Cambodia Travel Guide

Oct 23, 2008

Phnom Penh the Worst Historic Site?

According to the National Geographic the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh is one of the "worst historic sites" to visit:
Once displaying "the best of French urban planning," the city has now been "lost to uncontrolled urban growth and the outright greed of land speculation," one expert said, adding it is a "very sad story."

Well, in my previous post I was already referring to the risk of Phnom Penh losing its charm, but I don't think it is already as bad as National Geographic wants you to believe. Yes, there are some projects underway that will change the landscape dramatically, like the Canadia Bank tower near Central Market and the "Gold24" tower on Sihanouk Blvd (although I doubt whether this last one and some other planned projects will go on given the current worldwide credit crisis).

But does that mean Phnom Penh has lost it all already? No, definitely not. There are a few encouraging signs: the art deco Central Market (Psah Thmei) is currently under renovation, the FCC plans to renovate a beautiful colonial building on Sothearos, UNESCO is housed in another building from French times next door. A few houses along Norodom Blvd. have been restored to their former beauty (although, yes, a few others along that street have been demolished). The post office and the building of Van's restaurant nearby are beautiful examples of colonial architecture (although in the same area some buildings urgently need repairs).

Not all is lost, yet. There is a risk Phnom Penh will, but it's definitely NOT the worst historic site to visit!

Here you see Phnom Penh's Post Office. Read more on colonial architecture in the city in the Phnom Penh Travel Guide.



  • I agree that Phnom Penh is not "yet" as bad as National Geographic describes it, although unfortunately it is well on the way there. The waterfront and the part of town around the Royal Palace still maintains much of its charm and architectural distinctiveness despite the ravages of change. Much of the rest of the city, however, is nearly unrecognizable to someone (me) who used to live there in the 1970s. The massive overcrowding, impossible traffic and the evidence of extreme poverty everywhere are very unpleasant aspects of the new Phnom Penh which did not exist before as are the sprawling suburbs, which have no character whatsoever. We must hope that somehow the old city along the river will be substantially preserved amid the development and construction boom. So far as I am aware no high rise buildings or other monstrosities are planned for that area so maybe there is some hope.

    By Blogger Don Jameson, at October 23, 2008 at 5:26 AM  

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