Once called Kampuchea, Cambodia is the land of the Khmer people. Its culture influenced by Theravada Buddhism is practiced alongside other minority ethnic groups like the Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham and other hill tribes like the Kavet, Brau and Jarai.
The Kingdom of Cambodia sits between Thailand to the west, Vietnam to the East and Laos to the North, while its southwest territories open onto the beautiful Gulf of Thailand.
The country experienced years of triumphant history under its greatest ruler Jayavarman VII in 1181 that drove out the Javanese before the joint Vietnam-Thai rule in 1840, the French colonization in 1964, the terror and massacre under the tyrant Pol Pot’s brutal Khmer Rouge in 1975 and finally the Vietnam occupation until 1998. As a result Cambodia has lagged behind nearby countries such as Thailand and Malaysia.
It remains one of the poorest countries in the world but its new found stability and democracy has put its past behind to embrace the future. Today, Cambodia is an emerging, vibrant and exciting tourist travel destination that is also home to a monumental site - Angkor Wat built as state Hindu temple and capital city for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century.
Designed to look like Mount Meru using South Indian Hindu architecture, Angkor Wat was dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu before it moved into Theravada Buddhism in the late 13th century which is practiced till present day. Its central shrine that houses a statue of Lord Vishnu was walled in with the new walls featuring standing Buddha’s. However termed as "the greatest known linear arrangement of stone carving", Angkor Wat’s fame is derived from extensive decoration on the inner walls, which predominantly takes the form of bas-relief friezes depicting episodes from the Hindu epics – the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
This colossal monument and temple is located 5.5 km north of the modern town of Siem Reap that now boasts luxury hotels, backpacking haunts, many restaurants and gift shops as Cambodia's fastest growing city.
World heritage sites aside, Cambodia has a beautiful coastline around Sihanoukville (Kampong Son) that sits 85 kilometres southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Promises to be an “up and coming” tourist destination, Sihanoukville also has more than a dozen islands off its coast for fun island hoping activity.
Beyond these parts and the capital, however, international travel is not well developed and travellers should be prepared for adventure.
Cardamom and Elephant Mountains
The region to the west of the country, which includes mountain ranges, Battambang and Sihanoukville. Also a great base for exploring the coast.
This is where Angkor Wat is situated, the country’s star attraction near Siem Reap.
Mekong Lowlands & Central Plains
Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, sits within these central plains.
The least accessible part of the country with remote rural areas and national parks.
Angkor Archaeological Park
This vast, sprawling complex of temples showcases the sophistication of the Khmer Empire and dates back to the 12th century.
A modern capital complete with elephants in the street, energy, palaces and plenty of character.
The largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and a UNESCO Biosphere.
Around Sihanoukville in particular, you’ll find soft sand, clear water and not too many tourists.
Tuol Sleng Prison & The Killing Fields
A chilling yet poignant museum about the Khmer Rouge atrocities.
A hill with the Killing Caves of the Khmer Rouge
The Battambang Bamboo Train
A large bamboo platform mounted on train axles powered by a small go-kart engine
Take a Cooking Class
Many restaurants around Battambang, west of Cambodia offer cooking classes at varying prices.
Wat Maha Leap
Visit Kampong Cham to view one of the few remaining wooden pagodas
Classical Khmer architecture with elaborate gilding, roof top spires and golden temple nagas
Art-Deco Psar Thmei
A yellow domed central market known for its variety of shopping – souvenirs, silver work, statues, silks, and carvings.
Where happy hour lasts until 8pm with bargain beer and cheap Mekong whiskey
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