Cambodia – Ancient and Mysterious
Cambodia located in the heart of Southeast Asia has a history dating back to the year 802. It’s comprised of a glorious and mysterious past, rich of culture. Siem Reap in Cambodia is a world renowned ancient temple city whose magical image draws vast amount of tourists from all over the world. Visiting Siem Reap is definitely a highlight for many people traveling through Southeast Asia.
The greatest attraction in Cambodia and one of the most spectacular ancient sites in the world is Angkor, a vast temple complex featuring the remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire, dating back to almost 900 years ago. The famous Angkor Wat temple in this region is the world’s largest single religious monument, located four miles north of Siem Reap. You will notice some of the temples have been restored while some are still overgrown with jungle vines. The scale of Angkor Wat is overwhelming.
One can easily spend a few days enjoying some of the carved reliefs and ruins away from the main temple site. A well-known and richly decorated temple is the Bayon temple (at Angkor Thom) with its multitude of massive stone faces. This spectacular central temple of the ancient city of is located just to the north of the famous. Bayon has some 50 towers, with four huge carved faces on most of them. Each of the four faces are four metres high and oriented toward the four points of the compass. The faces all have the same strange smile and closed eyes, representing an all-knowing state of inner peace
Ta Prohm is another temple worth visiting. It is a beautiful Buddhist temple ruin entwined and bound with towering trees and roots. Built in AD 1186 by King Jayavarman VII, the temple was the location of filming for Lara Croft.
Phnom Penh is one of Asia’s most authentic capital cities. Located on the banks of Mekong River, the city is divided into three sections – the north, an attractive residential area; the south or the French part of the city with its ministries, banks and colonial houses; and the centre or the heart with its narrow lanes, markets, foods stalls and shops. Phnom Penh’s points of interest are largely historical and cultural where you will find exotic shopping, unique dining and indulgent spas. The most popular sight of the city is the Royal Palace, which was constructed over a century ago to serve as the residence of the King of Cambodia. It is a striking structure near the riverfront with many buildings in the complex surrounded by high walls. Inside you can also see the 7-headed cobra which is said to be guarding the royal palace.
Other attractions include floating villages located on and around the Tonle Sap Lake. The Tonle Sap Lake is the largest feature of the map of Cambodia, and is an important natural resource in terms of fishing and wetlands. The best time to visit ‘floating villages’ is during the wet season when the water is high.
Outside of the cities and history, there is much more of Cambodia one must enjoy. You can find some of the most beautiful beaches along the coasts of the mainland and the islands. Koh Rong for example is an island with serene and breathtaking beauty. Another island in the Gulf of Thailand is Koh Tonsay, a great place for relaxation. Both the serious and casual travelers will be charmed and bewildered by the country’s culture, history and natural beauty making Cambodia a destination not to be missed.
Photos by: Bryan Swift