(For blogpost Contest during BlogFestAsia 2012, from 1st to 5th Nov. 2012)
The modern Asian nation of Cambodia is the birthplace of one of humankind’s most significant civilizations. Beginning nearly two thousand years ago, the Khmer people developed advanced systems of art, architecture, government, science, and religion comparable to those of the Egyptians, Greeks, Mayans, Indians and Chinese.
Today, Khmer influence remains prominent in Southeast Asia, with its traditions perpetuated in the neighboring nations of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. In northern Cambodia we find the wellspring of Khmer culture—the ancient city of Angkor that UNESCO recognizes as a World Heritage Site. These historic and artistic assets, combined with Cambodia’s abundance of cultural treasures, attract millions of local and international visitors each year. Out of the tourist sites in Cambodia, the northwest province of Siem Reap (310 Km from the Capital of Phnom Penh) is the most developed region. This article showcases whys and hows of the changes which Siem Reap is experiencing.
What have we learned from the history of this land, Siem Reap?
Archaeological and historical views:
Archaeological excavations near Baksei Chamkrong Temple, near Bakheng Mountain in this province, give evidence that this area has been populated since the Iron age. Two nearby burial sites have yielded pottery and a 3,000-year-old skeleton: one at Koh Ta Meas in the Western Baray; and a second at Prei Khmeng. Both sites raise awareness about the importance of the Pre-Angkorian period. Recently, the biggest kiln site in Southeast Asia was also discovered near Angkor. Moreover, for almost 600 years from the 9th to 15th centuries AD, Siem Reap was the capitol of the vast Khmer Empire. This era stretched from King Jayavarman II’s unification of the country in 802 AD until King Ponhea Yat abandoned Yasodharapura (Angkor Thom) in 1431 AD to move to the city of Chak Tomuk.
During this span of 600 years, the Angkor area remained as the main administration point of Cambodia, and many religious monuments were built around. This was due to two reasons: religious and political. Most of the temples are constructed to dedicate to the God, both Hindu and Buddhist. At the same time, it provided the opportunity to the rulers to express the power of Khmer sovereign during the Angkor period. Among the mega-structures created around, Angkor Wat grew as the largest Hindu monument in the World. During 16th century, it became the famous Buddhist worship place for the pilgrims came for many Asian countries. The epigraphic records on the pillars and steles tell us of people not only from Cambodia visiting the place but also from Myanmar, China and Japan etc.
Researching and Social views
Following French researcher Henri Mouhot’s arrival at Angkor in 1863, Siem Reap has attracted countless Western scholars to focus their archaeological, architectural and historical skills on understanding the Khmer civilization. Meanwhile, local villagers have been trained to work restoring the temples and conserving Khmer cultural heritage.
Here we find the original style of culture and belief in the daily life of people
Beside the historical, architectural and religious context, the local Siem Reap residents, especially those living in the Angkor area, maintain their own ancestral traditions and beliefs, with many practiced since ancient times. Today, we can learn a great deal about ancient times by studying their traditions of living, cooking, wedding, cultivating, and religious practices. A charming, friendly people, Cambodian greet each other and visitors with sincere smiles of welcome.
Siem Reap, new perspectives after 1993
Attracted site for the project of restoration
While Angkor Wat was named a World Heritage site in 1992, it was also added to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. At that time, the incomparable site was threatened by pillaging, destruction from illegal excavations. Also, from the Pol Pot regime, many land mines still existed. In 1993, Unesco launched a major campaign to restore and safeguard Angkor. Since then, many international experts from developed countries in Asia, Europe, America such as: France, Germany, Italy, Swiss, Hungary, USA, Japan, China, India, Australia…etc., have come to Cambodia to work on restoration and conservation projects in the Angkor area temples.
Attracted site for the tourist
Siem Reap has also become a major destination for tourists worldwide. Because of tourism development, many Cambodian people have migrated to Siem Reap city for employment opportunities. In the short time from 1993 to 2000 Siem Reap changed very quickly from a small town to the most important and most developed city in Cambodia outside of Phnom Penh.
Cambodia’s tourism theme is the “Kingdom of Culture and Wonder.” In 2011, the Ministry of Tourism reports that Cambodia welcomed 2,8 million international tourists, creating 350,000 jobs and generating revenue of 1,912 million US dollars. In the first 8 months of 2012, there were 2.3 million international tourists, an increase of 24,5% compared to the same period in 2011 (15%).
Angkor Wat remains the top destination for international tourists. The royal government of Cambodia anticipates that Cambodia will receive 4,5 million international tourists in 2015, and 7 million in 2020, generating revenue of 5,000 million US dollars and creating an estimated 800,0000 related jobs. Local tourism is also expected to increase.
Today, along with all 23 provinces of Cambodia, Siem Reap is creating a strategic plan of Tourism Development for 2012-2020 focusing on 6 important points:
1-Tourism product development
2-Tourism marketing and promotion
3-Travel, facilities and transportation
4-Tourism safety systems and negative impact management
5-Legal system and management mechanism and
6- Human resource development.
The theme for these efforts is “Clean City, Clean Resort, Good Service”.
What happened in Siem Reap during the first week of November 2012?
The first week of November 2012 gave us a great opportunity to conduct two important events in this province: one is the Asian Cultural Week and another one is the BlogFest.Asia 2012. The last event which was held at Build Bright University, Siem Reap is very important for young Cambodian bloggers who shared their experience with international bloggers from 15 countries such as: Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Bangladesh, Sweden, USA, etc.). This is also the region’s third transnational gathering of the blogger community under the aegis of BlogFestAsia. This event of Asian bloggers and technologists was previously held in Hong Kong and Malaysia in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Therefore, this event welcomes everyone to join in celebrating the growing community of bloggers in ASEAN region. Sit is moment of great pride for young Cambodian generation, who can make this important happen. We also learnt a lot of things about the new emerging technologies and rapid expansion of internet, e-mail and e-commerce. Access to global information and knowledge is now much easier than before. In this context, the role of bloggers, technologists as well as IT professionals is much important and crucial, and it is a great opportunity for the Cambodian bloggers and technologists to meet their friends around the region and the rest of the world to share their knowledge and creativity.
What will happen in Siem Reap next year?
To be proud of the nation in the coming year 2013, Cambodia will be the chief of Unesco committee and we will organize the 37th annual meeting of World Heritage Committee, held in July 2013 in Siem Reap province. There are many new perspectives for Siem Reap, but this province still has many hidden cultural treasures that need to be studied and developed to understand the history, art, archaeology, architecture, culture, tradition and daily life of the people. All Cambodian people, especially the younger generations, should join this effort and devote their attention to these vital issues. Together we can protect to keep the value of Cambodian cultural heritage and for Khmer identity.
By CHEN Chanratana, Siem Reap 3rd Nov. 2012.
For visit more photos about BlogFest.Asia 2012, please click here…!