In recent years, the growth in tourism numbers to Cambodia has been impressive. The annual figures exceed 4 million and they continue to rise. While the country still requires an improved infrastructure if it is compared to neighbours such as Vietnam and Thailand, access to the major attractions is fairly simple and there is accommodation to suit every budget. If you are thinking about a Cambodia holiday, you should talk to a travel agent experienced in preparing Cambodia tour packages. In that way, you are likely to get advice on the highlights of Cambodia and be able to have all the arrangements made as soon as you decide on an itinerary.
While some of the more remote regions of Cambodia may be difficult to reach if there is a period of heavy rain, by and large, you can take a tour in Cambodia at any time of the year. Here are a few places that you should visit:
• Angkor is the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire with the highlight being Angkor Wat. It is featured on the Cambodian flag and few buildings in South East Asia are photographed as frequently. It was originally built as a Hindu temple in the 10th Century and converted to a Buddhist temple four centuries later. This UNESCO World Heritage site, as a whole,covers 4,000 square kilometres and while Angkor Wat may be the top landmark, there are several others within the Complex and the immediate vicinity. The architecture dates back to a period between the 9th and 15th Century. The Bayon in the middle of Angkor Thom while the Ta Prohm Monastery to the east has not changed since it was found; the overgrown condition of the forest ‘’invading’’ the brickwork is unchanged. Banteay Srei Temple to the north-east was built of red sandstone in the 10th Century.
• Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor and as such is certain to be on all Cambodia travel packages. There are some temples worth a visit as well as a museum. The reclining buddha within Wat Praeh Prom Rath is certainly worth some of your time while Wat Kerararam and Wat Damnak are two other temples to see. It is a town that has grown due to tourism and there are plenty of hotels and restaurants to cater for the increased tourism numbers.
• Tonle Sap is the largest lake in Indochina and varies enormously in size. It is best seen in the rainy season when its depth has increased from 1 metres to 8 and the area it covers expands fivefold to 15,000 square kilometres. Not surprisingly, the local villages are built on stilts; the villagers are fishermen as well as farmers depending on the time of year.
• Phnom Penh’s highlight is the Royal Palace and the two pagodas that are located within its grounds. There is also the Trone Hall in typical Khmer style, Napoleon III’s villa and the Royal Treasury. Wat Phnom is a 14th Century Buddhist Temple situated on an artificial hill so it easily visible from many parts of the city. On a much sadder note, there are reminders of the terrible years under Pol Pot at the end of the 1970s in the museum that was formerly the prison where many were tortured and died, and the ‘’Killing Fields’’ themselves where memorials use human skulls to get the message home.
• Sihanoukville on the Cambodian coast is a deep-sea port created by man. It is now a holiday resort offering lovely beaches, a warm, blue sea and water sports.
• The Mekong is navigable down into Vietnam from Phnom Penh. It rises on the Tibetan Plateau far to the north before reaching Cambodia and Phnom Penh. The town of Kratie on the River is worth a visit; there is plenty of colonial architecture, the chance of the rare freshwater dolphins in the river and a great market or two.
• Koh Ker is the 10th Century Khmer Capital. The temple is especially impressive, surrounded as it is by the jungle. It is located in the remote north of Cambodia but is accessible for most of the year. There are 42 structures with the 7-tiered temple in the shape of a pyramid, Prasat Thom the undoubted highlight.
• Koh Rong is a beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand. The beaches are lovely, the sea clear, the forests great for exploring. All in all, a great place to relax. After a Cambodia tour, you may need to spend some time doing absolutely nothing.
• Mondulkiri is a remote region of Cambodia; hills, valleys and waterfalls. It is a province in the east up towards the Vietnam border. It is the largest province in Cambodia yet has a population of just 60,000. The only town of note is the capital, Sen Monorom where just 7,500 people live; it is a good base from which to explore. You are likely to see elephants, water buffalo, even leopards and the traditional villages are illuminating. The climate is cooler than elsewhere in Cambodia.
• Bokor is the home of an old French Hill Station built in the 1920s. The National Park is in the south of Cambodia, a day trip from Kampot or Sihanoukville and is at an altitude of over 1,000 metres. It was built as an escape from the hot temperatures lower down in the country. There is plenty of wildlife though it is questionable whether there is still a population of tigers. The Popokvil Waterfall within the Park is at its best during the rainy season.
When it comes to planning a holiday in Cambodia, it makes sense to make use of someone who knows the region well. Cambodia makes a great two-country destination holiday with Vietnam. There are similarities as well as contrasts and you will certainly get a broader view of South East Asia if you plan a holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia. Whatever time of year you decide to go you will certainly find plenty of things to do in Cambodia and Vietnam.
Read more: Top 15 things to do in Cambodia