As well as the essential visit to the impressive temple complex of Angkor Wat, a trip to Cambodia can open the door to a variety of historical sites. They include sacred spaces such as the Preah Vihear Temple and sombre destinations that recall the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Here are the top 5 historic sites in Cambodia.
Angkor Wat is an enormous 12th century temple complex in Cambodia and the best preserved of its kind. Incredibly grand and ornately decorated, Angkor Wat’s sand-coloured buildings rise up to form five towers, representing the home of the Hindu deities. Friezes and sculptures are found throughout, depicting both day-to-day life from the time it was built and religious events.
Today Angkor Wat is one of Cambodia’s most popular tourist sites. There is an incredible amount to see and it’s a good (although relatively expensive) idea to get a licensed tour guide. Angkor Wat has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992.
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh in Cambodia was a notorious prison under the Khmer Rouge. It now houses a museum. While most victims of the Khmer Rouge were taken to the Killing Fields to be murdered, the site of the museum also played a central role in the atrocities.
Visitors to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum can view the building in a similar state to that as it was after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum displays an exhibit of victims’ photographs, taken as they arrived at the prison. Guided tours can be arranged at the site.
Choeung Ek in Cambodia is a former orchard which served a sinister purpose during the reign of the Khmer Rouge: it became known as The Killing Fields, and it is estimated that over 17,000 men, women and children were killed and buried at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields.
There’s no denying a visit to Choeung Ek is bleak: the extremely informative and often harrowing audio tour is well worth listening to, although it’s worth thinking about the appropriateness of the material for children and younger teenagers.
The Preah Vihear Temple is a sacred Angkorian site on the border between Cambodia and Thailand which is dedicated to the Hindu deity, Shiva. The site is heavily contested, with Thailand having been ordered to withdraw a military presence which had been stationed around the temple since 1954.
Officially, the Preah Vihear Temple is based in Cambodia, although the site is more easily reached from Thailand. Soldiers from both sides are still posted at the site and it is still quite a volatile area. In 2008, UNESCO listed the Preah Vihear Temple, which was also a contentious issue.
5. Bokor Hill Station
Bokor Hill Station is a collection of French colonial buildings in southern Cambodia. Built atop Bokor Mountain in the present Preah Monivong National Park, the French authorities intended the hill station to act as a mountian luxury resort and retreat for colonial residents in the 1920s.
Bokor Hill Station is accessible via a direct road from the National Highway 3. Today the hill station is abandoned. The area is popular with Cambodian and international visitors, and is partially signed.