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One of the prominent early cultures of Cambodia were the Khmer people, with the Funan Kingdom around the first century. The Funanese Empire stretched across Southeast Asia and had contact with the Romans, and both trade and cultural exchanges with India.
European explorers from Portugal and Spain arrived in the 16th century, as early as 1555. When Cambodia's neighbors, Siam (now Thailand) and Vietnam, faced conflict, Cambodia was caught in between. Though Cambodia was a protectorate of Siam, Vietnam invaded and claimed much of Cambodia's territory. Cambodia became a French protectorate in 1863, then part of the French colony of French Indochina. During World War II, Cambodia was occupied by Japan. Cambodia gained independence in 1953, becoming a constitutional monarchy under King Sihanouk. During the Vietnam War, the communists occupied part of Cambodia, using it to keep its forces supplied. Sihanouk was forced out in 1970, and a new regime rid Cambodia of the Vietnamese communists with US support, sparking new conflict. Khmer Rouge rebels took control, establishing the country as Democratic Kampuchea. Vietnam invaded in 1978 and the People's Republic of Kampuchea was formed. With UN intervention, Sihanouk was reinstated as King of Cambodia, under a new form of government in 1993.
Neighboring Countries :
Cambodia shares borders with Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.
- Phnom Penh (capital)
- Siem Reap
Cambodia is located in the tropics of Southeast Asia, on the southern Indochina Peninsula, with coastline along the Gulf of Thailand in the southwest. The terrain of Cambodia features forested lowlands and mountains including the Dangrek Mountain range, the Kravanh Mountains, and the Damrei Mountains. The country's highest point is at Phnom Aural, which stands 1,813 meters (5,949 feet) above sea level. Tonle Sap, or the Great Lake, is one of Cambodia's most important geographic features. This is Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake, designated by UNESCO. Tonle Sap is both the lake and the river system that flows from it during the dry season and back to it in the rainy season. The lake drains into the Mekong River, which is the main river in eastern Cambodia. The plains around Tonle Sap are used for rice cultivation.
One of Cambodia's main attractions is Angkor Wat in the Angkor Archaeological Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor was once the capital of the 9th century Khmer Empire, and was the world's largest city in its time. The architecture at the site includes Angkor Wat, a massive temple with ornate carvings, the Bayon Temple, and many ruins. These are significant sites in Cambodian history, demonstrating the region's Hindu influenced past, with these temple mountains. The main access point for Angkor Wat is Siem Reap, which is heavily touristed and home to the Ankor Silk Farm, a museum, and several temples of its own.
The capital, Phnom Penh, is home to the Royal Palace, museums of the nation's history and culture, the Wat Phnom, and the Choeung Ek Killing Fields, a historically significant site from the rule of the Khmer Rouge.
Cambodia's international airports are located in the capital, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap, Angkor International. These airports offer direct flights to destinations in Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, and other regional destinations.
There are several border crossings open between Cambodia and Thailand, the most popular of which is near Siem Reap at Aranyaprathet/Poipet. This road, and many of the other international roadways, are fairly well paved the whole way, and many are served by buses or taxis. The major border crossing to Vietnam is along the road from Ho Chi Minh City, at Moc Bai/Bavet. There are also limited ways to enter Cambodia via Laos, one of which is by boat. Boats are also available for transportation along Cambodia's major rivers between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh or Battambang. Bus is a good way to get around Cambodia, but shared taxis or hitching a ride in a pickup truck are other common methods of travel.
Last Updated : April 11, 2015