Through 200 splendid pictures sorted into about 50 galleries hereunder, discover Cambodia and its many tourist attractions such as the famous Angkor Archaeological Park, the cities of Siem Reap and Battambang, the sights of Phnom Penh (the current capital and the largest city of the country, formerly known as Pearl of Asia), the terrible death camps of the Khmer Rouge, the ancient capital of Oudong, Tonle Sap (Lake) and its floating villages, the canals and the remnants of the Kingdom of Funan (the cradle of the Cambodian civilization), and, last but not least, the beach resorts of Kep and Sihanoukville.
The photo galleries include also pictures from Cambodian people, their festivals, everyday life, and activities as well as pictures from Cambodian flora and pepper.
1. The city of Siem Reap and the immense Angkor Archaeological Park.
From the 9th to the 13th century, the Khmer empire was a major power in Indochina. Its capital was first set at Hariharalaya, northeast of Tonle Sap. The State religion was Hinduism. In the 9th century, the capital was moved by about 10 km to Yaśodharapura (the first name of Angkor). The Khmer created huge reservoirs (the so-called Baray) and a system of canals and dikes so that they managed to prevent flooding in the wet season and to have water available in the dry season.
In the early 12th century, King Suryavarman II built the temple city of Angkor Wat and made it his capital city. At the end of the 12th century, King Jayavarman VII repelled an invasion of the Cham and thereafter conquered Champa (part of today Vietnam) that became temporarily a province of Angkor. In its heyday, the territory of the Khmer empire stretched far beyond that of today Cambodia. It included parts of Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Burma.
King Jayavarman VII built a new capital, Angkor Thom, not far from the former. He converted to Mahayana (or "Great vehicle") Buddhism. At this time, the Khmer capital stretched over 200 km² and had nearly a hundred temples. It was home to up to 1 million inhabitants.
During the following reigns, the constructions continued. Hinduism was re-established as State religion in the 13th century. In the following century, Theravada Buddhism became the prevalent religion. However, in 1431, Angkor fell into the hands of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya (Thailand). The Khmer capital city was then moved to the southwest of Tonle Sap, in Lovek and thereafter Oudong. The Khmer territory remained long coveted by its two powerful neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam.
Today, Angkor is an immense archaeological site. It includes thirty major temples and hundreds of vestiges scattered over 400 square kilometers in a clear tropical forest where peasant life goes on. Most temples are inspired by the Indian mythology "with a Khmer style": basically, a central tower representing Mount Meru - the home of gods - and, all around, the representation of the ocean.
Siem Reap is the city which serves as a base to well over 1 million visitors who visit Angkor each year. It is also home to the nice Museum of Angkor, the Artisans d'Angkor (high-quality handicrafts), and apsara dance performances.
2. Battambang and surroundings.
Battambang, sometimes called the City of a thousand pagodas, is the second largest city of Cambodia. It is located north-west of Tonle Sap on the road between Phnom Penh and Thailand. The city retains several colonial buildings. You may also visit the small provincial museum and a traditional Khmer house on stilts. Around the city, there are a few archaeological sites, such as Wat Banon and the sacred Phnom Sampov Hill, as well as the dam and lake of Kamping Puoy which have been built at the time of the Khmer Rouge.
3. Tonle Sap and Oudong.
Tonle Sap is a lake located in a depression nearly in the center of Cambodia. It is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. In dry period, it drains into the Mekong River through the outlet (the Tonle Sap River) that connects it to the river in Phnom Penh. But in the wet season, there is a flow reversal: the rising waters of the Mekong River overflow into Tonle Sap, the dimension of which increases dramatically.
As a result, the lake is ideal for the reproduction of fish. Furthermore, the sediments which are brought by the flood fertilize the surrounding lands. The lake is an important economic activity. Floating villages are settled on the Lake and villages on stilts on its edges.
Oudong is located southwest of Tonle Sap. The Khmer Kings have been settled in Oudong for almost 250 years after leaving Angkor and thereafter Lovek. The sacred hill of Oudong is an important necropolis of the Khmer monarchy. In 1866, the Khmer King left Oudong and built a new Palace in Phnom Penh.
4. Phnom Penh, capital city of Cambodia.
Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. It is set at the intersection of 4 rivers: the Upper Mekong, the Tonle Sap River, the Lower Mekong and the Tonle Bassac. The French developed considerably the city when Cambodia was under the French colonial rule (1863 -1953).
After the destructions perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge and the loss of a large part of its population, the city resumed its development. It has several attractions, including the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, Wat Phnom (the birthplace of the city), the Central Market, and the National Museum of Cambodia. You can also visit the sites which have been kept in memory of the victims of the Khmer Rouge: the S-21 security prison and the Choeung Ek death camp.
5. The South of Cambodia and the beach resorts.
The south part of Cambodia is the cradle of the Khmer civilization. It is the territory of the ancient Kingdom of Funan, which predates the Kingdom of Angkor by several centuries. A network of canals and several archaeological sites remain from the era of the powerful Kingdom of Funan. The region is also home to some remnants of the Angkorian era.
The region of Kampot is situated in this part of the country. It has been known for a long time for the production of pepper and sea salt. However, the main tourist attractions in the south of Cambodia are obviously the beach resorts of Kep and most notably Sihanoukville.
In Sihanoukville, holidaymakers have the choice between several amazing white sand beaches, one as nice as the other. Ream national park, one of the seven national parks of Cambodia, is situated at 18 km south of Sihanoukville. Several islands off Sihanoukville provide holidaymakers with pristine beaches and/or dive sites.
The port of Sihanoukville lies in the north part of the city. This is the only deep sea harbor of Cambodia.
6. Population and flora of Cambodia.
Cambodia's population is estimated at 15 million inhabitants. Young people who are less than 25 years make up half of the population. The Khmer is the dominant ethnic group (about 90% of the population). The Vietnamese accounts for only 5% of the population, but can be the majority in some places. The majority of the population is Theravada Buddhist. Khmer is the official language of Cambodia.
The country is a constitutional monarchy. The current King, Norodom Sihamoni, was once professor of classical dance in Paris. The country is divided into 25 provinces.
Cambodia's economy is booming. It benefits from foreign aid and investments. With 2 million foreign visitors per year, tourism and related investments form an important economic activity of the country.
Agricultural production (rubber and most notably rice), fishing (Cambodia being the fourth largest producer of freshwater fish), the textile industry (including numerous garment workshops working on behalf of Chinese subcontractors of Western companies) and lately the oil industry are the main other economic resources of Cambodia.
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