Cambodia is known for its vibrant culture, ancient temples and spectacular natural scenery. From exploring the majestic temple complex of Angkor Wat to relaxing on the pristine beaches of Sihanoukville, Cambodia has many of the finest activities to suit a variety of interests. Whether you are a history enthusiast or an adventurer, there are a variety of the best things to do in Cambodia that will leave you captivated and eager to return.
Leaving the main northern compound of the palace by a marked gateway in the southeastern corner, proceed along a narrow southwesterly route that leads to the North Gate of the celebrated Silver Pagoda compound. Commissioned by King Norodom in 1892, and then extensively rebuilt by Sihanouk in 1962, the floor of the pagoda is lined with more than 5,000 silver tiles weighing more than 1kg each, or 5 tonnes in total.
Prepare for the best things to do in Cambodia on this tailor-made Cambodia Cultural Discovery. Tour the capital, Phnom Penh, with its romantic cafes and haute cuisine, discover ancient, awe-inspiring temples, and stunning countryside and explore one of the greatest wonders of the world.
Finally, for those with the stomach for the experience after visiting Tuol Sleng, about 12km (7.5 miles) southwest of the town are the infamous Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Here victims of the Khmer Rouge were executed and buried in mass graves. Many of these graves have now been exhumed, and a stupa-shaped mausoleum has been erected in the victims’ memory.
This market remains the place to buy textiles, antiques, silver and even motorbike parts. At the south end of the market, you’ll find vendors selling silver jewellery, handicrafts and piles of multicoloured silks.
The road north from the roundabout leads out past a large covered market – a favourite with visitors from Phnom Penh, who stop off here to buy the fresh seafood for which Kampot is renowned. One of the best things to do in Cambodia here for the foreign visitor, however, is the series of narrow, collonaded streets leading west from the roundabout to the riverfront.
It is, indeed, a scrupulously executed miniature temple complex carved in fine pink sandstone – and in the quality of the stone and the soft, almost mellifluous charm of the colour lies much of the temple’s appeal. The central complex consists of several structures including, most importantly, shrines dedicated to Shiva (the central and southern buildings) and Vishnu (the northern building).
Construction of this masterpiece is thought to have begun during the reign of Surayavarman II and to have been completed sometime after his death. Authorities claim that the amount of stone used in creating this massive edifice is about the same as that used in building the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt, though Angkor Wat has more exposed surfaces, nearly all of which are elaborately carved to a remarkable standard.
This tailor-made Cambodian Family Adventure is an ideal exploration for all the family, it allows the chance to experience the majestic region of Cambodia’s Angkor region from an insider angle.
The far southeastern end of the beach is known as Otres Beach, which itself is divided into Otres 1 to the west and Otres 2 to the east. This is the area in which Sihanoukville still retains at least a dash of its original charm, and is the best place to head for guesthouse-style accommodation and laid-back bars and restaurants.
More correctly known as the Irrawaddy dolphin, this is a delightful and sociable mammal. It has been driven to the verge of extinction by fishermen using explosives and nets, collisions with rafts of teak logs, and fatal encounters with the sharp propellers of speeding long-tail boats.
There are five gateways into Angkor Thom, each approached by a causeway built across the moat. As you approach from the south the view of the fortifications is impressive. The causeway is flanked by 108 large stone figures, 54 gods on the left and an equivalent number of demons on the right. In the distance, at the far end of the causeway, the southern gateway bears four huge enigmatic faces facing in the cardinal directions.
See the best of beautiful Cambodia on this amazing tailor-made tour of Cambodia’s Beaches and Temples. Explore the busy capital Phnom Penh, laze on the golden sands of the south coast beaches, and discover local villages and Cambodian cuisine before you lose yourself among the mystical temples of Angkor.
At the northern end of town is the celebrated Victoria Angkor Resort, and next door the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, which has been sensitively restored by the Singapore-based Raffles Group. Over the years many well-known visitors to Angkor have stayed here, including such luminaries as W. Somerset Maugham, Noël Coward, Charlie Chaplin, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Angelina Jolie.
