Quite surprising to many, Cambodia has quickly become one of the ideal vacation spots for people to visit on earth. For thousands of years, this land was thought to be a kind of backwards nation, where tyrants and internal strife were the norm and people lived in gross poverty. Even 20 years ago for people to think that Cambodia was a place to spend their vacation would have been unfathomable, but those stereotypes are quickly being shattered.
Now tourists everywhere are finding that Cambodia offers some of the most amazing sites and accommodations that a person could find anywhere on earth. The many islands that are off the coast of Cambodia have quickly become a tropical paradise for tourists who were looking to find a great place to spend their vacation that doesn’t have many of the problems that you would find in more traditional vacation spots. This is truly becoming the place to go.
If you are considering taking a vacation in Cambodia, there are many great attractions and sites that you will clearly want to see. Here is a list of some can’t misplace that you need to figure out a way to accommodate into your schedule.
Phnom Penh – No matter what country you are visiting a stop in the capital city is always a must-see. This is as true of Cambodia’s capital as it is with any other nation on earth. Because of the diverse cultures that have placed their stamp on this nation you will find some spectacular and yet peculiar sites within Phnom Penh. This includes such things as grand French colonial houses, as well as Buddhist temples, and modern technological looking buildings. It is an interesting collage of the very old and the very new all within this fantastic city.
The Mekong River travels through the capital city of Cambodia, allowing for a great day out on the river if you so envision. There are incredible restaurants where you can sample local delicacies like deep-fried tarantula, or you will find great clubs to enjoy the nightlife. This is a capital city you will truly enjoy, and you will find that the cost to enjoy it is far more reasonable than you would find anywhere else.
Tonle Sap Lake – While much of Cambodia is becoming more modern, this is one area where you will get to see what life has been like in this nation for thousands of years. This is an incredibly primitive fishing village, where poverty is very high and rampant. Most of the shacks in the village are on stilts to avoid being overrun by the water, and most people, including children, use canoes to get from one location to another. It is truly a life on the water, where fishing is not the only reason people need boats to get around.
Angkor Wat – Meaning “City Temple,” Angkor Wat is one of the most beautiful locations you will ever see it is probably the most common tourist attraction in Cambodia. The Angkor Temples have been in existence since the first half of the 12th century, and are recognized as one of the finest monuments a person will find anywhere. With a series of three rectangular terraces, a central shrine, and a tower that reaches nearly 700 feet this beautiful temple is one of the great homes of Mount Meru, a great god of Hinduism. If you bypass this on your tour of Cambodia you’ve missed something really special.
The Killing Fields – While this may not seem like a great destination place, this is the location of one of the most tragic historical events on earth. In fact, a movie was made about the terrible tragedy that occurred at this location. Located just outside the capital city, this is the site of one of the largest mass graves in the world. Experts have determined that over one million Cambodians were executed by the former government of the country, the Khmer Rouge, and dumped into this mass grave. While not accurately determined, the massive size of the grave and the tales that have been told by local people puts the number at least a million persons. There is a museum located near the Killing Fields and the location has become a tragic reminder to the people to not allow an event like this to occur again.
Kratie – Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Kratie is a small town which is dominated by one enormous marketplace. What makes this such a great location is that the marketplace itself is surrounded by old French colonial buildings which really add to the culture and feel of the location. Not only can you enjoy some of the best shopping you will ever find at a price you will not believe, but it is quite common to see dolphins traveling up the river. It has become the home of nearly 90 dolphins who have decided that this is the ideal residence for themselves.
Sihanoukville – The province located in the southwestern portion of Cambodia has become one of the must-see tourist visits these days. With over 90% of the outer edges of this province being enclosed by water, this is a beachgoers dream come true. There are not only incredible shopping, restaurants, and other normal tourist things that people like to do, but they were beautiful beaches and great water activities for virtually anyone to be able to enjoy. The hotels along the speeches are quite unobtrusive upon the beauty of the land itself and, because this has not been a tourist area for very long, you will find that the beaches themselves are not crowded or polluted as you would find in many other vacation destinations.
Along the shore of this province are 21 islands that offer some type of tourist accommodations. Many of these are covered with dense tropical forest areas surrounded by beaches on the outskirts of the island. These rain forests have incredible animals and will plant life for you to be able to view. In fact, this one region of Cambodia houses the largest number of threatened or endangered animals on the earth. It is truly a location where you can see plants, insects, and animals that you would not find anywhere else.
Of course was such a great beach area you can be sure that there are great water activities for you to enjoy. There are great opportunities to see pods of dolphins, the fishing is beyond words, you will taste some of the most amazing shellfish the world has to offer, and you can enjoy surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, or just a simple day of swimming. One day in this location and you will clearly understand why it is becoming one of the most popular tourist attractions today.
Koh Ker – From 928 AD to 944 AD the Khmer Empire located its capital in Koh Ker. And just that brief 16-year history some of the most spectacular buildings and sculptures that have ever been constructed were designed and built in this former capital city. The tallest of the structures, Prasat Thom, is the tallest pyramid -like structure. From its top, you can see across the jungle in all directions. Carved into the pyramid is the giant Garuda, a half man, half birdlike creature which was the primary religious god of the Empire. For centuries, this was a difficult place to reach, but because of mining near the former capital city, there is a new toll road that makes this quite accessible to everyone.
