CAMBODIA - WITH ANGKOR WAT - ONE OF THE WORLD'S WONDERS
Cambodia was not left untouched by the tragic history of the area in recent years, caught up in the US-Vietnam War and culminating in the infamous "Killing Field" of the Pol Pot slave state during the late 1970s.
Cambodians welcome visitors and investors to their kingdom, where the cities and markets are again vibrant with colour and activity. Once a French colony, wide tree-lined boulevards and French colonial architecture offer the charm of a by-gone age, while traditional arts and classical dance, an crafts in silk, gold and silver once again flourish in an artistic renaissance.
From the Angkor temples to a choice of coconut-fringed beaches on the Gulf of Siam the visitor will find many areas of interest in the country's past and its natural beauty. Scented flowering trees in the capital attract a vast array of coconut of colourful butterflies, while oxcarts loaded with pottery make their slow way to market on rural roads, as they have many centuries ago.
The home and the Buddhist temple wat are still the mainstays of Cambodia society, whose original inhabitants are thought to have sailed from the South Sea island back in the mists of time, to be joined by Thai, Lao, Vietnamese and Chinese arrivals over the in more mountain areas.
Located on the mighty Mekong River, Phnom Penh is a city of elegant boulevards and busy markets. Once known as "The Paris of The East", the forced evacuation of the population by the infamous Khmer Rouge in 1975 left it a ghost town for five years.
Today the city has revived, while retaining its pre-war charm. Motorbikes and transport for the populace, and a leisurely ride in pedicap (called "cyclo") is a relaxed way to get acquainted with some of the many highlights of this once beautiful city, whose classic villas and parks are being restored. Taxis are available for short excursions.
Siem Reap and Angkor Temples
The majestic temples of Angkor in the Northwest Cambodia belong to the classic period of Khmer art and civilization. Today, a millennium after they were built, they awe visitors with their perfection and enormity.
From the 15th century, the temples were abandoned, forgotten by the world until "rediscovery" in 1861 by French naturalist Henri Mouhot. The jungle setting and silence enhance the mystery of the temples. Many of the temples remain in surprisingly good condition. Others are under restoration, and visitors can get a first-hand look at the painstaking efforts underway to preserve the relics. Architectural historians from a variety of countries including France, India, Japan, the United States, Indonesia and Hungary in the past few years have contributed their expertise to preserve the temples.
The ruins cover an area of 400 square kilometres in the province of Siem Reap. The area contains more than 100 monuments, including two dozen major temples. Some of the temples, such as Angkor Wat and Bayon, merit repeat visits at different times of days, as the reflections on their walls and labyrinthine interior spaces are transformed by the light.