advertisement

If ever a country could be in possession of charisma, then this troubled but fascinating Southeast Asian kingdom has it in droves. Where for 3 decades misfortune and war have obscured a rich history and vibrant culture, for the last decade that perception of the country as a place of unmitigated darkness has been in a state of constant revision. It is a nation at peace, no longer a proxy battleground for world superpowers. Historically, Cambodia was home to one of the most glorious and influential civilizations in Asia. The Khmers ruled from what is now Cambodia, all across Laos, Thailand, and large parts of Vietnam. A homogenous race, their art, language, and architecture helped influence every region their empire touched. Subsequent history saw all those glories diminish and implode, culminating in some of the most horrific episodes of savagery in the history of mankind. It may be a cliché, but in the case of Cambodia one is justified in using the phrase "a country of extremes." Very few walk away from Cambodia with simple indifference.

As a tourist, you will be witness to this regeneration of Cambodia as it happens. With the war long since finished, Cambodia is now easy to visit and get around. Infrastructure is vastly improved and accommodations in every category are plentiful. Blessed by some of the most fascinating and beautiful sites Southeast Asia has to offer, Cambodia is finally welcoming visitors on an industrial scale.

Lay of the Land -- Cambodia borders Thailand to the west and the north, Laos to the north, and Vietnam to the east and south. It is slightly smaller than Oklahoma at 181,035 sq. km (69,898 sq. miles). It has a coastline of 443km (275 miles) along the gulf of Thailand. It is largely, although not exclusively, flat and is bisected by the mighty Mekong River, which flows north to south from Laos, through Cambodia and then on to Vietnam. The Tonle Sap, a tributary of the Mekong, feeds the Tonle Sap Lake, the largest in Southeast Asia. The Tonle Sap is a geographical anomaly, since it is the only river in the world that actually changes direction twice a year. From November to May, Cambodia's dry season, the Tonle Sap drains into the Mekong when it reaches Phnom Penh. In June, when heavy monsoon rains begin, the flow reverses to form the enormous Tonle Sap Lake. The Tonle Sap then drains the Mekong and flows into the lake.

There are mountains in the northeast around Ratanakiri, the Dangrek range in the north and the Cardamoms in the southwest. Most population concentrations are around the fertile river valleys or on the coast.

Cambodia used to be largely blanketed by high-canopy rainforest but logging, both legal and illegal, has seen that diminished to almost nothing. The flatlands of the river basin remain incredibly fertile and the countryside is largely dominated by rice production.

Land mines are still found in the areas surrounding the mountain and jungle areas, particularly along the Thai border where the Khmer Rouge had their bases, though this is only a basic rule of thumb.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.