Route 6 – It isn’t often that you see a road mentioned is a great tourist attraction, but there simply is nothing like Route 6. Running from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, this is an incredibly well-designed highway that goes through much of the rural parts of Cambodia. You will feel in this six-hour trip like you have traveled through time. You will see everything from grass shacks, people riding on bicycles or scooters, people with roadside stands selling hawk urine, straw hat workers, roads blocked by cows and oxen, small markets, large-scale homes, French colonial towns, and much more. It is one of more interesting montages you will ever come across where you will see a literal blend of thousands of years of culture and life along a six-hour drive. Of course, you can be sure that no matter where you travel along this path you were going to come across a place where you can find the world-famous fried spiders to eat.
The Plantation – Located in the capital city, this is one of the premier places to get away from it all. This is one of those locations where you can be sure that you can have a restful time away from the chaos and crime of the capital city. There are two large pools located within the Plantation and you can either swim or just sit in a cabana bed enjoying a cocktail. This gives you the feeling like you are in some wealthy resort, where you could just feel at ease and not have to worry about anything other than your glass getting empty. Cambodia’s capital can be quite a place for some, and this is a great refuge to get away from it all.
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – If you want to continue to take a look back at the dark history of Cambodia, then a stop at this museum is a must-see. Much like the Killing Fields, the stark location was a central piece of the Holocaust that occurred during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot, often touted as the Hitler of Cambodia, uses this location to torture hundreds of thousands of his people. This included anybody that the dictator found to be a threat to his regime. Many of the wisest and most well-educated people of the country were tortured at this location, also known as S-21. This included such people as doctors, professors, clergy members, and other intellectuals within Cambodia. Those who died from the severe beatings, electrocutions and dismemberment were later taken into the Killing Fields for their eternal rest. Much like the concentration camps are reminders to people in Europe of the tragedies of the 1940s, this museum stands as a testament to Cambodia’s own dark history.
Koh Rong – Located in the province of Sihanoukville, this is one of the small islands located off the coast of this province. While many of these islands offer an incredible vacation getaway, this one has two special features that make it quite a bit more unique. Koh Rong is also known as Monkey Island for good reason. You will find monkeys inhabiting the dense forest area of this tropical island. The accommodation for tourists includes bungalows located along the beach line and, in fact, the monkeys find that the balconies of these bungalows make for a great location for them as well. You will get to have the great opportunity to encounter a monkey up close and personal if you so desire. No worries though; most are quite friendly.
Also located on Koh Rong is the High Point Adventure Park. This is a theme park built hundreds of feet above the ground below where you get from one location to the next by swinging or climbing across worlds. If you want to channel your inner Indiana Jones this is the ideal location to do it. You can truly feel like a great adventurer as you were swinging across the tethered ropes, using rope bridges and board sliders to get from one platform to the next, or navigating yourself across rushing rivers. This is a great location to be a kid all over again.
Kampot – For all you spice connoisseurs, Kampot is the location that is famous for its salt and pepper production. This was originally a retreat for colonial settlers hundreds of years ago and became famous for his production of salt-and-pepper. Now you can still enjoy the spices here while enjoying the amazing market that they have located in the downtown square. Located just 12 miles away from Kampot there is an old French colonial ghost town which was abandoned after the Khmer Rouge came to power. Since the 1970s, this town has remained completely untouched, as the tyrannical government did nothing but leave it alone. It is kind of an eerie sight to see, but is one you will clearly enjoy. For those who enjoy the old West and the old ghost towns, meet the French colonial version.
Banteay Srei – While this is officially part of the Angkor complex, Banteay Srei is actually about 15 miles to the northeast of the main group of temples in the complex. Because of this reason we will consider it to be a separate attraction in and of itself. This grand structure, built primarily out of red sandstone, was completed in 967 AD. The use of the red sandstone gives it an incredibly elaborate look, as do the decorative wall carvings and sculptures that have been created. Just as a quick historical note, Banteay Srei is unique in the fact that it is the only major temple in Cambodia that was not built for a king. Instead, this temple was actually built for one of the king’s main counselors. This is why it is believed that it is built so far away from the major complex itself.
Bayon Temple – If you have not got enough of ancient temple structures, then visiting the Bayon Temple is something you will really enjoy. This temple features over 200 massive stone faces that are facing all directions. In most of the stone structures, you will find that most are smiling. It is believed that these faces represented both King Jayavarman VII and Buddha. These were built in the later portion of the 12th-century as an expansion to the original capital in Angkor.
Bokor Hill Station – Built in the 1920s by the French, this used to be a retreat for the upper class living in the capital city of Cambodia. It is an amazing structure that has actually been abandoned twice in its history. The first instance was in the 1940s when the Japanese invaded Cambodia during World War II, and the second was in the 70s as the Khmer Rouge came to power.
This is part of that great ghost town that is located a short distance from Kampot. You will find that the building is almost completely intact with the exception of doors and windows missing. In 2008, a massive reconstruction was being done to rebuild the road leading to Bokor Hill Station, but it is not clear if this construction has been completed. There are local hiking tours that a person can take if they wish to see this in person.
As you can see there are many great things to see in Cambodia. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the fantastic sites and attractions you can find in this ancient land. The best part about it is that you can see a lot of this, if not all of it, for less than $1000 total.