The Golden Land

The Golden Land of Angkor Wat

Officially known as The Kingdom of Cambodia, the country is in the south of the Indo-China Peninsula. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Kambuja’, which means ‘Golden Land’ or ‘Land of Peace and Prosperity’.  Best known for the world famous Angkor Wat temples, Cambodia is also home to several lakes, pagodas, caves, islands, national parks and museums. It is a popular tourist destination due to its amalgamation of natural beauty, rich heritage and sophisticated modernity.

Cambodia is an ideal destination for all sorts of tourists, whether solo, couples or families, thrill-seekers or culture enthusiasts and history buffs or business travellers. It is a beautiful, bustling country that has something to offer everyone.

Fascinating Temples and Ruins

Cambodia is teeming with ancient temple structures and ruins of great fascination to connoisseurs of culture. Prominent among these is the great Angkor Wat temple complex. Angkor was the seat of the Khmer Empire during the 9th through the 14th centuries. Ruins of over 1,000 temples are scattered across fields and plains in the region. Of these, the Angkor Wat is the most famous as it is the world’s largest religious monument. It is accessible from the town of Siem Reap. Originally constructed for the worship of the Hindu God Vishnu, by Khmer King Suryavarman, it gradually started to be dedicated towards Buddhist worship by the end of the 12th century.

Angkor Wat is modelled after Mount Meru, the home of Hindu Gods and is spread across 402 acres. The temple complex has a great pride of the place in the country’s cultural fabric, is its primary tourist attraction and is also featured on the national flag.

It takes about three days to fully explore the site. However, for those with time constraints, a visit to the tree-root clasped Ta Prohm Temple, the Bayon Temple with 216 faces carved in stone, the Angkor Thom and Preah Khan temples are adequate.

The Prasat Preah Vihear is a monumental complex of several temples, inching close to the Thailand border, and is a contested site between both countries. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site accessible through Sra Em, but visitors also come over from Siam Reap.

The complex sits on top of the Dangrek Mountains, providing a bird’s eye view of the floodplains below. It was originally built to honour Lord Shiva. Sambor Prei Kuk is yet another temple site from the pre-Angkorian era of the 7th century and was the seat of the Upper Chenla Empire. Over 100 Hindu temples are situated in the forest here, several of which are consumed by tree roots. The complex contains some of the country’s oldest structures. Among the numerous temples here, the Prasat Sambor, Prasat Yeay Peau and Prasat Tao are the most popular and historically important for the myriad carvings on their walls. People often search for the “keo temple, cambodia”. It is indeed a very popular temple in Cambodia and should be on your “places to visit in Cambodia” list. The Vishnu temple in Cambodia is very famous amongst Hindu devotees.

Phnom Penh Delights

Phnom Penh is the buzzing, cosmopolitan capital city of Cambodia. Along with being amazingly modern, it also provides numerous touristy delights, which make it a place definitely not to be missed.

The city is located at the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. It is a harmonious blend of French colonial style architecture and Angkorian charm.

Prominent among the city’s main attractions are the Phnom Penh Palace, Silver Pagoda, the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, the Choeng Ek Killing Fields and the National Museum.

With classic Khmer architecture and intricate gilding, the Royal Palace dominates Phnom Penh’s skyline. Since it is the official residence of the King, parts of the compound are closed off, and only the throne hall and few nearby buildings can be toured by visitors. However, the adjacent Silver Pagoda is open to the public.

The Palace’s throne hall is topped by a massive 59-metre tower inspired by Angkor Wat’s Bayon. It is mostly used for coronations and other official ceremonies of great significance.

The Silver Pagoda is named so because its floor is covered by a whopping five tons of silver. The stairs leading to the pagoda are made of Italian marble, and they lead up to the jaw-droppingly spectacular Emerald Buddha, a sculpture made of Baccarat crystals. It also has a life-size Buddha sculpture weighing 90 kg, which is made of solid gold and close to 2,100 diamonds, the largest of which weighs 25 carats.

The city is also home to many vibrant markets selling silk, silver, gemstones, antiques and carvings.

Swimming with Elephants

For those who need a break from temples and ruins, a trip to the Elephant Valley Project at Mondulkiri is a must. The sanctuary was established in 2006. It was established by a group of wildlife enthusiasts to rescue and rehabilitate the pachyderms and give them a better life. Visitors can play and swim with the friendly and enthusiastic elephants, learn their stories and interact with the locals as well.

Sun and Sand

Cambodia’s beaches are ideal for travellers who prefer some peace and quiet with lesser crowds. The south-western Beach at Koh Rong, with a nearby canopy of tropical forest, is a pristine paradise of white sand, azure water and cool breeze. Visitors can also take boat rides to enjoy the tranquil beauty of this place. The Kho Thmei Beach is one of the most secluded in the country, and tourists can stay in the eponymous resort, which is part of the Ream National Park.

The Sokha Beach is tucked in between the Independence and Serendipity beaches of Sihanoukville. Its sand has a very fine, ticklish centre, and a part of it is reserved for guests of the Sokha beach resort. There are several beachside shacks where one can indulge in delicious local cuisine.

Lazy beach in Cambodia is breathtaking, as the name suggests – ‘lazy beach’ – you can get all, lazy and cozy here, and relax and forget all your worries and just enjoy the beach.

Other well known beaches are the Long Set Beach, Otres Beach and Koh Pos Beach. Most Cambodian beaches are clean, well-maintained and have beautiful, crystal-blue waters.

Diving at Sihanoukville

Having discussed Cambodia’s beaches, one cannot miss out on its wonderful underwater universe. Diving sites in the beautiful Sihanoukville are abound with clear, turquoise blue water with ideal temperature and vibrant coral reefs. Divers can spot an array of marine life including triggerfish, barracudas, stingrays, slippery eels, delicate seahorses, vivid nudibranch and massive whale sharks.

These diving sites can be visited all year round except during the monsoon as visibility is low then. The sheer beauty and perfect conditions of Sihanoukville’s diving sites draw tourists from all over the world.

Thus, it is very apparent that despite being a small country, Cambodia is a conglomeration of all things touristy and fun. Its picturesque beauty, rich legacy, and mesmerising culture will permanently imprint themselves on the minds of even the most seasoned traveller.