Welcome to the Kingdom of Wonder
Thanks to the stunning temples of Angkor, Cambodia is now firmly established on the Southeast Asian tourist trail. Many visitors head straight to the temples, staying in the country just a few days, but those who dig deeper find that Cambodia, with its balmy climate and laid back attitude to life has much more to offer: white-sand beaches and relaxed off-shore islands, forest-clad hills and impenetrable jungle, a dynamic, yet developing, capital and sleepy provincial towns, in many of which colonial houses and shop house terraces are now slowly being restored.
For a small country, Cambodia encompasses a surprisingly diverse range of terrain and scenery. Rice fields may be the typical feature of this predominantly flat and agricultural land, but there are also significant highland areas and 440km of coastline, as well as the massive Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, which dominates the heart of the country. In the east, the mighty Mekong River forms a natural divide, beyond which rise the mountains of Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri, where the last of Cambodia’s jungle can be found. In the southwest, the heavily forested Cardamom Mountains run down to the sea, while parts of the southeast are regularly inundated, as the Mekong and its sister river, the Bassac, overflow their banks.
For all its natural beauty and rich heritage, Cambodia is still probably best known in the West for its suffering at the hands of the fanatical Khmer Rouge, who came to power in the 1970s with a program of mass execution that resulted in the death of a fifth of the population. Their three-year terror was followed by a protracted guerrilla war that ended only in 1997 and left much of the country in ruins. Nowadays, however, Cambodia is at peace, and visitors will find it a safe place to travel.
Though much still has to be done before Cambodia is properly back on its feet, and before most of the population see a substantial improvement in their standard of living, the recovery of the country is largely down to the Cambodians themselves, eternally optimistic, tenacious and tirelessly hospitable.
On the following pages you will find a guide to the Angkor Archaeological Park. We hope you enjoy your stay and get enchanted by the magic of Cambodia and their people.