Cambodia offers everything that fans of Southeast Asia are looking for: the most impressive temple cities in the region, a diverse landscape that is second to none, emerging cities and secluded beaches. If you want to look behind the scenes of a country with a fascinating history, a dark past and a hopeful present, a country in which people smile not out of a sense of duty but out of deep conviction, Cambodia should not be missed during a tour of Indochina.
The lively capital, a good starting point for a visit to Cambodia during a tour through Indochina, is developing into a modern metropolis that nonetheless faces change calmly. In Phnom Penh – built around a temple mount more than 700 years ago – history, tradition and modernity come together to form a Cambodian total work of art. Take Buddhist monasteries, pagodas and a royal palace, add French colonial mansions and Art Deco architecture, place everything on the bank colonnades of the Tonle Sap, and the city appears in your mind’s eye. When you think of the friendly people, an interesting restaurant and bar scene, traditional markets and hotels from dignified to postmodern, you know why Phnom Penh is worth more than just a stopover. But the dark story is also part of it: From 1971 on, the Khmer Rouge tortured and killed up to 20,000 people in a former school in the middle of the city. Today the school houses the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum.
On the banks of the Mekong
Our round trip through Indochina leads us to an absolute highlight in Cambodia: Angkor, UNESCO World Heritage Site and with an area of 210 hectares the largest temple complex in the world. Along the Tonle Sap Lake to the north, we drive past authentic villages to Siem Reap, the starting point for visiting the complex of Angkor. The Tonle Sap is one of the most fish-rich inland waters on earth due to a very special natural spectacle. The Tonle Sap River emerges in the south, which normally meets the Mekong near Phnom Penh and sets out with it on the last leg over the Vietnamese border towards the South China Sea. But: once a year the Tonle Sap river changes its direction of flow and leads the water masses of the Mekong into the Tonle Sap lake, which rises as a result. Millions of people live on the banks of the Mekong with these constantly changing conditions. It was like that in the legendary Angkor, the capital of the Khmer. Water was necessary for life in the city and between the fascinating temples. At some point there was too little water for the people and the city died. And we’re standing in the middle of Ankor on our round trip through Indochina in Cambodia and making our own picture of it.
Angkor – the largest temple complex in the world
The temples of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom or the imposing Bayon temple have to be seen once in a lifetime! Curtain up: It is early morning and the sun is slowly making its way up through the dense palm forest. The lost world of Angkor is bathed in soft light. You stand on the temple of Angkor Wat and watch the temple mountains emerge from the shadows of the night. A magical moment that you will never forget. This is the center of the huge Khmer Empire, which stretched into Indochina from the 9th to the 13th centuries. We set out and explore the aura of this sunken world with monumental, pyramid-shaped temples, endless pools of water and the Apsaras – the sky girls of Angkor. More than 1,800 reliefs of Apsaras, the nymphs of the Buddhist and Hindu tradition, adorn the temples of Angkor. They dance, stand on lotus flowers, sometimes they fly. What they all have in common is an ancient and impenetrable smile that poses a riddle. Let us solve the riddle on our tour through Indochina in Cambodia and experience the graceful posture of the Apsara dancers live.
The dreamy seaside resort of Kep
Even apart from the tourist highlights, there are – sometimes hidden – highlights of the country to discover: mountain landscapes, dense jungle, thundering waterfalls, floating villages, everyday life of ethnic minorities and dreamy beaches. Many travelers are drawn to the imposing cultural monuments of Cambodia, and rightly so. But: Cambodia also has 200 kilometers of beautiful beaches on the south coast, only around 200 kilometers south of Phnom Penh. So why not combine high cultures and relaxation on the beach? In the late 1960s, the dreamy seaside resort of Kep was one of the chic refuges of Asian high society. In the turmoil of the political unrest, he fell into a slumber from which he woke up again today.