colonial buildings scattered along the grand boulevards.
Phnom Penh first became the capital of Cambodia after Ponhea Yat, king of the Khmer Empire, moved the capital from Angkor Thom after it was captured and destroyed by Siam a few years earlier. There is a stupa behind Wat Phnom that houses the remains of Ponhea Yat and the royal family as well as the remaining Buddhist statues from the Angkorean era. In the 17th century, Japanese immigrants also settled on the outskirts of present-day Phnom Penh. A small Portuguese community survived in Phnom Penh until the 17th century, undertaking commercial and religious activity in the country.
Phnom Penh is mostly inhabited by Cambodians (or Khmers) they represent 90% of the population of the city. There are large minorities of Chinese, Vietnamese, and other small ethnic groups who are Thai, Budong, Mnong Preh, Kuy, Chong, and Chams. The state religion is Theravada Buddhism. More than 90% of the people in Phnom Penh are Buddhists. Chams have been practicing Islam for hundreds of years. Since 1993, there has also been an increase in the practice of Christianity which was practically wiped out after 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took over. The official language is Khmer, but English and French are widely used in the city.
The largest annual festival in Phnom Penh, this lively gathering celebrates the reversing of the flow of the Tonle Sap river. The holiday lasts three days as people flood into the city to enjoy the fireworks, colourful boat races, live concerts, eating and partying. The boat racing dates back to ancient times marking the strengths of the Khmer marine forces during the Khmer Empire.
Originally intended to be completed by 2020, the 2035 master plan is a French-funded project for the development of Phnom Penh. Although the plan was approved by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction in 2005, it has yet to be ratified by the Cabinet of Cambodia. The original plan details five edge-city projects connected to the historical city centre by waterways and tree-lined corridors.