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Why Visit Cambodia ?
Cambodia is a land on the mend. From 1977 through 1980, the Khmer Rouge ruled the country, fanatics bent on genocide. Millions were killed and the period was put to film in the movie, “The Killing Fields.” Fortunately, those days are over and the country is becoming a tourist destination.
Cambodia is a land of incredible contrast. Thick forest, mountains and pristine rivers compliment amazing white beaches. When you get down to it, however, travelers know Cambodia for two things, Angkor Wat and the nastiest roads around. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia. The city is a combination of old French beauty and modern condominiums. The city is full of amazing Wats [Buddist monasteries], including Wat Ounalom, Wat Phnom and Wat Moha Montrei. Modern buildings surround these monasteries and it’s difficult to avoid a feeling that the old ways are being lost.
Still, the vibrancy of the city is impressive considering the fact that it was completely abandoned for three years in the last 70s. During this period, the Khmer Rouge tried to return the Cambodian people to their agricultural heritage and evacuated all cities. The only exception, of course, is Tuol Sleng, a high school used to torture and kill “enemies of the state.” Just beyond the city, one will also find the infamous killing fields where thousands upon thousands were put to death.
Sihanoukville is a small, sleepy village on the Southwest edge of Cambodia. Fairly undeveloped, the area is an oasis similar to the beaches of Thailand. The difference, however, is the lack of tourists. Depending on the time of year, the beaches can be more or less empty and privacy assured. If you are looking to lounge professionally, Sihanoukville is a very good place to do it.
Stunning. There is no other word for the temples of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is a temple surrounded by hundreds of others. Each is unique and worth a look. The most famous are Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Phrom. Angkor Wat is in the best shape as well as the most known. The Bayon is impressive, but the constant mob of tourist makes it a pain to visit. Ta Phrom is amazing because it has been left to the jungle, which is to say trees and the structure have become one in many areas. If you have seen Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie, you have seen Ta Phrom.
More information about Cambodia
The Kingdom of Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy situated in Southeast Asia and counting a population of more than 13 million people. Most Cambodians are Theravada Buddhists of Khmer extraction, but the country is home also to a substantial number of Cham and small hill tribes.
The country borders Thailand to its west, Laos to its north, Vietnam to its east, and the Gulf of Thailand to its south.From the 9th century to the 15th century, Cambodia represented the center of the Khmer Empire, with Angkor as a capital.
The Angkor Wat, the empire’s main spiritual site, is a symbolic reminder of the time when Cambodia was a major powerrulung most of the Indochinese peninsule, and remains the country’s top tourist attraction.From 1863 the country was a protectorate of France, which lasted until 1953, when the country received independence.
Cambodia covers an area of about 181,040 square kilometers. It has 443 kilometers of coastline along the Gulf of Thailand.
The most distinctive geographical feature are the lacustrine plains formed by the inundations of the Great Lake. It measures about 2 500 square kilometers during the dry season and expands to about 24 000 during the rainy season. This densely populated plain, devoted to wet rice cultivation, is the heart of Cambodia.
Most of the country’s territory lies at elevations of less than 100 meters above the sea level, the exceptions being the Cardamom Mountains (1,813 meters of elevation) and the steep escarpment of the Dângrêk Mountains situated along the border with Thailand’s Isan region.
The tourism industry is the country’s second-greatest source of hard currency in Cambodia after the textile industry. More than 60% of visitors go to Angkor, and most of the remainder to Phnom Penh. Other tourist highlights include Sihanoukville (Cambodia’s only port), whits its popular beach, and the region around Kampot, including the Bokor Hill Station.
The celebrated temples of Angkor constitute the Cambodia’s greatest tourist attraction. The nearly 100 temples represent now the sacred remains of what was once a much larger administrative and religious centre, and were constructed between the 9th and 13th centuries to glorify a number of Khmer kings. The three most splendid temples are Bayon, Ta Prohm and the enormous Angkor Wat. Most of Angkor was abandoned in the 15th century and it was gradually cloaked by jungle. Efforts were undertaken to clear away the exuberant vegetation which threatened to completely destroy the monuments, and restoration of the temples still undergoes.
The Angkor Wat complex is the most exquisite example of Khmer architecture. Built in the early 12th century for king Suryavarman II as his state temple, it remained an important spiritual centre for centuries– first Hindu, and afterwards Buddhist. Out of the reach of tourists during the civil war, it has regained worldwide attention after being displayed in the 2001 movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
The Bayon is the other highlight of Angkor. Built in the 13th century as the state temple of the king Jayavarman VII, it was the centre of the then capital and bears 54 towers, each decorated with four smiling faces.
The largest and most populous city of Cambodia (about 1 million citizens), Phnom Penh was known in the 1920s as the Pearl of Asia. Renowned for its traditional Khmer and French influenced architecture, it is a major tourist destination in Cambodia, as well as in Indochina as a whole.