The most popular place to visit in Cambodia is the Angkor Wat. While in itself it’s already quite impressive being the largest religious structure in the world, it’s even more impressive to learn that it was only one of many temples in an area called Angkor that at one time was the largest pre-industrial city in the world (about 1,000 square kilometres in area — more than 10 times the size of Manhattan). This was during the heights of the Khmer Empire, between the 9th and 15th centuries. The Khmer Empire at its height spans all the way to modern day Thailand in the west, the modern day Laos in the north, and the modern day Vietnam in the east.
During our visit to the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, we also saw some museum display that showed artifacts from the Khmer Empire era, and particularly interesting to me was seeing a map of the Khmer Empire superimposed on the geographical map of the modern world — clearly showing how vast that empire was. I couldn’t help to think of the contrast between seeing this map that in a subtle way saying the Khmer culture is more superior than its neighbors the Thai and the Vietnamese, and seeing the model of Angkor Wat at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, which was built to commemorate the time when the Thai conquered the Angkor area. It’s interesting to think of these two cultures that are both deeply rooted in Buddhism (thus advocating peace and not being confrontational), but they still have the nationalistic pride when comparing themselves with their neighboring countries.
The photo below was taken at the museum in the Royal Palace. It was the Khmer Empire map I mentioned above.