[Photos] An idyllic slice of 1957 Cambodian life

Pre-war and genocide, the 1950s was a time of great hope and aspiration in Cambodia. This collection of photos, taken by LIFE Magazine photographer John Dominis in 1957, captures that time in the Kingdom's history

December 22, 2020
[Photos] An idyllic slice of 1957 Cambodian life
The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

Vietnam isn’t the only country in the region to change dramatically over the last several decades.

While we’re huge fans of photos that transport us back to bygone eras of recent Vietnamese history, it’s no less interesting to get a glimpse of our neighbors back in the day as well.

The below shots were taken in Cambodia in 1957 by LIFE Magazine photographer John Dominis. They portray Phnom Penh, the capital, as well as the famous ancient temples of Angkor Wat outside Siem Reap and some views of the Cambodian countryside.

In fact, some parts of these scenes haven’t actually changed very much in the intervening years: the gilded Royal Palace still takes up prime real estate near Phnom Penh’s riverfront, while the spectacular ruins and giant trees of Angkor still stand.

At the same time, it’s hard not to look at these pictures and wonder what became of the people in them: their smiles and movements were captured 18 years before the genocidal Khmer Rouge swept into power, plunging Cambodia into terror and poverty, setting the country back decades.

Wander around Cambodia over 60 years ago below.

Outside the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.
Visitors at Angkor Wat.
A pair of monks at Angkor.
A traditional dance performance.
Recess at a school in the countryside.
Women weave fabric.
Tree roots consume a temple gate at Angkor.
A rural Cambodian market.

This story was originally published on Saigoneer here.

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