Country tours Cambodia lead to the Indochinese peninsula on the Gulf of Thailand and thus to Southeast Asia. The country, once a colony of France, did not achieve independence until 1953. Far before that, Cambodia was the territory of the Khmer, who left behind fascinating as well as significant evidence of their rule and culture. The most famous of which are the ruins of Angkor. The temple complex near Siem Reap gives an idea of the size and power of the Khmer kingdom – especially with Angkor Wat, which is the largest sacred building in the world. Also noteworthy is Angkor Thom, the once magnificent city, in the center of which lies the Bayon Temple, adorned with around 200 stone faces. Cambodia, however, shows even more traces of the Khmer: with the ruins of Banteay Srei, Roluos, Beng Malea or the somewhat lesser known temple complex Banteay Chhmar on the border with Thailand. Each of them is unmistakably individual. But that old culture also has an effect on people’s lives today, because many traditions and, for example, the dance style are shaped by the Khmer era. One of the traditions that are cultivated in Cambodia is the shadow play that is as stylish as it is dynamic. More everyday culture in the country can be observed in the capital – although Phnom Penh is also recommended for its national museum, French colonial architecture, the royal palace, the silver pagoda and the Wat Phnom temple towering over the city on a hill. Other well-known cities are Udong, the former capital surrounded by rice fields and sugar palms, the coastal city of Sihanoukville or Battambang, the second largest city in the country. However, Cambodia is also worthwhile for its simple villages and for almost untouched nature, which includes a rich flora as well as the Mekong.
Tonle Sap Lake
unique ecosystem and floating villages in Asia
Tonle Sap Lake in northwest Cambodia is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. For centuries, Lake Tonle Sap has been a symbiotic part of the existence, culture and identity of Cambodia. Three million people on or around the lake make a living from fishing and agriculture.
A unique natural spectacle
According to topschoolsintheusa, Tonle Sap Lake is a unique ecological water wonder. It is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. The most interesting feature of the lake is that its size and dimensions change in the rainy season. During the dry season the lake is quite small with a minimum size of 2,800 km² and a depth of approx. 1 m. In the rainy season, however, the water of the Mekong becomes so strong that it reverses the direction of the Tonle Sap River and pushes the excess rainwater into the Tonle Sap Lake. This turns the lake into a huge natural water reservoir, the size of which increases fivefold to 15,000 km2 with a depth of 8 m, floods the surrounding wooded floodplain and supports an extraordinarily rich and diverse habitat. The lake offers a great diversity of species and is an ideal destination for study trips.
The floating villages
In harmony with the special living conditions, the people of Tonle Sap Lake live in floating villages and towering stilt houses. There are several of these villages, with Chong Khneas on the edge of the lake being the most famous. It is located in the southern part of Siem Reap town and visitors can explore the village on a guided boat tour. Such a boat trip through the floating village takes around two hours. Various floating households and the floating clinics, schools, markets, fisheries, basketball courts, pigsties and more can be visited. The best time to travel to Lake Tonle Sap is the dry season from November to April.
Sambor Prei Kuk
Cambodia is one of the most interesting destinations for a study trip. One of the most fascinating cultural sites in the country is Samor Prei Kuk. The Hindu temple complex is located in what is now Kampong Thun Province, about 30 kilometers north of the city of the same name. The temple complex is surrounded by jungle and is also referred to in the Khmer language as a “temple in the richness of the forest”. In the center of the former Ishanupura, the temple complex was probably the most important of the Kingdom of Chenla.
Architectural and urban uniqueness
The World Heritage Site Sambor prei Kik extends over an area of 25 square kilometers, on which the remains of the city are spread. The complex construction with towers, raised platforms and amazing structures is immediately noticeable. With unmistakable Indian influences and an atypical design for the Southeast Asian region, the world cultural heritage site has countless artistic decorations. Neither the city nor the temple could be ascribed a well-known architectural style and it is therefore spoken of today as the “Sambor Prei Kuk style”. Due to the structure of the former city, it can be seen that the temple complex was one of the most important pilgrimage centers in Southeast Asia.
A lost city with many treasures
The temple complex itself is worth the trip alone. There are not only artistic building details, but also numerous inscriptions in Sanskrit and Khmer on the walls of the temple complex. The inscriptions go back to the teachings of the Buddha and show that the ideology of the city’s residents was closely linked to the idea of tolerance and peace. Since Ishanapura and the Sambor prei Kuk temple are less well known than the ruins of Angkor, archaeological work is still in progress today and it is hoped that further archaeological exploration will provide more information on pre-Angkorian urban planning, art and architecture.