Cambodia (official name: the Kingdom of Cambodia) is a small developing country located in the southern portion of the Southeast Asian land mass, sharing borders with Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.
Cambodia is neither a famous tourist spot, nor a very exciting country. Many visitors head straight for the temples at Angkor, then continue their trip to other Southeast Asian countries. But if you follow suit, you will miss the alluring natural scenery and rich heritage of this beautiful country. Nature and purity have become highly sought-after gifts in this fast-changing world, but you can find them everywhere in Cambodia. And this is what makes Cambodia a unique place to visit.
The Temple City – Angkor Wat
The temples of Angkor spread out over some 400 km2. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, and is also the largest religious monument in the world. Some people can spend a full week at Angkor and still find more to see.
If you don’t have a week in which to visit every corner of Angkor, then Angkor Wat, a grand architectural composition built to impress, is an attraction which you cannot afford to miss. It is located in the south-east corner of the ancient city of Angkor, and is preserved in pristine condition, as it was protected from invasion by the jungle by a 190m-wide moat. Even more than 400 years after it was abandoned, Angkor Wat is still a magnificent piece of art.
Being the iconic temple in Cambodia, Angkor Wat is famous for its soaring towers and intricate carvings. To enter this complex across the moat, visitors need to pass through an impressive laterite causeway built from massive blocks of stone. The bas-reliefs inside Angkor are like an open museum, you can find them everywhere. “Angkor Wat, by means of its perfectly ordered and balanced plan, by the harmony of its proportions and the purity of its lines, and by the very particular care taken in its construction, merits being placed at the apogee of an art,” said Maurice Glazie, a French architect and archeologist, and conservator of Angkor.
Entry Pass: Main ticket sales booths are located on the road from Siemreap to Angkor Wat and at the checkpoint at Banteay Srei.
Entry passes are required to enter the Angkor Archaeological Park; free admission for children under 12.
3 categories of pass –
- 1 day pass: can be purchased after 5pm, allowing entry for sunset on the day of purchase and full day the following day ($20)
- 3 days pass: valid for 3 days during the following week ($40)
- 7 days pass: valid for 7 days in one month ($60)
Opening hours: 5:00am – 6:00pm
Tour guides: Tour guides are particularly helpful in explaining the bas-reliefs and history of the temples. Most guides charge around $20-$25/day
World’s finest Khmer sculpture – The National Museum of Cambodia
Photo credit: Aleksandar Todorovic/ Shutterstock.com
The National Museum of Cambodia was founded in 1920. With almost 100 years of history and its pretty terracotta structure, in traditional design, divided into four pavilions all facing a beautiful garden, the museum buildings alone already form a magnificent artwork.
The museum preserves and exhibits many treasures to visitors. Its collections fall into four main categories: stone, metal, wood and ceramics. You can find many exhibits from the ancient Khmers, most of them representing the important divinities of Buddhism and Hinduism. One of the oldest art pieces in the museum is an imposing eight-armed Vishnu statue from the 6th century, and is a must-see item. And there are many more Khmer sculptures awaiting your visit.
Address: Street 13 in Central Phnom Penh, next to the Royal Palace.
Opening hours: 8:00am – 5:00pm, admission tickets are sold until 4:30pm
Entry fee: US$5 for foreign visitors
Remarks: Photography is not permitted within the museum galleries
Emerald Buddha of Cambodia - Silver Pagoda
Wat Preah Keo Morakot (The Silver Pagoda), home to a dazzling array of Buddha statues, stands on the south side of the Royal Palace. The Silver Pagoda got its name because of its floor, which is made up of more than 5,000 gleaming silver tiles. Most are covered by red carpeting to protect them. But don’t be disappointed; a stunning display of prosperity and treasure, mostly Buddha figures made of gold, silver, bronze and other valuable materials, are on show to the public. One of the most notable Buddha figures is the gold Maitreya Buddha statue, which weighs 90 kilograms and is decorated with 2,086 diamonds, one of them a 25-millimeter stone set in the crown.
Even more astonishing than the gold Buddha is a gorgeous 17th-century Emerald Buddha statue, said to be made of baccarat crystal, located at the center of the pagoda. And there is a small glass cabinet that holds what Buddhists believe is an ancient relic: a statue of Buddha transported from Sri Lanka.
This magnificent temple is worth a visit even with your tight schedule.
Address: Samdech Sothearos Boulevard between 184th Street and 240th Street, south side of the Royal Palace
Opening Hours: 7:30am-11:00am / 2:00pm-5:00pm
Entry Fee: US$3; extra fees of US$2 for bringing in a camera and US$5 for a video camera
Remarks: Photography is not permitted inside the pagoda itself