For many travellers the allure of an unspoilt and
little-explored country is irresistible. Emerging from a violent
past of human rights atrocities, war and political instability,
Cambodia is recovering from its past and slowly becoming a top
destination on the South East Asian travel map. The magnificent
temples of the 'Lost City' of Angkor are an irresistible attraction
that, despite the dangers of unexploded landmines and the threat of
rural banditry, is a must-see for any determined traveller.
Modern day Cambodia is the successor kingdom of the powerful
Khmer Empire which ruled most of what is today Vietnam, Laos and
Thailand from the 9th to 14th centuries. Although the country does
not have the same volume of attractions as some of its neighbours,
the Cambodian people are incredibly friendly, providing a welcoming
embrace for travellers.
This fact in itself is amazing given the suffering that
Cambodians had to endure during the three-and-a-half year reign of
Pol Pot, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated two million
people. The Khmer Rouge period under Pol Pot's leadership, altered
the face of the country. Overnight cities were emptied and property
destroyed, the economy was left in shatters and so were the lives
of countless families. This period between 1975 and 1979 represents
a particularly dark one in the nation's history.
Travellers to Cambodia can now enjoy many wonderful aspects of
this country. Pleasurable moments can be had in the snatches of
friendly conversations, in the tranquillity ushered in by Buddhist
prayer or in the sounds of workers in the rice paddies. One can
also search for the charms of the French-era capital city Phnom
Penh, visit the tragic horrors of the Killing Fields or drift past
sleepy riverside locations on a boat.
The scenery is beautiful and abundant, shaped by landscapes of
lush green forests and jungles, banana plantations, agricultural
fields and mighty rivers. People here live modest and simple
lifestyles and the populace are largely rural. It is not a place of
fast and efficient transport or luxurious hotels and resort living.
Infrastructure is basic (much of it having been destroyed) and
travelling between destinations can be quite an experience - fun
for some and frustrating for others. The country's world-class
attractions and less-explored reaches, golden beaches and islands
beckon the enterprising traveller, and make this unique destination
the equivalent of a pearl in an unopened oyster.