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Cambodia

Bordering Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, the Kingdom of Cambodia is located in the central heart of Southeast Asia on the Indo-China peninsula. It is a country featuring a fascinating history, abundant cultural heritage and unfortunate political turmoil.

When it comes to Cambodia tourism, what comes to minds for most visitors are the ancient architectural buildings of Angkor Wat as one of best known legacies left after the legendary Khmer Angkor empire. It has long been recognized as the symbol of Cambodia. The site has been honored by being featured on the national flag of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Nearly as enchanting is the capital city, Phnom Penh, together with other attractions like the Phnom Penh Royal Palace. Its exotic ancient architecture from the French colonial era makes it an attractive tourist destination.

Along with its long history, this is a country with enormous breathtaking natural landscapes. Among many other tourism sites is the Great Lake, Tonlé Sap, the largest lake of Southeast Asia which is being honored by UNECO for biosphere. Also notable are the well-preserved forests of the Elephant and Cardamom mountains on its southwest territory. Up north, on the border line with Thailand, are the Dangkrek mountains, within which the famous Khmer temple is found.

Cambodia was an important part of the ancient Funan kingdom in the lower reaches of the Mekong River in the first century AD. Being an indianite kingdom, Funan had played a significant role in shaping many aspects of the later Khmer states, from arts, cultures to politics. It was in the eighth century that Angkors came to power and developed the Angkor civilization that has had a profound impact until today, even though the regime ended. This happened after being conquered by the Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya after a century and a half of warfare and conflicts in the 15th century. After that, the Angkor glory never came back. The Cambodians were involved in battles with the Spanish and Portuguese in the 16th century. After a couple of rulings by important governments from 1600 to 1863, Cambodia became a French colony until it declared independence on November 9, 1953. Even after that, Cambodia was not able to escape turbulence as it was involved in the Vietnamese war. Throughout 1970s and '80s, the region was featured as an uneasy place with battles and conflicts.

In 1993, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) hosted elections for a national assembly. The monarchy was restored according to the constitution and the Kingdom of Cambodia was then established.

Cambodia is gradually coming back from its history of bloody conflicts and political turmoil, hoping to become a dominant tourism destination in southeastern Asia with its centuries-old historical heritage. With a recovering and stabilizing economy, the country has become stronger and stronger to support and develop its tourism industry. Age-old ancient temples and buildings have been dusted off and renovated. Infrastructures and facilities for tourists with various purposes are being established ranging from simple bars and hostels for backpackers to high-end luxury hotels and accommodations.

It seems that commercialism will become inevitable as the nation continues to develop its economy; tourism can't escape from this. However, the quiet side of Cambodia still can be found and dominate in this ancient land. Among the most famous and bustling attractions, there will be places where tourists can enjoy the feeling of tranquility. The long passed-down tradition of the Khmer people of being hospitable has made Cambodia an ever increasingly popular tourism destination on the Indo-China peninsula.

Weather
It is important to know the weather information before you head for Cambodia.

Cambodia is a country in the tropical zone, with two distinctive seasons, the wet and dry. The best time to visit Cambodia is in the dry season which lasts from about November to February. During this time, December and January is a particularly good time to visit. Though there is no obvious winter time, the humidity does drop in those months. If a lot of walking has to be done to visit those grand temple complexes like Angkor Wat, it will be wise for you to do it in the cooler dry season. Humidity does not change much, but the heat comes from March to May. The hottest month in Cambodia falls during the fourth month. It gets so hot that exhaustive tourist activities are not recommended. 

The rainy season starts in June and lasts till October, and the first two months are as hot as in April or May. While in September and October there is rain, yet the temperature is so much more comfortable.

Angkor Watz
For the majority of people. the first picture that comes to mind when Cambodia is mentioned is Angkor Wat. It indeed is the most fascinating site in Cambodia. It was the important and major part of the Angkor World Heritage which was enlisted in 1992 by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

Angkor Wat was originally built with great religious purposes. Built during the reign of Suryavaram II in the early 12th century, it was to honor the Hindu god Vishnu, and the building structure represents the idea of Hindu's cosmology. The temple resembles the legendary Mt. Meru, which is believed to be the center of the universe, with the five walls and rivers outside of the temple being symbols of mountains and oceans. Ever since, it had served as an important pilgrimage site in this region. Together with the perishing of the Angkor civilization after being conquered by the Thais in the early 15th century, this fabulous building was lost to the world for centuries.

Due to its invisibility, Angkor Wat was like a mystery to a lot of people. Century after century, there were people who happened to came across the site, without recognition. Mystical stories were made up saying that the ruin used to be secret temples built by supreme beings long, long ago. As time went by, the story became legend. For a long time, the site was regarded as a pilgrimage site for people seeking a divine connection with assumed gods. In the 1860s, a French naturalist and explorer brought Angkor Wat back to the public eye. Fascinated by the scale and the beauty of the aged buildings, extensive restoration work has been carried out since then and continues until the present.

Being listed as one of the World Heritage Sites, this is how it is being described by the World Heritage Committee.

Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.

It is a perfect complex of impressive buildings with fine carvings, gigantic beams, and elegant archways. If you were ambitious enough to explore the whole site, it would take a few weeks time before you could finish your journey.

