Super Low Cost And Easy Entry—Cambodia Deserves A Look
Friends called last week and told me they were celebrating a birthday in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Would I care to join them?
Vicki and I were in Bangkok. A low-cost airline, Air Asia, offered roundtrip tickets from Bangkok to Siem Reap for just over US$100. Most of the ticket price went for government exit and entry taxes in the two countries; the flight itself cost only US$50. Birthday party? Why not?
Siem Reap hosts the famous Angkor Wat ruins. French explorer Henri Mouhot brought Angkor to the attention of the Western world in 1860. Mouhot concluded that the magnificent Angkor temples must have been built by some lost civilization, rather than the “barbaric” Khmers living there in modern times. Indeed, my friends and others at the birthday party concluded that aliens must have built the place. No way, they say, could a primitive Khmer people, with only stone or bronze tools, and without paper, have fitted so many stones so precisely, have done so many detailed carvings so beautifully.
But Angkor’s style and inscriptions support the theory that ancient Khmers did somehow manage to build the place, beginning about a thousand years ago.
Today the site, including surrounding jungles, comprises 400 square kilometers of jungle with dozens of temple buildings. The French started clearing away debris and patching up the place a hundred years ago. Cambodia gained independence from the French in 1953 and continued the restoration. Work stopped during the Khmer Rouge slaughters of the 1970s and 1980s but continued afterwards.
I remember when the Angkor site first opened to travelers in the 1990s. Vicki and I spent a lot of time in Southeast Asia in those days, and
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