The Angkor Civilization
During the Angkor period, Cambodia was the largest, most powerful and prosperous nation in the Southeast Asia region. The Khmer civilization had reached it peak during the 9th - 13th century AD.
Evidence of its glory is can be found in the area of land covered by the Khmer Empire, which dominated almost the entirety of Indochina to the Myanmar border in the west. Thousands of Prasats (temples or monuments) were build and decorated with beautiful and priceless ancient sculpture, stunning architecture, and countless stone-inscriptions written in both Khmer and Sanskrit. Other antique items that can be found in the region include infrastructure such as Baray (ancient water reservoirs), irrigation systems, ancient highways and bridges.
All of these achievements were constructed over 800 years ago, during the peak of the Angkor Civilization.
The Angkor Wat Temple
Angkor Wat is the largest and greatest stone-structure temple in the world and took more than 30 years to build. There were 4,000 elephants and some 380,000 men are believed to have contributed their labor to this world-class project. Sandstone, the main material for the construction was transported by elephant from Kulen Mountain, some 47km away from the site.
The great temple of Angkor Wat is remarkable, not only because of its splendid architectural arrangement, but also because of the perfect subordination of the carving to the composition of the whole: the decoration is treated, nearly everywhere, as embellishment which should not hold the eye. As a result, the variety and intensity of the shadows do not break the unity of the simple walls, yet there is ornamentation everywhere - even in the least visible corners.
Angkor Wat is the masterpiece of King Suryavarman-II's crown, and is dedicated to Hinduism. It is believed to have also served as a tomb for the King Suryavarman-II (12th century AD).
Angkor Thom City
Nearby, Angkor Thom was once one of the most modern cities in the world. At one time it was populated by nearly 1,000,000 (one million) in habitants. Compare this to 30,000 people in London at around the same time (late 12th century AD). In fact, Angkor was the capital of a self-sufficient nation rich in natural resources and with unique construction techniques.
Due to the extensive and ingenious irrigation system, Angkor was able to harvest rice 3-4 times during a calendar year. Rice yields reached 150,000 metric tons within an area of 1000 sq.km; sufficient to feed 800,000 inhabitants, while still leaving 40 percent to supply other areas throughout the kingdom. It is this rice cultivation that supported the Angkor Civilization.
The capital city Phnom Penh has been the capital of Cambodia for 567 years. It was renowned as the Paris of the orient by the outside world during the 1960s due to its charm and glorious architecture. Located on the west bank of Chatomuk River, Risht in the conjunction of the upper Mekong, Tonle Sap river, which reverses its current twice yearly, Phom Penh remains attractive to visitors from countries around the world. It serves as the center of economy, culture, politics and society of Cambodia.
This bustling Asian city is populated by approximately 1.5 million inhabitants. Without skyscrapers to disturb its scale, Phnom Penh is renowned for its traditional Khmer and French colonial architecture, colorful clay-tile roofs, its Royal Palace, pagodas, monuments and the fascinating river front, Phnom Penh is a unique, exciting and pleasurable destination. Since the city Government has implement numerous beautification projects, the number of visitors has increased every year.
Is where Phnom Penh begun. A famous laywoman called Daun Penh built a small Wat on top of a hill (the hill also built by her) to house the sacred Buddha statues that were found inside the trunk-hole of a floating Koki (teak) tree. The teak was used to build the delightful little temple to store these religious relics.
The name referred to the founder of this place and it was originally called Phnom Daun Penh, and was later shortened to Phnom Penh. Behind the pagoda is a huge ancient stupa(tomb) that contains King Ponhea yat's ashes (the king who abandoned the Angkor City in 1431 AD).
Visitors should not leave the site without visiting a memorial that recalls the returning of these territories during the World War II. This memorial is located on the South side at the foot of the hill. The hill is generally covered and surrounded by the tropical trees that represent the various kinds found throughout the country. These have become home to many monkeys and birds. Ask your guide to point out the hundreds of large flying-faxes (bats) hanging from the branches of the trees.
Royal Palace, and Silver Pagoda
The Royal palace was built in 1866 during the region of King Norodom, great grandfather of our current King Norodom Sihanouk. There are many Prasats inside the palace that have their own special functions relating to royal and other official ceremonies. The construction of the temples within the compound was inspired by traditional Khmer architecture of this civilization. The surrounding wall has five doors.
Two on the east entrance and each from the other three directions, implementing on ancient rule of palace construction also seen at Angkor Thom City which was built during the Angkor period. The beautiful building next door and to the south of the Royal Palace, is The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, known to the English as the Silver Pagoda, due to the tiles that cover the floor which are made of pure silver. A total of 5,329 silver tiles, weighting 1,125 kilograms each adorn the floor of this structure. The temple does not serve as a Buddhist Monastery, but is primarily used to display the national treasure, most of which are gifts from the Royal Family and souvenirs from various countries that were once presented as gifts to the king of Cambodia. There are a number of mostly Cambodian treasures on display and the entire building is surrounded by the high galleries that are covered by tile-roofs. On the wall of the galleries there are mural paintings illustrating the Ramayana legend from the beginning to the end. This painting was done around 1903-1904 by famous Khmer artists.
Next to the outer of painting galleries, there is the Rung Dorei Museum where visitors can enjoy studying some Khmer customs and tradition lifestyles. Among the items displayed are artifact from Khmer households, a model of a typical Khmer house, silk weaving samples, traditional costumes, a cultural photo exhibition, utensils, silver crafts, and common farming tool etc.
A single tower of Angkorian style, standing on the heart of the capital. The independence from France on the 9th November 1953. It from all other structures in the city. The independence Monument's nighttime lighting gives it a magical aura that is striking to see and is worth photographing.
