By Robbie Woods
On the 3rd week of our virtual world tour, and by popular request, we will pay a visit to the ancient and beautiful Kingdom of Cambodia.
Before we dive in, a bit of house-keeping.
If you’ve been to the country in question, please comment and share a little bit of your experience. I can do all the research in the world, but nothing compares to actually being there!
Capital: Phnom Penh
In its early history, this area was the site of numerous Indian satellite kingdoms.
After these collapsed, the mighty Khmer Empire rose from the ashes around 800 AD. Starting in modern-day Cambodia, it grew to include parts of Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, Laos and Vietnam. At its height, the Khmer was the most powerful empire in Southeast Asia.
Unfortunately, it fell apart in the 1400s, leading to 4 centuries of what is called “the dark ages of Cambodia.”
In 1863, Cambodia became a French protectorate. It remained so until its independence in 1953.
Since then, the country has faced incalculable hardships, resulting both from external forces and internal instability.
Although many Cambodians still struggle with poverty and lack of infrastructure, the situation has been improving since 1993.
At the same time, Cambodia’s rich history and natural beauty are making it an increasingly popular tourist destination.
It’s so iconic you’ve likely already thought of it, but I can’t ignore it, can I?!
Cambodia is home to the world-renowned Angkor Archaeological Park.
The park, which is some 400 square kilometres, includes the remains of the ancient Khmer capital. Perhaps the most famous structure preserved there is the Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world.
A registered World Heritage Site, Angkor stands as a reminder of the accomplishments of the Khmer Empire.
Cambodia also has one of Southeast Asia’s up-and-coming resort towns. Since 1993, Sihanoukville has been something of a poster child for an ascendant tourism industry.
But despite growth and modernization, much of “real Cambodia” still remains.
For the more adventurous traveller, there are always backpacks to pack and cheap accomodations to rent.
There are also smaller, less visited cities, like Kampong Cham, that offer a more laid-back look at the county and its people.
The ancient Khmer ruins in Angkor Park represent the largest pre-industrial city on Earth.
Most Cambodian men serve as Buddhist monks for a short time. (Cambodia is 96% Buddhist.)