A strong sense of national pride exists in Cambodia, and there is an abundance of sites that locals hold close to their hearts. Here are a few of the most-favoured spots.
This iconic temple complex may well be Cambodia’s main tourist draw but, more importantly, it sits at the centre of Khmer national pride. It’s also well worth remembering that while it’s a major tourist attraction, it also serves as a temple and sacred place of worship – the largest religious monument in the world – for Cambodians, of which the majority are Buddhist. Built in the 12th century as a Hindu temple, it later changed to a Buddhist temple, and served as the capital of the ruling Khmer Empire. It appears on the national flag.
The eastern province of Mondulkiri is predominantly home to Cambodia’s hill tribes, the Bunong. The minority ethnic group, who have inhabited the rugged region for generations, have been dubbed the caretakers of Cambodia’s sacred forests. Living alongside nature, the Bunong people deem areas of the thick forest sacred due to ancestors being buried there. Nature lovers will be in their element in Mondulkiri thanks to the vast jungle, which is being threatened by illegal loggers, and its rare flora and fauna. It is also home to a handful of elephant sanctuaries.
Ask any Cambodian and they’ll know landmark Wat Langka in Phnom Penh. Created as a sanctuary for Holy writings and a meeting point for monks from Cambodia and Sri Lanka, it is home to a shimmering temple, shaded grounds and colourful murals. As one of the capital’s oldest temples, dating back to 1442, many of the monks based there are highly-regarded teachers. Free meditation sessions take place throughout the week.
Prasat Preah Vihear
Prasat Preah Vihear (temple of the sacred mountain) has been at the centre of conflict for decades. Sitting on the edge of the Cambodian-Thai border, ferocious fighting between the two countries over ownership of the sacred site pursued until recent years. In 2015, the destination was deemed safe and taken off many foreign offices’ watch lists. While military presence remains strong, the temple is well worth a visit. With none of the crowds that plague Angkor, Prasat Preah Vihear is a series of impressive structures, built between the 9th and 12th century by several kings.
The Cambodian countryside is the jewel of the country, with pristine paddies stretching to the horizon dotted with grazing buffalo, dusty dirt tracks and gently waving palm trees. Ask any Cambodian about their “homeland” – or home province where their family is rooted – and they will swell with pride. So, whichever part of rural Cambodia you’re exploring, it will be someone’s super special spot.
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