Built in 1920, today this museum stores and displays more than 5,000 Khmer art objects conserved from Angkor era and post- Angkorian art produced until the late colonial era. The artifacts are made of sandstone, bronze, silver, copper, wood, pottery and other art materials. Beside this purpose, the museum is also home to more than two million tomb bats living between the roof and the ceiling. They swarm into the sky startling those unfamiliar as its looks exactly like smoke from a steel factory.
Before Phnom Penh was permanently settled as the capital of Cambodia, Oudong served as the capital city almost century. Most of the rest hills were topped by ancient stupas, which were believed store the ash of the king and royal family. The number of visitors to the recent construction of a huge new stupa (Buddhist mausoleum), which has just been completed. The Grand stupa where Buddha's teeth (a religious relic) will be moved here soon from Phnom Penh, where it is currently kept.
The new stupa is a beautiful attraction, its design based on traditional Khmer architecture and adorned with authentically reproduced Angkorian decoration. On the other side of the hill, is the Vipassana Meditation Center.
(Silver Craft Village)
Not far south of Oudong, and situated between National Road No.5 and the Tonle Sap River, this village is famous for its handcrafted products of pure silver. Virtually the entire population of this village is craftsmen, the silver items from this village are distributed to both local and foreign markets.
It is considered that almost all of the Cambodia's provinces are attractive to foreign visitors for a variety of reasons including the lifestyle, culture, customs, the access to natural habitat etc. found in these places. Some provinces below are recommended for those who intend to learn more about Cambodian culture, lifestyle, civil society and history.
Sihanoukville is the only shipping port in the kingdom. Koh Kong is another province that borders the sea, but facing Thailand to the West. Both are rich in seafood and offer the visitor warm tropical beaches, pristine and tranquil water-perfect for sunbathing and relaxing after a cross-country tour. It s really and unspoiled world and ideal for enjoying nature and a swim. A trip offshore to one of the nearby islands is suggested for those who wish to escape to and enjoy a private island for a few days.
Southern Cambodia, about 77km from Phnom Penh. Highlights of some things to see: Historic sites of earliest Cambodian history and also the Angkor era, including Tonle Bati Temples, Prsat Neang Khmau, Chiso Phnom s hilltop temple ruins, Phnom Da, Angkor Bori, Phnom Baong.
Located 167km Northwest of Phnom Penh on national route No.6. Among the most interesting places to see here are a group of 7th Century AD temples, which used to be the capital of the Khmer Empire before Angkor City. Many other day brick temples are scattered throughout the province including Angkorian-era temples such s Kuha Nokor and Rokar. One cam also observes craftsmen create sculptures of sandstone at the foothills of Santuk Mountain. If there is sufficient time, we suggest a climb up to see this historic site where you can behold ancient giant studies of reclining Buddha.
It is also worth noting that Kampong Thom was the home province of Pol Pot, who came to be known as Brother Number 1, as the infamous leader of the Khmer Rouge. He was responsible for the killing Fields and the extermination of millions of educated or intellectual Cambodian citizens between 1975 and 1979. Ask to visit his home village if you are interested.
It is located on the bank of the Mekong River at a distance of 124 km from Phnom Penh on national route No.6 and 7. Kampong Cham province has the largest population and rich red soil which presents a great opportunity for farmers of various tropical crops and rubber plantations. Highlights: 12th century AD Angkor Bachey Temple, hnom Pros Phnom Srey, han Chey (pre-Angkorian temple), a city tour plus visits to a weaving and rubber plantations.
90 km Phnom Penh on national route No.5 and located near the mouth of the Tonle Sap River where the richest fish-producing lake in the world begins, Great Tonle Sap Lake. As a result, Kampong Chhnang is one of the largest fish producers. The name means day-pot port , because it is famous in pottery art also. Highlights: town market, floating villages, pottery village crocodile farm and the monastery of the province.
Battambong is the Western-most province of Cambodia, famous in rice plantations and tropical fruits. More than just a natural resource, the province is reputed for ancient temples as well.
Highlights: Prahok Market, old style monasteries, antique museum, Angkorian-style temples such as Ek Phnom, Baset and Banan temples, Phnom sampeou , agriculture dam of Kamping Puoy and many remote, interesting natural sites such as water falls and other natural habitat.
Bordering Thailand, Banteay Mean Chey is a new province that was only recently created from parts of Battambang and Siem Reap provinces. Beside its importance as busy border check-point, a community of skilled stone sculptors who ply their craft here attract visitors as do the great ancient temples such as Banteay Chhmar and many others.
All Northeast provinces of Cambodia are popular among travelers interested in eco-tourism and natural beauty. Other highlights for tourists in these provinces:hill tribes ,a gamete stone mine and beautiful waterfalls.
This Mekong province of Cambodia is rich in forestry and fishery products .However, many historic sites exist in this province , including the 100-Column ancient residential dwelling . The endangered river dolphin can also be spotted here.
This charming colonial town still retains much of its architectural style inherited during the French Colonial era. While in kampot , some visitors may care to explore the bat sanctuary inside the cave of Phnom Sarsea. Other worthwhile sights include a saltwater farm, waterfall, a zoo, a fruit plantation and many others.
Also in Kampot province, the famous but abandoned town built on the peak of Bokor is situated 1,075 meters above sea level and, being right next to the sea, enjoys the loveliest climate in the region. Bokor was a favorite haven for camping among French personnel during their period of rule here. In Kep City, a small flower-crab market is fascinating sight, which we suggest you not miss. Also, taking a boat trip to Ton say Island is must for those who enjoy nature exploration.