I suppose if you were to pick two places to visit in Cambodia in hope of grasping a bit of what its about they would be the two we visited: the capital Phnom Penh and arguably the most amazing ruins on the planet, the temples of Angkor Wat.
Lose yourself in the magnificence of a lost civilization. Angkor is the heart and soul of Cambodia, a place of extravagant beauty and the perfect fusion of creative ambition and spiritual devotion.
Angkor Wat is the most famous temple ground in the entire Angkor plain. It was built by King Suryavarman II in the middle of the 12th century over a period of about 30 years. Like many other Khmer temples, Angkor Wat was built as architectural allegory of the Hindu religion. The central tower stands for Mount Meru, the center of the universe according to Hindu mythology; the top of Mount Meru is considered the home of the gods.
The temple ground is surrounded by a wall and a moat, not only for demarcation purposes, but also because in Hindu mythology Mount Meru is surrounded by other mountain ranges and oceans.
The main entryway to Angkor Wat is a street of roughly half a kilometer length, ornamented with balustrades and fringed by artificial lakes, so-called Barays. This entryway resembles the rainbow bridge in Hindu mythology, the link between heaven and earth, or the realm of the gods and the realm of the mortals.
Angkor Wat is in better structural condition than many other temples on the Angkor plain because it has been converted into a Buddhist temple probably even before the Siamese conquest in 1431, and because it has been used as such continuously after (in the 13th century Buddhism became an important religion in originally pure-Hindu Angkor)
Cambodia promises a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences to the intrepid traveller. Your heart will race at Angkor Wat, the world’s greatest achievements, only to haltingly derail when faced with the impact of humankind’s darkest moments. After two decades of war and isolation, only now is Cambodia truly starting to recover from the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal 1975-79 rule.