Cambodia tour packages seek to give holidaymakers a true experience of the country and its people. There are major landmarks to enjoy especially at Angkor near Siem Reap yet a good Cambodia travel agency will seek to reveal much more than architecture. There are remote places to visit, a stunning natural environment where hill tribes live as their ancestors have for generations. Sadly, there are also the reminders of the few years when Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge ran the country with an iron fist. Huge numbers of Cambodians were killed and even though the Vietnamese defeated him and removed him from office it was still a number of years before the country stabilised. In recent times tourist numbers have increased, people wanting to see this lovely country and often the whole region on Indochina tour packages.
Cambodia is a poor country but rich in content. The transport infrastructure is yet to match that of its neighbours as Cambodia Vietnam tours will reveal yet any inconvenience is more than compensated for in the experience it provides. Phnom Penh is the usual starting point simply because it is the major international airport:
• Ignore the high-rise architecture; there are far more interesting buildings
• The Royal Palace complex is very interesting. There are two pagodas, the Khmer style Throne Hall, the Treasury and Villa of Napoleon III.
• Wat Phnom is the tallest religious building in the Capital. At 27 metres high it stands out, a 14th Century temple on an elevated position where crowds inevitably gather for the Cambodian New Year.
• Wot Botum dates back to the 15th Century and is perhaps the most important Phnom Penh temple of all.
Phnom Penh was also the site of the deaths of many Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge, a figure running into hundreds of thousands. A Cambodia family tour may include the ‘’Killing Fields of Choeng Ek’’ a short distance from the City and within the City the Tuol Sleng Museum which once the prison where many were tortured and the Choeng Ek Memorial.
Siem Reap is usually the next place to call because it is the nearest city to the wonderful UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor and its iconic Angkor Wat. The site covers 400 square kilometres of jungle and contains many samples of Khmer architecture built during the Empire that existed from the 9th until the 15th Century. While Angkor Wat gets ‘’top building’’ there is much more:
• Bayon Temple
• Ta Prohm Monastery which is a stunning sight with the jungle having grown within its structure
• Angkor Thom
• Banteay Srei
• The Victory Gate.
The only issue at Angkor is time.
The Tonle Sap Lake south of Siem Reap covers 15,000 square kilometres at the height of the monsoon. It is a great place for birdwatchers but also for those wishing to learn more about rural life. Villagers living on stilt homes on the lake are fishermen but this is also the most fertile region of Cambodia and farming is daily work.
The Mekong River flows from the Tibetan Plateau far to the north and ultimately through Cambodia to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and the EAST Sea. Tourists should try to spend a little time on the river and in fact it is possible to cruise uninterrupted from Phnom Penh down into Vietnam, the Delta and ultimately the Sea.
The Coast and the remote interior are worth consideration after seeing the treasures already mentioned:
• Sihanoukville is an artificial resort that has revived as tourist numbers rise.
• Bamboo Island offshore is a great place to relax.
• Battambang in the north west is a quiet town with French colonial architecture mixed with traditional Cambodia.
• Cardamom Mountains has great waterfalls, mangrove forest; it stretches west into Thailand and contains the country’s highest mountain and interesting fauna.
• Mondulkiri in the east of Cambodia near Vietnam has impressive waterfalls, hill tribes and fauna.
The content of a Cambodia tour can be put together to reflect the main interests of a client. There is plenty of choice depending on whether you seek more about history, culture, religion or the natural environment. What is certain is the country offers a great experience.