Cambodia and Laos are the two hidden gems rarely visited by overlanders travelling around the world in their own vehicle. tranquillity. In Laos and Cambodia, we were confronted at the country’s tragic past. But also, with awe-inspiring natural beauty, stunning architecture, and friendly people.
Cambodia, Cambodia is a land of plains and great rivers. The official religion is Theravada Buddhism, practised by approximately 95 percent of the population. Cambodia is most known for its war and Pol Pot. The Vietnam war extended into Cambodia with the US bombing inside Cambodia between 1969 and 1973.
The Khmer Rouge emerged as a major power, later carrying out the Cambodian Genocide which led to the deaths of 1.5 to 3 million people, 25% of Cambodia’s population. The Khmer Rouge army was slowly built up in the jungles of Eastern Cambodia during the late 1960s, supported by the North Vietnamese Army.
Despite a massive American bombing against them, (Tens of thousands of people were killed in the bombings between 1970-1973) the Khmer Rouge won the Cambodian Civil war when in 1975 they captured the Cambodian capital and overthrew the government.
Having suffered immeasurably under the rule of Pol Pot during the 1970s, Cambodia has emerged as one of Southeast Asia’s most fascinating destinations. Its capital, Phnom Penh, is touristy but also stunning golden palaces and temples. The cruelty of Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime is laid bare at deeply moving museums in his one-time prisons and killing fields. They are vital viewing for all tourists.
Further north, the majesty of ancient Cambodia is called Angkor Wat located near Siem Reap. The tourism industry is the country’s second-greatest source of income (hard currency) after the textile industry. Over 2.5 million people visit Angkor Wat (mostly on day trips from Thailand) every year.
Other major tourist spots are Battambang, Sihanoukville, Kampot and Kep.
Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao movement came to power, seeing an end to the civil war. Lao people are 55% of the population, Mon-Khmer, and Hmong groups around 45% of the population.
Between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos, equal to the 2.1 million tons of bombs the U.S. dropped on Europe and Asia during all the second world war, making Laos the most heavily bombed country in the world.
This accounted to 1000KG for every person in Laos. More than 80 million bombs failed to explode and remain scattered throughout the country, rendering vast swathes of land impossible to cultivate and killing or maiming 50 Laotians every year still today, due to the particularly heavy impact of cluster bombs during this war. Laos has no railways, and the rivers are an important means of transport in Laos.
Laos uses the slogan “Laos simply beautiful” and it is. The main attractions are Buddhist culture, colonial architecture, ancient temples, hill tribes and amazing scenery.
Most interesting villages are far away from the major road (route 13) in Laos and only accessible via interesting dirt roads/tracks.
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