Being world wide famous for the ancient Angkor Empire, Cambodia’s landscape is a blend of rice paddies, sugar palm plantations and remote jungles and more undiscovered parts. While most visitors come to admire the magnificence of Angkor Wat or Bayon Temple, Cambodia also offers plenty of natural beauty and exotic culture for those willing to experience their travel. Bordering the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest, Cambodia offers some lovely beaches near Shihanoukville while the north and northeast are mountainous sharing with Vietnam as part of Ho Chi Minh trails. Nowadays life in Cambodia is clearly distinctive from poor fishing villages on Tonle Sap lake to modern shop malls sprawling around Phnom Penh but the marvelous destination’s reputation remains unchanged.
PhnomPenh – The Capital
Located at the junction of Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap river, this city has been Cambodia’s metropolis for most of the last six centuries. Though entrepreneur ideas arrived with markets fully stocked with hi-techs or smuggle electronics and cars, PhnomPenh is still a rather dusty, small town feel with its sprawling wats (pagodas), old fade French’s colonial buildings and an imposing Royal Palace dedicated to its old day monarchy system.
Brutal legacies of genocide that occurred under the Khmer Rouge are displayed at ToulSleng, the old school that was used as a torture place and has now been preserved as a museum and a nearby killing field, an area that around 17.000 human beings were executed and dumped in a mass grave. Fierce historical remains, these sites are sobering reminders of Khmer Rouge regime and the rest of the world’s failure to stop.
SiemRiep – Temples of Angkor
Words fail to describe the magnificence of Angkor as it truly is with over a hundreds temples built from the 10th to the 13th century, which devoted to Buddha and Hindu deities and are almost all in good shape. Within the impregnable city of Angkor Thom lies the Bayon, a world treasure of human art-work lined one after another with multi faced statues. Other highlights include the buddist temple of Taprohm which has not been restored as it was when French explorers stumbled upon it in the 1860’s or a vast temple of Angkor Wat complex dedicated to Vishnu deity in the early 12th century. Many others temples was found covered with fantastic carvings depicting religious and folk stories or scenes which can be viewed from daily life.
Sihanoukville – The beach retreat
Lies off Phnom penh 140 miles to the west, Sihanoukville is the only deep-sea port in Cambodia. The construction of the town was initiated and completed by the French as a present to the King then. With its fine sandy beaches, Sihanoukville is always a perfect place for swimming, scuba diving or just for taking a sunbath. Take a boat to visit one of the many island nearby and never forget to try so fresh the seafoods.
RATANANKIRI – The famous Yeak Laom Lake
Banlung City is the provincial capital of Ratanakiri Province in the mountainous northeastern corner. It is one of the poorest regions in the country with a sparse population of 150,000. Ratanakiri is known for its lush forests and rich biodiversity, though recent development is threatening the province’s ecological health. Some of the most biologically diverse lowland tropical rainforest and mountain forest ecosystems of mainland Southeast Asia are located in Ratanakiri. Activities include excursions or treks to remote Khmer Loeu villages and jungle areas, waterfalls, gem mines, and Ratanakiri’s famous Yeak Laom volcanic lake.
MONDULKIRI – A rising Eco tourism area
Mondulkiri is the largest province of Cambodia but is sparsely populated with about 40,000 people. Located on the eastern highlands, Mondulkiri has the scenery and a climate quite unlike anywhere else in the country. There are rolling grassy hills, serene rivers, powerful waterfalls, and forested mountains. At an average elevation of 800m, it can get quite chilly at night. Mondulkiri has numerous tourist attractions such as waterfalls, indigenous hill tribe culture, national parks and elephant trekking. Sen Monorom, the provincial capital, is a quiet town with a frontier feel, although it has potential to develop into an eco-tourism center.
KEP – The former beach town
In contrast to the popular and bustling beachfronts in Sihanoukville, Kep is a small and low-key beach town. From the early 20th century through the 1960s, Kep was Cambodia’s premier beach town, drawing weekend holiday-makers to its picturesque shores lined with ritzy ocean side villas of the privileged class. Nowadays, the old villas are in ruins, and the town is known more for its oceanfront seafood stalls than for its beaches, which are narrow and stony, offering just a few slivers of sand. Nearby attractions include Bokor Hill Station, a mountaintop collection of colonial buildings (hotel, casino, church, and royal residence) constructed by French authorities in the early 1920s as a retreat for French officials and foreign visitors to old Indochina.