Phnom Penh
This is the capital city as well as the largest city in Cambodia. It is the center of economics, culture and tourism. It is a very popular tourist destination for people from all around the world. One of the distinctive features of the city is the mixed architectural styles of traditional Khmer and French. There are also optional places you can visit, such as:

Phsar Thom Thmei (Central Market): It is a large dome-shaped market built in 1937. It is one of the most distinctive landmarks in Phnom Panh. It is also referred as the Central Market, and has become a hot spot for tourists to spend time. For the majority of the tourists, the purpose for the visits to the market is just to look around at the various products for sale. The items range from jewelry made of gold and silver, to all kinds of fabrics and antiques.

Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda:    This site is among the most fascinating places in Phnom Penh. Its history can be dated back to the mid-1860s. Originally it served as a residential palace for the king of Cambodia, his family members and visiting guests. The Silver Pagoda is not far from the palace. The proper name of the pagoda is Wat Preah Keo Morokat. The pagoda was built primarily to serve the Cambodian royal family; there are no monks living in the pagoda. It was the site where the king met with and listened to the sermons of Buddhist monks. Occasionally some royal ceremonies were hosted here. It also contains many priceless Buddhist and historical items. 

Tuol Sleng S-21, Museum of Genocide:   This is one of the must-see sites in Phnom Penh Cambodia. Now a museum, the site used to be a high school. During the regime of Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, the Security Prison 21 (2 - 21) was converted it into a prison of torture. About 17,000 people were detained and tortured as political prisoners, among them were men, women, children and babies. Many of them did not survive and others were killed later on. This school turned museum is a tragic scene in the history of humanity.

Sihanoukville Beach:  Sihanoukville is one of the most renowned resort areas for tourists from all over the world. The beach of Sihanoukville is the only place where you are able to do water sports such as scuba diving. You can find several good beach areas, and nearby is a waterfall where you can swim. There is another resort town, Kampot, at a convenient distance. Sihanoukville is one of the most important cities in the south of Cambodia. The port constructed in June 1955 makes it the only deep water port in Cambodia. It was named after the King Norodom Sihanouk. Beaches like Ochheuteal and Serendipity, Sokha, Independence and Victory are the most popular ones, and all of them have good accommodations. It is a perfect place to relax and enjoy life.

Phnom Udong: Lying 40kms north of the capital, Phnom Udong was the capital of Cambodia from 1618 to 1866, and many of the ruins are still in good shape, including those of the Ta San Mosque. There is a memorial at the base of it to mark the victims of Pol Pot from the Khmer Rouge. There are more than 100 mass graves. Each of them is a reminder of the tragic happenings in this region.

All across there are a great number of stupas, temples and shrines in various   conditions. It is a good place to wander around if you find the time to do so. It will probably take hours before you can finish seeing all of them. There are crowds of people visiting here on weekends, and it may be more enjoyable to visit on weekdays, if possible.

Banteay Chhmar :
Banteay Meanchey Province: This tremendous building complex used to be a temple city, and is among one of the most fascinating sites in the Khmer empire, both for its scale and its distant locality. It has never been excavated in its history, and Banteay Chhmar presents the picture of what the lost Khmer city was like in the past: towers, sculptures, enclosed forest and sometimes with birds flying through the temple. It gives you a romantic feeling and a sense of wanting to explore further.

Banteay Chhmar can be dated back from the late 12th century to the early 13th century. The name means Narrow Fortress. It is believed to have been built by Jayarvarman II first and later rebuilt by Jayarvarman VII as a funerary temple for his sons and his four generals who had been killed in a battle for repelling a Cham invasion in 1177.

Like many ancient buildings such as Preah Khan, Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, in the beginning Banteay Chhmar was an enclosed city with the temple at its heart. Now there are no longer traces of the city that used to surround the temple, which still remains. The temple area has the main temple building complex and many other religious constructions. The central theme of Banteay Chhmar is the bas-reliefs, which are sometimes compared with the Bayon. It is an enormous depiction including the battle against the Chams, religious activity scenes and the daily life of people. In parts, the outer wall has been destroyed. There is a fascinating multi-armed Lekesvara.

Battambang
Battambang serves as the hub of the northwest region, and is located in an important place where northwestern Cambodia, Phonom Penh and Thailand meet. It is the second largest city in Cambodia which still preserves French architecture from colonial times. The majority of the city is close to the Sangke River; it is a place with a nice, peaceful, tranquil and picturesque setting. Becoming more and more popular, it has been used as a base for travelers to explore the northwest region, especially the temples and villages.

There are a whole range of temples and buildings that can be dated back to the 11th century. The Barseat Temple is about 15 KM (9.3 miles) from the provincial capital. The temple was built in the 11th century featuring well-preserved, centuries- old architectural styles and a mystical pond with water that never dries up. The Wat Ek Temple is 14 KM (8.7 miles) away from the provincial town with architecture dating back to the 11th century. The Ba Nan Temple is about 15 KM (9.3 miles) away from the provincial town proper, on top of a mountain 400 meters (1312 feet) high. Its construction lasted more than a century, over the regime of two kings from the middle of 11th century till the end of 12th century.

 

 

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