Posted on November 9, 2015
People have lived in what is now Cambodia for thousands of years....
The great Khmer Empire rose here – the , the largest empire in area during the 12th Century...
But empires tend to fall, and “dark ages” often follow times of invention and innovation. The Ayutthaya Kingdom (of Siam, now Thailand) conquered the Khmer Empire, both Siamese and Vietnamese peoples enslaved many Cambodian people, and eventually European powers were sniffing around Southeast Asia, eager to carve it up into colonies. By 1863 Cambodia had become a protectorate of France.
Almost a century later, on this date in 1953, Cambodia achieved independence from France.
|Cambodians celebrate their independence with parades and floats,|
flags and balloons.
Cambodia by the numbers...
- About 95% of all Cambodians practice Theravada Buddhism.
- In addition to Vietnamese, Chinese, and Chams (an ethnic group from Southeast Asia), there are 30 “hill tribes” – people who live in the highlands of Cambodia and who are distantly related to the Khmer.
- Cambodia scored 99th out of just 102 countries as far as rule-of-law goes. That's a real bummer, because in nations where the rule of law is weak, violence is more common, laws are enforced more unfairly, foreign companies do not want to invest there, tourists do not want to travel there – even medicines fail to reach the hospitals and clinics where they are needed!
(I am not sure why only 102 were ranked, when there are almost 200 nations in the world! But Cambodia WAS ranked the worst in all of East Asia.)
- The Khmer Empire flourished for more than 600 years.
though tourism in Cambodia is generally somewhat depressed by its
reputation for violence and crime, the amazing temple complex of the
Khmer Empire, Angkor Wat, is now a major tourist destination. From
only 7,650 visitors to Angkor Wat in 1993, there were more than
2,000,000 (two million) visitors per year in both 2012 and 2013.
An up-close look at Angkor Wat shows that to some
extent it is being taken over by nature, again...in this case,
by moss and lichen and algae (above)
and trees (below).
It may be that tourists are safer at this ancient site than they are elsewhere in Cambodia, because it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is being managed by a private company who pays rent to the Cambodian government.
There are about 3,000 "apsaras," or heavenly nymphs, carved into the walls of Angkor Wat. Each is unique.
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