Cambodia: The Kingdom of Wonder

on May 23 | in Student life | by Whitney deLisser | with No Comments

As I am about to set off on my internship in Cambodia I have decided to do a little profile on Cambodia. Only a few weeks left until the end of the semester…

Nestled in South-east Asia, Cambodia is bordered by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.  It has been blessed with unequaled natural beauty, including its landscapes and wildlife.  The geography is dominated by the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap Lake which support the wildlife and provide the environment for the principle agricultural activity, rice cultivation.  Furthermore, it has a strong historical background since it has had inhabitants since around 2000 BC and today some of the ancient temples still stand.  Although the country has been shrouded in political unrest, and has had somewhat of a question mark beside it in relation to tourism, attitudes are changing along with the reasons people travel and the country has opened up to development and investment.

Along the Tonle Sap

Cambodia has the infrastructure necessary to facilitate tourism and has made the first steps towards creating a more tourist friendly environment.  In terms of travel routes the country has four major airports, two seaports and two train lines which run at least once a week.  In relation to roads, an article from the New York Times stated that some 21 road projects were being completed allowing better access to historical sites for visitors and importantly, better transportation opportunities for locals (Fuller, January 18, 2010).  Following that, although the official language of the country is Khmer, English and French are widely spoken and are being taught by schools and the monks in more rural areas. This sets the country up well to invite travellers in.

View of the main Angkor Wat temple complex reflected in a pool. The central towered portion appears on the Cambodian flag.

The “Land of Khmer” is rich in history, culture and architecture largely influenced by the French colonization and the people’s Buddhist beliefs.  Khmer people practice Theravada Buddhism and as such the land is dotted with beautiful historic temples.  To quote Lee, Y., & Chen, C. (2010) “the strength of Cambodian tourism lies in unspoiled nature and historical and cultural resources such as historical sites and architectural buildings”. In addition to this, dance plays a very important role in storytelling and can be either very formal or basic.  Here the dancers are accompanied by special orchestras including bamboo flutes and Khmer cymbals.  Another attraction to visitors is the unique cuisine based, of course, on rice and a unique blend of sweet, sour and salty flavours coming together in harmony in one dish or as part of the meal. Usual menus include a soup, two other dishes and one of the many rice varieties steamed.  The attractions to the country are endless and anyone visiting will learn, be fascinated and entertained by Cambodia.

Entranceway at the Bayon, a richly decorated temple at Angkor built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries by King Jayavarman VII.

There are some growth factors that position Cambodia as a country that is worth visiting.  Their economy has shown growth in recent years and continues to show good potential for coming years as proved by the statistic “Cambodia’s real GDP should expand by 6.5% (Cambodia economy: ADB forecasts growth recovery, 2011).  Another good news indicator is the discovery of oil in Cambodian waters and a plan to begin extraction in 2012, which would of course show further increases in GDP.  Most importantly, the last ten years have seen major investment in the country through the development of hotels for example, the Orient Express Group’s La Residence d’Angkor. These should act as a comfort for doubting tourists.
There are numerous reasons to include Cambodia on the “go there” list. The country has beauty, beaches, rainforest, wonderful hotels and a culture to dive into.  What more can you ask for in a destination? I am very excited to begin working there!
www.tourismcambodia.com

Reference List
• Fuller, T. (2010, January 18) Cambodia Takes to the Roads in Building Spree. The New York Times.  Retrieved May 3, 2011 from www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/world/asia/19camboroad.html
• Lee, Y., & Chen, C. (2010). Examining and comparing the competitiveness of tourism industry in Cambodia and Taiwan: An assessment from professionals Journal of American Academy of Business. Retrieved May 1, 2011 from http://search.proquest.com/docview/324724724?accountid=45049
• South East Asia Map, Phuket Guide – Retrieved May 1, 2011 from www.phuket-guide.netphuket_mapsoutheast2.htm.gif
• The Economist Intelligence Unit (2011) Cambodia economy: ADB forecasts growth recovery  Retrieved May1,2011 from http://search.proquest.com/docview/863216375?accountid=45049

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