Cambodia is the successor - state of the mighty Khmer Empire, which ruled much of what is now Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. Among the achievements of Khmer civilisation are the magisterial temples of Angkor. There is no other historical site in South - East Asia that matches the grandeur of this ancient complex. Apart from the wonders of Angkor, Cambodia has a rich and proud culture, a charming French-era capital (albeit a little weathered) and impressive natural scenery.

 
          
Present - day Cambodia is bloodied and bowed after two decades of internecine war and the July 1997 collapse of shaky UN - sponsored democratic reforms. The ramifications of Hun Sen's violent assumption of power and the death of Pol Pot remain to be seen. The question on everyone's mind when visiting Cambodia is, how safe is it? If you stick to Phnom Penh, its surrounding attractions and Angkor you should be fine. This is one country where heading off the beaten track is just plain stupid.
            
Very little is known about prehistoric Cambodia, although archeological evidence has established that prior to 1000 BC Cambodians subsisted on a diet of fish and rice and lived in houses on stilts, as they still do today. From the 1st to the 6th centuries, much of Cambodia belonged to the South - East Asian kingdom of Funan, which played a vital role in developing the political institutions, culture and art of later Khmer states. However, it was the Angkorian era, beginning  in  the  8th  century,  that  really  transformed the
kingdom into an artistic and religious power.