Cambodia is a country located on the Indochina peninsula of Southeast Asia. The country is well known for Angkor Wat, the ancient temple complex whose impressive architecture and grandeur have enthralled tourists since ancient times, as well as its rich history, prosperous past, and troubled Khmer Rouge regime. Today, Cambodia has emerged as a top tourist destination in Southeast Asia, attracting tourists from far and wide. Some of the most intriguing facts about the beautiful country are highlighted below.
The Cambodian National Flag Features a Building
The national flag of Cambodia is among the few flags in the world that features a building. The country’s flag has three horizontal bands of blue, red, and blue (from top to bottom). The central red band features an image of Angkor Wat in white. The building has been included on the flag since approximately 1850.
Southeast Asia’s Largest Freshwater Lake Is in Cambodia
Cambodia's Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. It has an area of approximately 2,700 km2 and a maximum depth of 10 m. The Tonlé Sap is connected to the Mekong River by the Tonlé Sap River, and the lake's water content varies seasonally. The lake is of great economic significance to the country and has supported the Angkorean civilization for centuries. In 1997, Tonlé Sap was designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
The Autocratic and Xenophobic Khmer Rouge Regime Ruled Cambodia
When the Khmer Rouge, which are followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, won the Cambodian Civil War, they overthrew the Cambodian government of the Khmer Republic and captured its capital. Once in power, the Khmer Rouge led an autocratic government that murdered thousands of people perceived to be political opponents. During this dark period of history that lasted from 1975 to 1979, nearly 25% of Cambodia’s population was killed. This Cambodian genocide was triggered by the Khmer Rouge regime’s oppressive social engineering policies that led to famines and epidemics. Murders of minorities, arbitrary executions and torture were all common during this time.
Land Mine Related Casualties Are High in the Country
Landmines pose a major threat in Cambodia, especially in rural areas. The three-decades-long war that raged in the country resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries. Vast parts of the nation are still riddled with millions of land mines and other explosives. As a result, Cambodia has one of the highest casualty rates in the world caused by land mine explosions. For example, in 2013, 22 people died and 89 were injured due to such explosions.
The World’s Largest Religious Structure Is in Cambodia
Angkor War, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an internationally famous temple complex in Cambodia. It is the world’s largest religious structure, with an area of 1,626,000 m2. Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century by Khmer King Suryavarman II as a Hindu temple, but was later transformed into a Buddhist temple. The temple attracts millions of tourists to Cambodia each year.
The Tomb Raider Film Was Filmed Here
The successful Hollywood film Tomb Raider, which stars Angelina Jolie, was filmed in the Angkor Wat complex. Today, the movie's filming locations are top tourist attractions in the area.
Cambodia Has Many Hidden Ancient Cities
Archeologists have recently used advanced airborne laser scanning technology to discover multiple cities hidden beneath the tropical forest that surrounds Angkor Wat. These cities are estimated to be 900 to 1,400 years old and some are as large as Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.
Fried Spider Is a Regional Delicacy in Cambodia
Fried spiders are sold as a delicacy in several parts of Cambodia. Skuon, a market town, is especially famous for its fried spiders. The spiders are either bred in holes in the ground or collected from nearby forests and then fried in oil. Although the exact origin of eating spiders is unknown, many believe it started during the years of Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia. Food shortages and famine during that period may have forced many to consume whatever was available. The spiders sold in Skuon are a species of tarantula that is as large as a human palm.
A Cave of Horror Is Now a Tranquil Tourist Spot in Cambodia
The Killing Cave of Phnom Sampeau was originally a place of great beauty until tragedy struck during the Khmer Rouge regime. The cave is located on the slopes of a mountain that is dotted with beautiful statues, wats, viewpoints, and numerous other limestone caves. However, inside the cave is the preserved human skeletal remains that serve as a reminder of the atrocities that took place at the site during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. Cambodians from all walks of life, including children, were marched to the natural skylight at top of the cave by the Khmer Rouge and then killed. Today, many tourists visit the cave to pay their respects to those who lost their lives, while also experiencing the serene beauty and tranquility of Cambodia's mountains.
A Dinosaur Sculpture in a Cambodian Temple?
A peculiar carving on the wall of the Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia is believed by some to represent a Stegosaurus. Since the temple was built in the 12th century, creationists suggest it is possible that a Stegosaurus-like animal lived on Earth during that time and inspired the temple’s bas relief. Most scientists have, however, strongly disagree with this belief, and instead claim that the relief might represent another animal, like a rhinoceros, or it could have been carved into the temple by someone in recent years.