This is a tailor-made trip to Cambodia for the adventurer. This trip takes you from the glorious temples and rolling countryside of Siem Reap to the attractive riverside capital of Phnom Penh where you can explore the city’s broad boulevards, new restaurants and myriad sights.
Phnom Penh’s National Museum housed in a red pavilion that opened in 1917, holds a wonderful collection of Khmer art, including some of the finest pieces in existence. As you enter, buy a copy of the museum guidebook, Khmer Art in Stone, which identifies and discusses the most important exhibits.
Angkor National Museum, formerly known as the Angkor Conservatory is situated on the road between Siem Reap and the main entrance. The well-equipped galleries provide an excellent introduction to Angkor and the civilisation that built it. Many visitors, however, give it a miss – being either impatient to see the real thing in situ or baulking at the relatively expensive entrance fee.
The climb, while tiring, is well worth it for the view over the nearby lake and north towards Angkor. The scenery varies greatly from season to season, as during the rains, the Tonlé Sap expands considerably. The best-known of Tonlé Sap’s floating villages, Chong Khneas, is about 5km further on. From here you can hire a boat with a driver to get out to the lake. Choose a boat with a good roof as a sun shield.
On this tailor-made trip to Khmer Cultural Treasures, you will discover the wonders of Khmer architecture through temple tours around ancient Siem Reap, explore the Cambodian countryside, the floating markets of Tonle Sap and see all the cultural highlights of Phnom Penh.
In technical parlance, the term apsara refers to celestial females who dance or fly, while their sisters who merely stand, albeit with amazing grace, are called devata or “angels”. Almost every temple has its quota of apsara, but it is generally agreed that the finest examples are to be found in the bas-reliefs at Angkor and that the best apsara is in the “Churning of the Ocean of Milk” in Angkor Wat’s East Gallery.
In addition, Chi Phat provides visitors with the opportunity to experience the local culture and community. Visitors can stay with local families where they can enjoy traditional Cambodian food and experience daily life in the village.
The Ministry of Tourism is keen to promote both Rattanakiri and the adjoining province of Mondolkiri as destinations for eco-tourism and trekking, but this project remains in its infancy. As a part of this drive, and to protect threatened wildlife, almost half of Rattanakiri has been designated a protected area, including Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary and Virachey National Park.
Of course, other cultures have, in turn, strongly influenced Cambodia’s food. Central in the nation’s cuisine are soups and fish sauce from the Vietnamese and the Chams; Indian curries; stir-fries, fried rice and sweet and sour dishes from the Chinese and spices from the Far East. Even so, Khmer cuisine has combined these elements with a distinct set of flavours and ingredients to form a unique taste.
Just 18km (12 miles) from a town near the airport, Ream includes 210 sq km (81 sq miles) of coastal forests, including the Prek Tuk Sap estuary, mangrove forests, and two islands, as well as coral reefs. English-speaking rangers lead guided hikes and boat trips around the park, though the resident macaques, pangolins, sun bears and muntjac are most likely to be seen after dark when the park is closed.
Fauna which may be seen includes the slow loris, pig-tailed macaque, gibbon and douc ur, as well as wild elephant, gaur, bintang and sometimes even tiger. The area is also home to some of Cambodia’s smallest and least assimilated minorities. Despite its remoteness, Virachey is among Cambodia’s best-administered national parks, offering organised tours from the park headquarters at Ban Lung.
Visitors are required to purchase a ticket and use local transport (jeep or motorbike) and are not allowed to walk or use their transportation. The temple itself is best visited on a day trip. Be sure to leave early in the morning to allow enough time to explore it properly.
Other coasts are far more sedate and the interior remains undeveloped. To the south, smaller exotic Koh Rong Samloem attracts a different crowd, seeking relaxation rather than beach parties. The main accommodation cluster is on the east coast at Saracen Beach, but there are other bungalow resorts and beachside guesthouses scattered around the coast, particularly on the west-facing Sunset and Lazy beaches.
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