Cambodia located in the heart of Southeast Asia, is arguably the jewel of the region. Undiscovered for centuries, its wealth of natural beauty and rich heritage continue to amaze an astound, with Angkor, the world renowed cultural heritage site dating back to the earliest days of cultured civilization, attracting visitors from all over the world.
Towering over the surrounding tropical forests, Angkor Wat exists as one of this planet's last great unexplored tourist destinations. Situated among one of the world's great irrigation systems close to Tonle Sap, itself possibly the most amazing inland expanse of water on Earth, Angkor is simply incomparable.
Not only did the skilled and hardworking Khmers build Angkor Wat and the architecturally different but equally stunning Bayon, Banteay Srei and Ta Prohm temples, but also more than 100 other impressive monuments and temples in and around the ancient capital. Many of the temples are decorated with intricate carvings detailing the glorious past of this pround and ancient culture including the fascinating solar calendar on Angkor Wat's eastern wall which had remained under-cyphered until only recently.
With much of the hinterland reached by many of the country's inland waterways including the Mekong River, many visitors take the exhilarating boat trip to Siem Reap, the home province of Angkor Wat, passing on the way the many fishermen and unique floating villages of the Tonle Sap Lake. Everywhere one goes in Cambodia beautiful landscapes await from lush green rice paddles to the red earth of Rattanakiri, with ubiquitous sugar palm trees dotted all over the country.
Cambodia's north-eastern province of Rattanakiri is the home of several ancient and indigenous tribal people with their primitive lifestyles are threatened, though largely untouched by modern society and retain their own particular languages, cultures, rituals, and beliefs.
Cambodia is a must, as all its previous visitors will testify, especially to visit Angkor Wat. Not only does that first spectacular glimpse of Angkor Wat amaze and perpetually remain in the memory, but so too does Cambodia as a whole. Who could possibly forget the other facets of this marvel: the charming smiling faces of the Cambodians, the beautiful unspoilt palm fringed beaches with white sands and turquoise sea; gentle waves lapping on the shore. The beach resort of Kompong Som (Sihanoukville) is one of nature's paradises. Like Sri Lanka or Thailand before the developers moved in, Kompong Som is home to one of the world's last natural beach destinations. Looking back to shore one only sees the sea, white sand and green hills in the background. Don't forget about the delicious fresh fruit and succulent seafood available here, the mountain top views that stretch forever or the vibrant markets burgeoning with exotic produce.
Cambodia assaults the senses leaving memories of a once mighty country that stay in the mind undiminished by the passage of time. The sights and sounds of a unique land with a tragic past captivate more and more people every year and offer a genuine experience for all who are fortunate enough to discover Cambodia.
Without doubt, with its inherited wealth, Cambodia has enormous potential for tourism, either as a single destination or part of an Indochinese tour, especially for those wishing to escape the tourist traps of the world or discover one of the great cultures that should rank alongside that of Egypt and the other world renowned destinations. Though still in its infancy, the tourism sector is attracting investors both domestic and international who are venturing into this market, evident by the international standard facilities becoming available.
Photos by Mark Standen
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