Landolia, a World of Photos
Latest Photos of the World in RSS feed
Sign In

Angkor and Phnom Penh, Cambodia

 Posted by , June 07, 2008 at 18:27:10 :: Cambodia

Angkor and Phnom Penh pull in two million visitors as Cambodia's tourism industry looks for its place in the sun


This was the temple chosen by the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient to be left in its natural state, as an example of how most of Angkor looked on its discovery in the 19th century. This was an inspired decision, and involved a significant amount of work to prevent further collapse and enough clearing of vegetaton to allow entry. It has been maintained in this condition of apparent neglect. All in all, Ta Prohm has the romantic appeal of, say, a Piranesi ruin: partly overgrown and gently declining.

The Angkor Wat and temples at its periphery constitute Cambodia's premier major tourist attractions and together with Phnom Penh, its capital, pulled in more than two million foreign visitors last year, a record for the country that is still smarting from decades of internal strife and a war-torn past.

Visitors from Japan, China, the US, South Korea, France and Thailand travelled to Cambodia in ever greater numbers bringing in US$140 million in foreign currency to the impoverished country, accounting for 10 percent of its gross national product (GNP) last year.

Angkor, the world's biggest temple complex sits within a 64-km radius straddling several villages in Siem Reap, was built from the eighth to the 13th century, with the most famous Angkor Wat constructed during 1113-50 by King Surayavarman II.

Angkor Wat, constructed early mid 12th century C.E. King/Patron: Suryavarman II

In recent years it has become easier for tourists to travel to Siem Reap, the biggest city in Cambodia after Phnom Penh, and especially so for Thais as there are better roads and more choice of transportation.

Terms of entry have been eased. Thais travelling by land can apply for visa on arrival at the border, a facility that also extends to foreign tourists travelling to Cambodia from Thailand, which has led to a remarkable surge in the number of Europeans visiting Siem Reap.

Visitors these days will find life in Cambodia is easier and more convenient. A number of souvenir shops have sprung up in Siem Reap. Vendors can be seen hawking post cards and ancient replicas to tourists, while restaurants, taxi or tuk-tuk service as well as medical facilities are more reliable.

Phnom Penh, the capital city has been refurbished with more monuments to national heroes such as Monk Chuon Nath and linguist Phirom Ou or Kram Ngouy, while the dykes and the riverfront avenue overlooking the Chaktomuk, the confluence of lake Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac rivers has been beautified.

The riverfront area which boasts landmarks such as the Royal Palace and National Museum is dotted with trendy pubs and restaurants, boutiques and galleries.

Main building, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, in the Silver Pagoda complex, Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

Places like the dome-shaped Phsar Thmey central market and Phsar Toul Tom Poung, the Russian market, are full of local and foreign shoppers, including Thais who can be seen buying anything from fake DVDs to handicrafts, silverware and silk souvenirs.

The grim reminders of Khmer Rouge's genocidal rule - Choeung Ek Memorial (The Killing Field) and the Toul Sleng torture camp (S-21 Museum) - are also popular tourist draws, so is Wat Phnom that houses a small pagoda marking the founding place of the current capital in 1372.

But by far it is Angkor that captures the imagination of every visiting tourist. It became the focus of interest in the late 19th century after its discovery by French naturalist Henri Mouhot. The city of Angkor was founded by King Yasovarman I who ruled from 889-990, but the monument associated with Khmer greatness - the Angkor Wat - was not built until 200 years later.

King Suryavarman II built a temple dedicated to Hindu god Vishnu at Angkor Wat, marking the high point of Khmer civilisation which stretched from Cambodia to parts of Thailand and northern Vietnam until the mid-14th century.

The end of Angkor civilisation was partly brought about by a change of faith that swept the region, from Hinduism and animism Buddhism to more democratic and principled Buddhist practices and by the marauding armies of neighbouring states.

Angkor Thom, South Gate, Angkor, Cambodia

Recent excavation with help of advanced remote sensing radar to map the ancient civilisation and its environs reveals a complex measuring about 200-400 square kilometres surrounded by farmlands, villages, temples and ponds, all connected by a web of earthen-walled canals crisscrossing the Khmer empire covering an area of 3,000 square kilometres. The canals were used for irrigation as transport arteries.

In the past, restoration and excavation was restricted by political instability in the country, but with funding now pouring in from Japan, India, France and Unesco the work has picked up and more tourists can now be seen visiting the historical ruins.

Apart from the ruins reachable within less than an hour's drive from downtown, Siem Reap also boasts other attractions, such as the Royal Independence Garden near Grand Hotel d'Angkor, several ancient pagodas and the newly-opened Angkor National Museum.

Shoppers will enjoy night markets selling handicrafts, beers and snacks, clothes, silk and stuff similar to what you will find at the night bazzar in Chiang Mai or Chatuchak in Bangkok. All tricycle and taxi service operators can guide tourists there and they will find out that bargaining the prices down is as much fun as a challenge.

If you come with friends, you will feel less insecure and don't feel disheartened if the stuff you come across there is similar to what you find in Thailand or Vietnam. This is globalisation!
About Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche on Google+
Simon Laroche on Twitter
Simon Laroche on Facebook
Simon Laroche on Pinterest
Simon Laroche on LinkedIn
: Coder, Designer, Webmaster and Expert SEO Consulting, Simon Laroche is also a wise traveller and an avid amateur photographer. He created the website Landolia and many others...

You like this post? Share it!

Leave a comments

Your Name or Pseudo
Your Email (not displayed)

On the companion Blog to Landolia, choose your next destination, and prepare your trip. Do you have an interesting travel article? If so Contact us and share it.