Cambodia now has a prestigious 3rd World Heritage site to add to its archaeological wonders.
The Sambor Prei Kuk archaeological site, located in the country’s province of Kampong Thom, was listed in early July 2017. Its identity has been confirmed as Ishanapura which was the Chenla Empire’s capital city.
The site covers 25 square kilometres including a walled central city along with various temples. Some are octagonal shaped and are unique to this type of design in South-East Asia
The site is added to the other two prestigious World Heritage sites of Angkor Wat which received the award in 1992 and Preah Vihear awarded the honour in 2008.
Further good news for international visitors is that The Khmer Times newspaper has quoted the minister for tourism, Thong Khon, as confirming that with this new addition to UNESCO’s Heritage site portfolio it would set in motion a plan for new archaeological tour programs to be established.
The importance of these archaeological sites cannot be underestimated. Currently almost half of all tourists visiting the country take in historical and cultural sites such as the world-famous Angkor Wat.
The association of travel agents in Cambodia numbers 300 members and they will be encouraged to promote all three of the world heritage sites while also looking at possible 3-stop tour packages.
This task is not without challenges due to the location of each site and the need to ensure a sensible route without extensive back-tracking.
An ideal route would require close cooperation between the country and its neighbour Thailand. The most sensible trail through these magnificent archaeological sites should start in North-East Thailand and continue south to the Cambodian border for their first stop at the rarely visited Preah Vihear.
This site sits high on a ridge that is adjacent to the Thai/Cambodian border. From here visitors would continue their trip to Angkor Wat and then on to Sambor Prei Kuk.
Whether a tour package program for these magnificent sites can be successfully established at prices that are acceptable to tour groups and individuals remains to be seen, but it must be hoped that tourists who visit the country have time to take in more than just Angkor Wat. The other two sites are certainly worth the effort.
The signs are surely positive as international tourist arrivals in 2016 amounted to 5,011,712 which was a 5% increase from 2015 when 4,775,231 international tourists visited the country.
The department responsible for Cambodia’s tourism has projections for that figure to reach 7 million international tourists by 2020.