The numbers of tourists travelling to South East Asia are increasing. Vietnam is boasting figures in excess of 10 million annually while although Cambodia is behind at around 5 million, these two neighbours are a great place for a holiday and a Cambodia and Vietnam tour which covers the highlights of the two countries gives a great insight to life in Indochina in the 21st Century.
A good Cambodia travel agent can put together an itinerary to satisfy any tourist, whatever their special interest. The standard tours in Cambodia obviously make Angkor the centrepiece of a holiday but Cambodia offers much more. The sad years when Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were in charge, the late 1970s, are remember in Phnom Penh, the capital, where the prison in which so many were tortured and killed is now a museum. Just a short distance outside the city, there are the Killing Fields with thousands of skulls as a stark reminder of those times.
If you are looking for a good Cambodia travel agency, you can get an idea of the best by looking at the reviews of previous clients. The Internet has become invaluable for travellers who no longer need to rely on agents near their homes, and the colourful brochures that the major travel companies produce. The power of the Internet is that it is very interactive. Electronic mail is instant and allows questions and answers to go backwards and forwards between a Cambodia travel agent and potential clients. Service is all-important in the travel sector and that starts as soon as an enquiry is received by a Cambodia travel agency. The speed of a response and the quality of the information provided marks out the best agents from the rest.
If, for example, you are interested in a Cambodia and Vietnam tour, it is likely that you will want some advice on the practical issues that you face such as any visas that are required and perhaps something on potential health issues and any inoculations you may need. The detail is important even if the most interesting thing to discuss is the potential itinerary.
What will a good travel agent include in a standard Cambodia itinerary?
• Angkor is one of the most famous sites in the whole of Asia. It has rightly been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status and there are few more common images of Asia published anywhere than Angkor Wat. It is a huge site and you could spend many days exploring it all.
• Siem Reap is the nearest city and travellers to Cambodia will often fly into Siem Reap rather than the capital, Phnom Penh. The most popular landmark in the city is the 16th Century temple with the reclining Buddha, Wat Praeh Prom Rath. The National Museum is a great place to learn more about the Khmer Empire that created Angkor and which existed between the 9th and the 13th Century.
• The largest lake in South East Asia, Tonle Sap, is close by. At the end of the rainy season, it can cover up to 15,000 square kilometres and go to a depth of 8 metres. Just before the rains return, it will be just a fifth of that with the depth of just a single metre. The locals have to be prepared to move as the waters rise; this region supports 3 million people on an annual basis.
• The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is that prison mentioned above. It is a sad place and a lesson to people about the cruelty to man. Hopefully, a lesson that is learnt so that a regime like that can never exist again. Elsewhere in Phnom Penh, the Royal Palace should be on every itinerary. It is a mixture of French and Cambodian architecture and was built in the 19th Century. Outside the city are the Killing Fields. Some may not wish to visit this sombre and depressing place; there will never be any compunction to do so though there are many tourists that feel the need to see this memorial to terrible times.
Those with just a limited time in Cambodia are unlikely to get much further. They will be able to see the mighty Mekong River that is navigable from Phnom Penh down into the Delta in Vietnam, and ultimately into the East Sea.
Elsewhere in Cambodia there are some interesting places that show South East Asia’s natural environment at its best. A good travel agent will happily discuss them with you. If you enjoy trekking you can certainly do that. Mondulkiri is a province on the border with Vietnam in the east. It is famous for its many waterfalls while it is home to ethnic hill tribes for whom life has changed little for generations. The French actually saw the mountainous areas of Cambodia as a means to find cooler weather. They built the now deserted Bokor Hill Station near Kampot back in the 1920s and it is worth a visit.
You are likely to be busy during your days in Cambodia, so if you want to relax for a couple of days before flying home, ask your travel agent about the best places to relax. It is more than likely the agency will suggest Sihanoukville that has developed into Cambodia’s top seaside resort or even the offshore island of Koh Rong. There are no roads but plenty of nice beaches and bungalows or guesthouses for visitors. A great place to finish a holiday.
Those agents that have established themselves based upon the quality of service they have provided are likely to be able to put together something that concentrates on a client’s special interests. If those interests are archaeology or history there is much to see and do in Cambodia. If your interests are generally broad and include enjoying the natural environment on offer, then Cambodia is also the place for you and a good travel agent will ensure you enjoy it to the full.