Capital: Phnom Penh
The fertile lands around the lower Mekong river supported the organised kingdoms of Funan and Chenia that served as a link between India and China as early as the first century of our era. A strong united Khmer kingdom, that flourished from around 800 to the 15th century, reached its pinnacle in the 12th century with the building of Angkor Wat that was my principal objective in coming here.
In the 19th century, the French took control through a protectorate treaty making Cambodia part of French Indochina along with Vietnam and Laos. The Japanese occupied the country during W.W.II and independence was finally achieved in 1953 under king Norodom Sihanouk.
In 1969, the Americans started to bomb communist camps inside Cambodia. The following year, a military coup ousted Sihanouk. American and South Vietnamese troops soon invaded the country polarising the struggle between the government and leftist guerrilla forces, the Khmer Rouge who finally took over Phnom Penh in 1975 just before the Americans were forced to retreat from Vietnam.
During the next four years the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot implemented one of the most radical brutal revolutions in which more than a million Cambodians were tortured to death or executed before Vietnamese troop invaded in an attempt to stop the carnage. The civil war raged on between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnam backed Government until a ceasefire was finally reached under UN supervision in 1991.
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When I visited Cambodia in September of 1994, the country was just beginning to pick up the pieces after twenty years of civil war. Everyone of more than high school education had fled or had been murdered by the Khmer Rouge in the '70s and the continuing struggle had further impoverished the country in the '80s.
The Royal domains had nevertheless been well maintained as you can see from this photo of the formal entrance to the Royal Palace.
This is the audience hall of the royal palace.
And this small pavilion is the royal theatre.
The "Silver Pagoda" next to the royal palace was also in good shape.
Major temples like Wat Ounalom were also well taken care of.
The National Museum was however in need of repair.
In Phnom Penh, I had a fine room for 5$US in the Lotus Inn located just before the Mitsubishi sign in this photo.
I was astonished to see how cheerful the people were in spite of all the hardships they had endured.
Here are some monks begging in Samouth Boulevard.
Gas for motorised cycles is sold from a drum in this kerbside service station on 51 street.
It was business as usual in the market on 154 street.
After a few days I flew to Siem Riep to see the famous Angkor Wat ruins. I would have preferred to go by bus or boat on the Tonlé Sap river but the countryside was not yet free of Khmer Rouge guerrillas so I had to fly.