Cambodia’s popularity with tourists was really initiated by the backpackers, the younger generation in search of adventure and new destinations. Since that time, Cambodia has attracted a wider audience with annual numbers now in excess of 4 million, and rising. More and more people are enquiring about Cambodia holidays and talking to experts who can arrange Cambodia travel packages.
There are some obvious places for everyone to enjoy in Cambodia though the popular ones can be really busy during the days of the high season. In some cases, it may be that to get the best possible experience, you should think about when to visit such places. Likewise, there are places that are less frequently included in Cambodia tours that can provide different experiences. Here are a few ideas for you to think about to get the best out of your Cambodia holiday:
• Everyone that visits Cambodia will plan to see Angkor Wat. It can be extremely busy in the high season but if you are prepared to get up early, before first light, and see it as the sun rises, you may be able to avoid the crowds and enjoy the atmosphere that this iconic place can create.
• Battambang on the Sangker River is a town that dates back to the colonial era. It is arguably the best-preserved of the towns of that era. It is certainly worth exploring on foot or bicycle with plenty of things of interest if you travel a little way out of town. There are plenty of ancient temples, villages and the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary is stunning. Battambang is not too far from Siem Reap so you will not be travelling out of the way.
• Tonle Sap Lake is the largest in the whole of South East Asia. During the rainy season, it grows to cover around 15,000 square kilometres at a depth of 8 metres. You should spend some time on the lake; even do some fishing yourself. The local villages are built on stilts with the inhabitants making a living both from fishing and farming. It is a really rich experience meeting locals and observing their daily lives.
• You should try to be in Cambodia during one of the important festivals. There are three that immediately spring to mind; New Year according to the Cambodian lunar calendar, effectively harvest time during April when it is fun to watch the Cambodians celebrate, and join in. The Ploughing Ceremony the following month signals the start of the rains when crops are sown. Those crops are harvested months later, and the Water Festival gives thanks for the harvest, and the fish caught in the rivers.
• Bamboo Island is just offshore of Sihanoukvile. You can rent a bungalow for a relaxing stay and immerse yourself in swimming, diving and snorkelling or just lie in the sun and develop your sun tan. The boat ride from Sihanoukville is around half an hour and that is a lovely journey as well.
• Kratie is a town on the Mekong Delta and you should surely take a cruise on this iconic river. You may catch sight of the freshwater dolphins but even if you don’t you are certain to enjoy your time on the water. Using Kratie as a base, you can cycle around to explore the immediate area, and perhaps even book a homestay in one of the villages.
• Ratanakiri is a province for those who want to explore. It was the location used in the film ‘’Apocalypse Now.’’ There is a national park with a variety of wildlife, streams and waterfalls, and a lovely crater lake. You will have plenty of chances to swim after your hiking exertions.
• Kampot Province in the south is another lovely natural environment where the pace of life is decidedly relaxed. Kampot town, with a population of 40,000 is known for its salt and pepper production, as well as fish and fruit, including the extremely pungent durian which fortunately tastes better than it smells. It is also the base from which to explore the Bokor National Park with its stunning mountain and old French hill station. Just a short distance away is Kep with its pre-Angkor temples and limestone caves just waiting for you to explore.
• Prasat Preah Vihear is a temple in the Dangkrek Mountains on the border with Thailand. It took many years to build but visitors are rewarded with stunning views over northern Cambodia. If you enjoy trekking, then this is a trek to take. The Temple predates Angkor by a century and was dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu God. It is now accessible from both Thailand and Cambodia (this is very much disputed territory) and has finally been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
• Cambodian cuisine is interesting. Some of the delicacies are probably things you may avoid, and certainly not want to prepare yourself. However, there are some really nice dishes that you may want to cook for friends and family back home, so why not taking some cookery lessons to learn how to prepare them? You will be able to do that in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Arguably, Amok is the most famous of the dishes, fish baked with lemongrass, chilis and coconut; you will be able to find all these ingredients at home. Noodles are commonly used as well as soups and broths with herbs and spices.
When it comes to things to do in Cambodia, there is a relatively under-developed tourist destination with plenty of places that foreign travellers have yet to visit in any great numbers. If you are fairly active there are several parts of the country that are ripe for exploration. Even if you do not envisage being too active on your holiday in Cambodia, you can still go to some of the more remote places in Cambodia as long as there have been no heavy rains. If you talk to a travel agent experienced in Cambodia, and its highlights, then you are likely to have the chance of a memorable holiday.