For decades off limits to all but the most intrepid tourists, today Southeast Asia’s Cambodia is a popular destination for all kinds of travellers: from independent backpackers who roam far off the beaten track to explore the stunning sugar-palm dotted hinterland to luxury tourists who stay in style and see Cambodia’s main drawcard of Angkor Wat between massages and exquisite French meals.
The ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s national treasure. The nearby city of Siem Reap has developed dramatically since the days Angelina Jolie filmed Tomb Raider here and fell in love with the nation.
While some lament the discovery of Angkor by the masses, the site is still breathtaking and Siem Reap offers all the comforts one could wish for on any budget.
Many do simply holiday at Angkor and travel no further, but Cambodia has a lot more to showcase. Consider as well a break on the lazy whitesand beaches of Sihanoukville, a stay at a stylish resort in resurging coastal Kep, or a tour to the atmospheric, mist-shrouded Bokor Hill Station for a taste of Cambodia’s 1960s heyday.
Many write off Phnom Penh, yet it’s a beautiful city, with a stunning colonial heritage, a gorgeous riverside promenade featuring a glittering palace, and a great selection of restaurants and bars.
Shopping here has taken off: trawl the stalls of the Russian market for “antique” finds, wispy organza fabrics and chic ceramics, stop in a few boutiques for home-grown designer clothes and get some leather shoes handcrafted at a bargain price at one of the city’s skilled cobblers.
The reminders of the horrific genocide perpetrated by Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge make for harrowing but essential viewing: do see Tuol Sleng and make a trip to the Killing Fields just outside the city for a sobering aside to your travels as you pause to remember the atrocities humans are capable of committing.Further afield, Battambang offers travellers a taste of laid-back rural life. Stop to see Cambodia’s first winery and tour isolated Khmer temples, some of which pre-date Angkor.
The former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng is another key stop for the more intrepid and adventurous traveller, where the grave of Pol Pot serves as another reminder of the history Cambodia is struggling to overcome.
Travelfish shows you how to make the most of the popular destinations, points you in the direction of Cambodia’s best-kept secrets and equips you with the knowledge you need to make up-to-the-minute decisions throughout your trip to Cambodia.