Top Five Destinations in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country with an identity that is not easily overlooked. Whether getting to know a generation of people subjected to a genocidal regime, experiencing the ins and outs of a developing and pious civilization, or backpacking its plethora of stunning landmarks and terrain whilst residing in provincial bungalows by night, Cambodia is not an experience you will soon forget. For the adventurous traveler fixated on exploring the nooks and reality of Southeast Asia, one need look no further. Here are our suggestions for the top five destinations in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
One of the bigger tourist destinations in Cambodia, Siem Reap is an opportunity to experience one the country’s focal points while enjoying ‘modernish’ amenities. For tourists, this town is primarily used as an in-between point from Angkor Wat and some of the other country’s hotspots. However, a lazy-day boat ride along the Tonle Sap, or a day exploring the markets and splurging with exotic meals may be just the ticket between routes from Cambodia’s more provincial and isolated sites.
As one of Cambodia’s more developed area’s, Siem Reap provides as taste culture with lessons in ceramics, traditional dance, and Khmer cooking. For a less physically demanding experience you will also find a handful of places to receive traditional as well as Thai-style massages, as well as places to check out Khmer films and theater.
Most visitors use Siem Reap as a middle-ground between their next destination, so you can also easily find a variety of places that offer countryside bike tours, as well as more structured day tours of the surrounding provinces and popular landmarks, making it a great utility for your stay in Cambodia.
Considered a fairly risky venture, the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh is slowly-evolving city that carries the weight of the Khmer genocide on its back. Whether it is trying to find your way from one place to another through often dangerous traffic conditions on a mototaxi after negotiating the price of your lunch, soaking in the riverside and nearby shops, or joining one of its many temples for an afternoon of learning the ways of Theravada Buddhism, you will not escape Phnom Penh without a mouthful of experiences.
One of the more famous destinations is the Killings Fields of Choeung Ek, where the Khmer Rouge murdered a portion of the estimated 1.5 million victims of genocide. For a better understanding of the atrocities 30 years ago, take a visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide museum, or S-21, the most famous torture prison of the era.
Angkor Archaeological Park
Perhaps the most significant landmark in Cambodia, Angkor Archaeological Park holds the majestic ruins of a once great Khmer civilization, as well as a source of pride for the Cambodian people.
Spanning over 240 square miles, and with a plethora of stone structures including temples, statues and various other buildings, the site is much bigger than one initially suspects. A thorough trip may take as long as a week, so if you have the desire to explore each splendid nook of this once great civilization, be sure to pack your bags.
Adorned on the national flag and a finalist as one of the world’s new seven wonders, Angkor Wat is the centerpiece of Angkor, and is amongst the largest Khmer landmarks in existence. The unforgettable walkabout through Angkor Wat will reveal tales of Khmer history as well as structural and natural magnificence.
If you’re looking for a place to relax for a few days in Southeast Asia’s blue-water beaches while enjoying a plentiful nightlife and meeting other travelers, Sihanoukville can provide the comfort and fun of a getaway while sparing you the trip to the more heavily populated Thai or Malaysian waterfronts.
With a variety of beaches, and amenities ranging from $5 bungalows (if you’re lucky), to all out four-star resorts, Sihanoukville caters to all and to every budget; and with plenty of places to eat and drink, you will not have a hard time finding your own corner of Sihanoukville to mingle and explore with others.
Prasat Preah Vihear
Not for the weary traveler, the temple of Preah Vihear resides 1,500 ft atop a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains along the Thai border, and spans about 2,600 by 1,300 ft, with an almost 400 ft incline. However, if you are an experienced and ambitious hiker, you will have no problems exploring the jungle-bound beauty of this heavily disputed ancient ruin.
Leveled by walkways and stairways, you can explore the five different gorupa’s while peering down a virtual drop into the vast and breathtaking Cambodian jungle. At the center of it all is the main sanctuary, where one may catch a glimpse of monks in prayer at the centralized Buddhist shrine.
Depending on your budget and the amount of time you are willing to commit to getting to Preah Vihear, there are a number of ways to get to the ruins, though the easiest is the path via Thailand, where you can take a car to the foot of the temple. Other methods of travel to the temple, including paths on the Cambodian side, may also prove to be not so difficult to the experienced hiker. No matter how you choose to get there, just make sure you arrive with enough time to enjoy the ancient beauty of this site.
– Philip Heijmans