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  • Alex Gillam

Where in the World: Cambodia

Until the mid-19th century, the outside world knew almost nothing of the interior of Cambodia. Beginning in the 16th and 17th centuries, rumors began to surface in Europe based on tales from Portuguese and French missionaries about a magnificent city, hidden somewhere in the middle of the jungle. Then, in 1861, French naturalist Henri Mouhot stumbled across the overgrown ruins of Angkor. The local people thought it inconceivable that their ancestors could have built the incredible temple complexes and told Mouhot they were the work of a race of giant gods.

Today we knew these ruins as Angkor Wat, and the stunning temple complex remains the largest religious monument in the world; in fact, in Siem Reap, no building is even allowed to be built taller than the Angkor Wat as a sign of respect.

Outside of the city, the largest freshwater lake in the world, the Tonle Sap Lake, awaits those who make the journey to this world famous water-based community. This sprawling lake is home to innumerable floating communities that feature everything from schools and markets to police stations and children playing and swimming. Beyond the cultural attractions, visitors will also have the chance to observe birds on the brink of extinction, such as local marabous, ibis, storks, and pelicans; a conservation project is underway, and observation posts are currently being established for bird watchers.

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