Cambodia's ancient name is Kambuja, derived from the Sanskrit word meaning "Golden Land" or "Land of Peace and Prosperity". Yet the six centuries of the Khmer Empire that began in 802 with the self-declared “God-king” of Jayarvaman II were often far from peaceful as the empire grew through territorial conquests to become the largest in Southeast Asia. Successive kings accumulated immense power and wealth, while also spreading first Hinduism and then Buddhism to much of the region. The empire's centre of power was the ancient city of Angkor – one of the veritable highlights of your tour of Cambodia. With a population of up to a million people living in an area,
of 1150 square miles, it’s thought to have been the largest pre-industrial city in the world. You’ll never forget your visit to Angkor’s awe-inspiring temples, a journey to one of the great wonders of the world (and indeed a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that takes us through jungle and across a 300 foot moat. The temple of Bayon alone is crowned by more than fifty towers, each with four enormous carved heads surveying every direction – a true masterpiece of Khmer art. The magnificent Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, built by King Suryavarman in the early 12th century as his state temple and eventual mausoleum, appears on the national flag of Cambodia and has become its iconic symbol.
What a contrast on your Cambodia tour is vibrant Phnom Penh, a beautiful French colonial city that rightly deserves to be called “the pearl of Asia.” The silver pagoda of its majestic Royal Palace is unforgettable. So too for other reasons is its Tuol Sleng museum – once a school before becoming a notorious Khmer Rouge prison whose barbaric practices are still plain to see. Cambodia is a land of astonishing contrasts – and this tour will reveal them all.