Despite its turbulent history during the second half of the 20th century, Cambodia is now a peaceful nation that claims its place as one of the most fascinating and attractive destinations of the Asian continent. The incredible architectural legacy left by its primitive time, the exoticism of its populations and the kindness and hospitality of its people are its main demands.
Cambodia is a tropical country, since it is located between parallels 10 and 15 north latitude. It limits to the north with Laos, to the east with Thailand, to the west with Vietnam and to the south with the Gulf of Thailand. The country is located in the monsoon zone, occupying an area of 181,035 km2
Traditions and customs
The population of Cambodia exceeds eleven million inhabitants. Most belong to the Khemer ethnic group, of very ancient origin and descendants of the old civilization of the country. This civilization comes from India, belonging to the Mon-Khemer ethno-linguistic group.
This civilization adapted to the first cultures that populated the region, the mon and the cham. The culture of the khemer has a special relationship with water, forming temples and pools a single unit.
Among the customs that should be kept in mind if visiting Cambodia is to avoid touching the children’s heads. The head may be in contact with the earth, but the feet that touch it are considered impure. You have to take off your shoes when entering the sacred places.
Cambodian food is similar to Chinese and Vietnamese food. The basis of Cambodian cuisine is rice, which together with fish covers the basic needs of the population.
It is easy to travel this small city; knowing the urban center will only take the tourist one or two hours, but it houses places where it is worthwhile to stop and invest some more time. Different temples and one of the most important museums in Cambodia are its main points of interest. We recommend visiting the National Museum, the Wat Bom or the Ya Tep Sanctuary.
It takes several days to tour the hundreds of temples that survive in Angkor, the former political, religious and social center of the former Khmer Empire of Cambodia. It is the main attraction of the country and a place of pilgrimage for all its citizens. Among the beautiful and spectacular exhibits it preserves, stands Angkor Wat, the largest religious building in the world. Among those that stand out:
- Angkor Wat: It is a masterpiece of Khmer art. This temple-mountain is located about 6 kilometers from Siem Reap, south of Angkor Thom. Angkor Wat is a sculptural wonder perfectly reflected in its reliefs and images, in which the apsaras (nymphs) and other sculptured figures are counted by thousands.
- Terrace of the Elephants: Another of the impressive constructions of Ankor Thom, a terrace of 300 meters long that stretches between Baphoun and the Terrace of the Leper King.
- Terrace of the Leper King: Its 25 meters of base make it look much smaller than the Terrace of the Elephants, located next to it. The stairs that give access to the enclosure are decorated with seven groups of reliefs, distributed between the exterior part and the interior part of the wall. The terrace is named after the statue of the Leper King, which has now been transferred to the National Museum of Phnom Penh (today several replicas can be seen here).
- Bayon: Located in the exact center of Ankor Thom, it is possibly the most impressive building in Cambodia. Like the rest of the city, it was ordered to be built by the most famous monarch, Jayavarman VII, to promote his promotion of Mahayana Buddhism. When approaching the temple what stands out most are the 54 towers carved with more than 200 faces of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion.
- Baphuon: This impressive pyramidal temple, located about 200 meters from the Bayon, is a representation of the 11th century of Mount Meru, which makes it the only building before the invasion of the 12th century.
- Phimeanakas: The Air Palace belonged to the old Royal Enclosure, official residence of the Khmer monarchs, and was one of the temples of the set. The monarchs Jayavarman V and Udayadityavaman I built, between the final years of the 10th century and the first of the 11th century, this pyramidal temple representing Mount Meru.
- Sras Srang: It was built during the reign of Jayavarman VII and is one of the royal baths that serves as a pond for ablutions. It measures 800 meters long by 400 wide and right in the middle of it there is a small artificial island that, in its origins, served as the base for a wooden temple of small dimensions.
- Banteay Kdei: The Citadel of the Cells is a Buddhist monastery, built at the end of the 12th century, during the reign of Jayavarman VII. In order to properly appreciate the reliefs that adorn this site you have to cross it from east to west. It preserves the two architectural styles: Angkor Wat and Bayon.
- Ta Keo: Its construction, in the Keang style, began at the end of the 10th century, between the reigns of Jayavarman V and Suryavarman I. The temple, originally Hindu, never came to an end. It was built in limestone with an extraordinary simplicity and barely decorated, and has two interior walled enclosures located on the square platform. The main sanctuary is located above the central tower, surrounded by four other smaller towers.
- Preah Khan: In 1191 the Temple of the Sacred Sword was completed, a construction that Jayavarman VII dedicated to his father.