Country - Cambodia
Cambodia Country Information
The name “Cambodia” resonates in the ears of foreigners one of the most ancient and the world-famous archaeological temple complexes Angkor Vat which is spread across a breathtakingly sprawling area of 162.6 square kilometres. It is the most ancient religious monument and an imposing structure that has survived a period longer than eight centuries. The historical and sentimental impact of Angkor Vat is so immense that the iconic symbol has become a permanent conspicuous design in the national flag of Cambodia.
Cambodia is a nation in south east Asia. It is also known as Kampuchea. Its capital and the largest city is Phnom Penn. The official language of the country is Khmer which has a script of its own. About 95% of the population belongs to Theravada Buddhism, an ancient sect of Buddhism which is hailed as having preserved the original preachings of Buddha in the Pali script.
Cambodia’s north western border is shared by Thailand, its north eastern border by Laos, eastern border by Vietnam and the southwestern border is shared by Gulf of Thailand. What was till recently considered as one of the least developed countries has recorded phenomenal recovery of economy and it has come to be viewed as a lower middle income country. The poverty rate has come down to 20.5% from 52.2%. The last two decades have witnessed a remarkable recovery on economic front.
Tourism in Cambodia
The tourism industry is the second major revenue grosser for Cambodia, after textiles. Contrary to the general belief that Cambodia is a place for watching century-old historical and religious monuments, there is a wide slew of activities that can keep engaged the travellers of various tastes and preferences.
Angkor Vat occupies undeniably the first and foremost place in the itinerary of any traveller who visits Cambodia. Apart from the awe-inspiring gargantuan sculptures, the external spindle-shaped tall conical domes of the temples are the most prominent cupolas that attract the attention of tourists from a faraway distance. In spite of its construction that stands reminiscent of bygone era, the complex retains its rock-solid robust majesty even today and appears impregnable in future too. The temple had been initially dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the larger-than life sized statue of the Deity is still in the place which was supposedly the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. The subsequent dynasties are said to be partly responsible for transforming the Hindu temple complex to Buddhist religious centre. The vastness of interiors and the uniqueness of sculpture may impel visitors to extend their sightseeing schedule a little longer than originally planned. People with a penchant for art may find a single day too insufficient to cover an area so big and require a few days to quench their thirst for viewing the designs and idols etched in the monuments spread across a mini kingdom.
The Phnom Penn Royal palace is another monument that differs sharply with the architecture of Angkor Vat. The slanted slopes of dark yellow coloured roofs canopying white external walls give a different look altogether. The attractive Silver Pagoda lying adjacent to it and the carefully trimmed tropical gardens add grace to the edifice.
Ta Prohm is a special vestige of the national rich cultural legacy that stands erect in serious averment upholding the solemnity in spite of the sparse green algae and weeds here and there. The temple silently vindicates its patriarchal superiority and the silk cotton trees extend their trunks and strong aerial roots which are as hard as stone pillars entwined inseparably with the constructions. No wonder this place was a much preferred spot for Hollywood movie makers. Remember the English movie Lara Croft-Tomb raider? This is exactly where Angelina Jolie had made adventurous stunts, clinging to the aerial roots of trees and roaming around the dilapidated cloisters. When you are here, you get the feeling of moving about in the timeworn ancillary godly-estate.
Nearby Ta Prohm temple ruins, there is another ancient temple campus called Preah Khan (meaning Royal Sword) which was also constructed by the King Jayavarman VII. Preah Khan is also supposed to be the regal residence for the family members of the erstwhile empire.
While Angkor Vat temple was originally dedicated to the Hindu God Lord Vishnu ( the Deity for well-being of life forms in the Universe), the temple complex called Banteay Srei or Banteay Srey was built for the Hindu God Lord Shiva ( the Deity for salvation and ultimate reliever from life-death-rebirth cycle). Banteay Srei was built in 10th century AD with red sandstone and is famous for highly intricate wall carvings and classical designs on the ornaments worn by the statues, stone flowers and the labyrinthine stone twigs/extremely thick foliages.
Furthermore, there are innumerable archaeological sites throughout Cambodia, though as not vast as Angkor Vat, like Ta Keo, Banteay Samre, East Mebon, Neak Pean, Kbal Spean, Banteay Kdei, Phimeankas, Terrace of elephants, Koh Ker, Baphuon, Pre Rup, Phnom Bakheng, Beng Mealea, Bayon, Angkor Thom. Cambodia also displays the artefacts of its cultural heritage in the National Museum of Cambodia.
If the tourists are overfed with monotony of ancient monuments, there are other places to give a relief to eyes and mind like Phnom Kulen waterfalls in Siem Reap Province where visitors can please themselves in swimming/bathing. This is a national park serving as an entertainment picnic spot set up near one of the most sacred mountains of Cambodia with the same name of Phnom Kulen. The ambient fauna is so visually appealing that the site was also used in the Hollywood movie “Lara Croft - Tomb Raider”.
A dazzling show of traditional classical dance by Apsaras ( Divine Courtesans or Celestial Nymphs) is never to be missed in the capital city Phnom Penh. Most of the shows depict mythological events displayed by girls clad in traditional costumes and glittering ornaments in super smooth and slow movements of dance.
Mekong is a place where you can wander through waterways into deep forests in wooden house-boats. The roofs of houseboats are also made of plant products and you can get the experience of being away from the routine man-made/artificial concrete buildings temporarily. The lush greenness of the forests along the narrow waterways is a special treat to eyes.
The restaurants across the country offer a wide variety of local refreshments along with sea food. Being a centre place of all types of entertainment, a trip to Cambodia is not disappointing and never lets you down. A tour in Cambodia gives the visitors an experience of having seen certain special things that are not found anywhere else in the world.