Cambodia’s painful recent history of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge is behind it. It is certainly not forgotten and although Cambodia is a poor country its friendly people are looking forward to a better future. If the present trend of increasing overseas visitors continues then there is every likelihood that it will come about. There is no reason why it shouldn’t. When it comes to Cambodia tour packages there is so much to see and do. The tourist infrastructure is still in need of improvement and that is certainly happening. To compensate for any deficiencies there are the wonderful temples at Angkor, the many historical and cultural sites in the Capital Phnom Penh, the likely starting point for any holiday in Cambodia, and the relaxing coastal resort of Sihanoukville.
There are still pristine jungle areas and plenty of opportunity to those with an adventurous spirit to explore as well as satisfy their need for activities. The fact that Cambodia is still relatively new on the tourist map means that it is a delight for those that decide to see it now.
Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
Siem Reap is in the north west of Cambodia, a city that is capital of the province of the same name. It is worth spending a little time in the city because its museums and architecture, French colonial and Chinese, are certainly interesting but the real reason it is on all Cambodia tour packages is its proximity to the Angkor temples.
There are few archaeological sites in the whole of South East Asia as important as Angkor. The area of 400 km2 is forested and holds the remnants of the Khmer Empire between the 9th and 15th Centuries. Quite rightly this is a prized UNESCO World Heritage site. Angkor Wat is the most famous temple, and one of the most photographed in the world. There is plenty more to see with Bayon Temple, Praeh Khan and Ta Prohm typical of the architecture of the period.
There is also the chance to glimpse typical rural life because there are small villages around with the inhabitants growing vegetables, notably rice.
Just to the south of Siem Reap is the largest lake in South East Asia, Tonle Sap, which is the best place for birdwatchers in the Country. There are floating villages on this expanse of water that varies in size depending on the season. It covers on average 2,800 km2 and is still at least 1 meter deep even in the dry season but expands to 15,000 km2with a depth of 8 meters in the middle of the monsoon season. The Tonle Sap River flows southwards to meet the Mekong at Phnom Penh.
Though high rise buildings are gradually appearing in the city, Phnom Penh ranks amongst the least developed capitals in Asia. The city still shows signs of the days when it was described as the ‘’Paris of the East’’ and certainly the wide boulevards remain a feature of its layout.
There is certainly plenty of impressive Buddhist architecture that will delight visitors. There are several tourist areas with the main one by the river (Phnom Penh sits on the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers). The main attractions that will be in all Cambodia tour packages include:
• The Royal Palace which includes two wonderful pagodas built in the 19th Century.
• The National Museum of Cambodia has excellent exhibits of art, statues and other artefacts.
• Wat Phnom (Hill Temple)
• Sisowath Quay (Riverside) is a great area of cafes and shops popular with locals and tourists alike.
• Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum reminds everyone of the dark days of Pol Pot.
• The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek is just outside the City and is the site where many thousands were killed by his awful regime.
• Wat Botum, the temple favoured by royalty.
• Independence and Liberation memorials remembers the departure of the French in 1953 and the arrival of the Vietnamese in 1979 to liberate the city.
No holiday in Cambodiais complete without spending some time on this iconic river. Seeing the freshwater dolphins, often inclined to play around the boat is real treat.
The Mekong is almost 4,500 km long and actually rises far to the north on Tibetan Plateau and has already run through Myanmar, Laos and Thailand before reaching Cambodia. There are waterfalls and rapids all the way down to Cambodia but the Mekong is navigable all the way down from Phnom Peng to Vietnam, the Delta and the South China Sea.
Even though there is even container traffic heading this far up the river it is still one that has small fishing villages and Cambodia tour packages will allow visitors to see these fishermen and learn about their daily life on the river.
This seaside resort is an artificial creation; it is the result of a construction of a deep sea port for the Country just after independence 50 years ago. It is south west of Phnom Peng on the Gulf of Thailand. It was named after the Crown Prince who was deposed by the Khmer Regime just a few years later. Its beaches lay empty and access was difficult even after the fall of that regime.
Initially it was just the backpackers who make it here but it was been described by what the New York Times as "Asia's next trendsetting beach" and as numbers to the country have increased so have the numbers to Sihanoukville because it its inclusion on Cambodia tour packages.
There are several beaches to enjoy and plenty of water sports to enjoy. Tourists on holidays to Cambodia will find few better places to relax than in this coastal region.
There is much to see and do in Cambodia and the fact that it has just recently emerged as a popular tourist region is to its advantage. While the infrastructure may not be as good as some of its neighbors that is of little significance for those wanting a truly memorable experience.