It may not have the same Full Moon party reputation of its neighbour, nor the historical notoriety of next-door Vietnam. But don’t let that put you off exploring this beautiful country, full of ancient temples and stunning landscapes – and there’s plenty of cheap beer!
Having brought us the best of Vietnam, our roving reporter Cat McGloin shares her seven must-see places in Cambodia:
1. Phnom Penh
Cambodia’s capital teems with tuk-tuk drivers and street food vendors. Weave through the city, spotting roadside pagodas nestled amongst grand French colonial houses. Why not try a local delicacy, deep fried tarantula? When cocktail hour calls, there’s no better place to catch a sundowner and appreciate some colonial grandeur than at the Foreign Correspondence Club on the bank on the Mekong River that runs through the city.
2. The Killing Fields
Just outside Phnom Penh lies one of the largest mass graves sites in Cambodia, where it is estimated over one million Cambodians were executed during the Khmer Rouge regime. The scale of the site, coupled with the tales told over your audio guide, is deeply moving and provides real insight in to the country’s violent past, as well as the regime’s enduring legacy. You can couple your visit here with a trip to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum by bargaining with a tuk-tuk driver.
3. Angkor Archaeological Park
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is by far Cambodia’s, if not Southeast Asia’s, largest tourist attraction. Each year thousands of visitors make the short journey north of Siem Reap to visit the magnificent remains of the capitals of the Khmer Empire, dating from the ninth century. Head out before dawn to catch the sunrise behind the site’s most famous temple, Angkor Wat. Be sure to check out Angkor Thom, made famous by Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider films.
4. Siem Reap
The drop-off point for Angkor Archaeological Park, Siem Reap has developed into a tourist hub over recent years. Grab a few bargains at the night market, or get a fish pedicure for pennies, before heading to Pub Street for…well the name says it all really! For daytime tranquility, head to Wat Bo Village and relax in the gardens of the oldest Buddhist temple.
Fondly referred to as ‘Snooky’, the main reason to stop here is the beaches, beautifully sandy and not as crowded as Thailand’s. With six sandy spots to chill out in, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Less popular than Victory or Serendipity Beach, Otres Beach is usually quieter and a good spot to try your hand at windsurfing or kayaking.
6. Koh Rong
Forget Koh Samui, Koh Rong is the new desert island paradise. Only accessible by a small local ferry, not many travellers make the short ride out from Sihanoukville to this picturesque spot. With 23 pristine beaches to choose from, you’ll be tempted to laze the days away in the sunshine. For the adventurous, there’s plenty of opportunities for hiking, diving and snorkelling. You’ll find cheap cocktails, tasty Khmer food and the best sunset sea view at Monkey Island.
Once famous for its salt and pepper production, Kampot is a charming riverside town. Days spent watching the river, slurping noodles in the market and cycling through the hills are what this place was made for. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a trip 20km out of Kampot and visit the French colonial ghost town, Bokor Hill Station. Originally a retreat for colonial settlers, it was abandoned when the Khmer Rouge took control of the area in the 1970’s and has remained eerily untouched ever since.