The mention of Cambodia conjures up an image of a place surrounded by history, mystery, grandeur and struggle. Located in the southern part of the Indo China peninsula, this kingdom which is primarily a constitutional monarchy, has a lot of familiarity with us Indians. Hinduism and Buddhism thrived under the Khmer rule and today, Buddhism is predominantly followed here. Sanskrit was the official language of the Hindu kings of the Khmer regime. One can never be in less awe of the grandeur of the famous Angkor Wat. The locals call themselves Khmers who were the descendants of the Angkor dynasty. It was infamously known as Kampuchea at the time of the Khmer Rouge. Cambodia faced a lot of destruction at the hands of Vietnam and Thailand. After two long decades of isolation, Cambodia welcomed tourists in the mid-1990s.
The movie ‘Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider’, made it world famous and needless to say, it is being thronged by large number of tourists. Home to the famous Angkor Wat Temple, Siem Reap which means ‘defeat of Siam’ is the most important city of Cambodia. It stands witness to the glorious Khmer rule and has withstood the numerous invasions which shook the foundations of the Khmer Empire. The temples of AngKor Wat are a replica of Mt.Meru, which is believed to be the abode of the Gods in Hinduism. Today, it is a pilgrimage site for the Cambodians, but for the world over, it never fails to leave the curious visitor spellbound by its sheer magnificence and aura. Tourism has seen a small town transform into a bustling, modern city with endless options of restaurants with nightlife and entertainment.
This city with many names such as ‘Penh’s Hill’, ‘Hill Temple’, ‘City of four faces’ and ‘Pearl of Asia’, is the largest city of Cambodia. It is also the capital of Cambodia. It was famed to be one of the most beautiful French settlements in Asia which gave it the name, ‘Pearl of Asia’ and ‘Paris of the East’. However, very little of the French remnants are now found here. Owing to urbanisation and affluence of the people living here, it is the commercial, financial and cultural hub of Cambodia.
Other unmissable sights of Phnom Penh are:
- Silver Pagoda which houses different sculptures of the Buddha is made with various precious stones such as crystal, emerald, and even in diamonds.
- National Museum of Cambodia, which is an architectural beauty made of terracotta and has some of the finest pieces of Khmer sculpture and empire.
- Exotic is what one would feel in this city of royal palaces and monks. The ideal location on the banks of the Mekong river gives it the cover of unmatched nature and beauty.
Supposed to be the connecting link between Cambodia and Thailand, Battambang is a quaint city which has remnants of French colonial architecture that lends it the allure and charm. It possesses a unique blend of modern and old like the riverside and the cafes. Lots of temples can be visited here. The Meeting Place Market, wine tasting in the countryside and a ride on the bamboo train are all novel experiences one can indulge in. The varieties in food and drink that can be found here surpasses any other in Cambodia. Never miss the circus, where the shows are larger than life, fun, and exciting.
Wherever you go, the influence of the Khmers is visible. Along with the ancient magnificence, Cambodia is home to tourists travelling from anywhere in the world. The warmth and the hospitality of the people will be etched in the memory for a long time to come.