Sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand, Cambodia and the neighbouring nation of Laos were never in with a chance of avoiding being swept into the turmoil of Vietnam’s civil war. For Cambodia, the troubles didn’t end with the victory of the communists in Vietnam. Instead, the real troubles were only just beginning.
While the war in Vietnam was originally initiated to liberate the country from French rule, Pol Pot’s vision for Cambodia was far more radical. While most of the leaders in the Khmer Rouge were far from peasants, they succeeded in creating the first (and hopefully only) slave nation of modern times. By this, it is not meant that the country simply had slaves, but that the entire population of the country was forced into slavery by its own leaders. Even North Korea has always had more freedom than that.
Thousands of artists, intellectuals, and monks were massacred. Millions more innocent civilians perished on forced marches to labour camps, while the Khmer Rouge confiscated all private property, which included not only the land, but everything on it. Anyone refusing to leave was of course killed, to set an example for others. The inevitable famines that followed from forcing bus drivers and janitors with no farming experience to grow crops killed even more.
Fortunately the horror of that time is now long behind us, but the legacy of those dark days has created something quite unique. Cambodia is not the country it was before all this got started. It has lost so much, including the pillars of what makes a nation: art, learning, history, and religion. This means Cambodia has had to re-establish these things from scratch, and amazingly enough, they’ve been highly successful in doing so.
If it has always been your dream to go on a holiday to Cambodia, now is definitely the best time to make that dream come true. Over the past two decades, enormous progress has been made in the task of rebuilding the nation. Hotels, restaurants, and all the other requirements for a tourism industry have been established, but not to the point that the country is over-saturated with them. Other things like art, traditional cooking, and even religion, are gradually re-emerging into mainstream society after such a long time in exile.
This provides the unique opportunity to not only witness change as it happens, but perhaps even to play a part in it. Aside from all this, however, there are plenty of other things making Cambodia an attractive destination.
For a start, while growth has been steady, it has also been gradual. This means large swathes of natural beauty are still unspoiled by the progress of development. In many parts of the country, once you get away from the major towns and tourist attractions, you can still find a slower, gentler pace of living that’s often missing in more developed economies. Being able to experience this before it’s all swept away in a blaze of progress, with motorized tractors, chemical fertilizers, and bio-engineered crops, is definitely a chance you shouldn’t miss.
Above all, Cambodia is a fascinating place to discover, but it’s still recommended to visit Cambodia with the assistance of knowledgeable guides who can help smooth the way for you and point you in the right direction. Having reliable knowledge on your side can help you steer clear of any trouble in a nation that’s had a hard time avoiding it for much of the past 600 years.