The mighty Khmer empire ruled north into (present day) Laos, to the Burmese border and Malay Peninsula, and east to the sea. The world’s first city of 1 million people, Angkor’s engineering and architectural achievements were peerless.
Power waned over centuries, Siam and Vietnam eroding its territory until French intervention. 80 years of French “protection” preceded the horrific years of the 1970s, the civil wars and Khmer Rouge rule, and the death of over 1 in 3 Cambodians.
I first visited in 1993, as a tourist, during the UN intervention, and made several return visits in the late 1990s.
I was a resident in Phnom Penh for a year 1994-95, when tourist numbers were low, few roads were paved and an AK-47 was $50. Days were spent motorcycling in the nearby countryside or wandering the informal housing settlements, cameras at hand.
In some areas Khmer Rouge elements made travel impossible, while in others roads made it merely challenging.