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Cambodia Pictures Guide

 

 

Cambodia's main tourist attraction, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia's main tourist attraction, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Photo by Samgarza

 

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Why holiday in Cambodia?

The jungle scattered and sublime Khmer temples of Angkor are indisputably one of the world's greatest ancient attractions, but note that Angkor Wat is just one of many Angkor 'Archeological Park' (AP) temples!
Apart from temples you should also visit the French-built capital, Phnom Penh, for fine food and museums; Sihanoukville for sun and sand; Banlung for nature and ethnic people.
Generally people - even the infamous motorbikers - are charming and friendly while local cuisine is superb and good value and a cool Angkor beer is divine!

 

Downsides

Cambodia is the world's most land mined country with around 5 million mines and a half million tons of UXOs (unexploded ordnance) around the countryside and remains one of highest for the number of landmine related casualties. Thanks to both international and domestic organizations' de-mining efforts, the numbers of casualty decreased, also the Angkor area and the central Phnom Penh have already been cleared, but always seek a local guide going off for a walk or crossing the border and never stray off paths.

 

Length of stay

Minimum worthwhile stay, not incl. flights: Phnom Penh 2 days; Siem Reap (Angkor) 2-3 days; total 5 days
Recommended: 2 weeks, Phnom Penh - Siem Reap (Angkor, Tonlé Sap Lake) - Sihanoukville, or other towns.

 

Ta Phrom in Angkor Archeological Park, Cambodia

Ta Phrom in Angkor AP. Photo by Diego Delso.

 

Angkor area photos and information >>>

 

Main attractions

**Phnom Penh

Most tourists visit Cambodia for Angkor, but this busy capital city is just about worth a couple of days. It has some impressive sights, an interesting street life and the riverfront is laid back with trendy shops, restaurants and cafes.

Phnom Penh Pictures Guide

Main Phnom Penh sights

• The Royal Palace. The residence of King Sihanouk contains a magnificent sight, the Silver Pagoda (Wat Preah Keo) and its gold and jeweled Buddha statues, especially the two most outstanding, a 17th century crystal 'Emerald Buddha' and the gold Maitreya Buddha covered by over 9500 diamonds.
• Tuol Sleng Museum, the former high school turned prison for the Khmer Rouge victims, more than 14,000 met their death there.
• Wat Phnom, a hilltop pagoda, was the origin of the city and is one of the most important spiritual places in the country.
• The National Museum of Arts, an imposing Khmer style building in red brick built by French shows extensive Angkorian crafts (picture top left).
• The Central Market (also known as New Market) and the Russian Market (Psah Toul Tom Poung) are worth visiting.
• The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek Memorial), 17 km from the city centre were the final destination for the Khmer Rouge victims.

 

**Siem Reap

An ideal base for the country's prime attraction, Angkor Archaeological Park, which is situated just 6 km north of the town. Siem Reap is developing fast and becoming one of the most popular destinations in the world. It offers an excellent choice of accommodation, from a few dollars budget hostels to a thousands dollars a night lavish spa resorts, as well varied and interesting dining options.

Siem Reap Pictures and Information

 

Angkor Wat, the busiest temple complex in the Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, by far the busiest temple complex in the Angkor Archaeological Park. Photo by Diego Delso.

 

***Angkor Archaeological Park

This world heritage-status complex of ancient temples. Note that Angkor Wat, one of world's largest religious sites, is just one of many Angkor temples.

Angkor Pictures Guide

 

**Koh Ker

Thanks to recent de-mining and a new road, the once remote, inaccessible temple complex of 42 stractures, is becoming an essencial outing from Angkor. The star monument is Prasat Thom, a 40 m high, Mayan pyramid looking temple. It is located 100 km northeast of Angkor, 2-3 hours by car from Siem Reap. It worth spending a night even though a day-trip is doable. Photos

 

**Kratie

Known for its spectacular sunsets over the Mekong River, Kratie is booming as a place for a break during an overland trip between Phnom Penh and Laos' Champasak. The star attraction here is to see the rare Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong.

 

**Kampot

A laid-back riverside town with some fine but shabby French architecture, Kampot offers great views across Bokor and Elephant Mountains which form Bokor National Park (also known as Preah Monivong National Park). This is mostly jungle and home to varied wildlife including endangered tigers. It's supposed to be free of land mines but stick to well-beaten paths. Bokor is easily accessed from Kep (30-60 minutes by road depending on the transport).

 

**Banlung

This small town is used as a base to explore Cambodia's largest national park, Virachey, that lies between Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri Provinces. The park encompasses rainforest, mountains, lakes (particularly Yak Lom crater lake), waterfalls and ethnic mountain tribes.

 

** Battambang

A laid backlittle city with well-preserved colonial architecture and picturesque rustic scenery used be a hidden gem but has now graduated to 'off-the-beaten track' tourism.
There are some little-known but superb Angkorian temples out in the countryside, including Wat Ek Phnom, Wat Banan and Phnom Sampeau. Battambang is 45 minutes flight from Phnom Penh, or 3.5 hours by shared taxi, or 5-6 hours by bus or a 18-24 hour heroic train journey.
There is a stunning boat trip from Battambang
to Siem Reap though it's rather slow, taking 5-7 hours depending on the weather and water conditions, compared to 2 hours by road. More.

 

 

The Throne Hall, Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The Throne Hall, Royal Palace, Phnom Penh.

 

Phnom Penh photos and information >>>

 

Best weather

The best time to visit Cambodia is during the cool, dry months November - February. November- mid December especially benefits from pleasant, dry, warmth and vegetation that is still verdant after the rainy reason, but remember that the Christmas/New Year period will be crowded and pricey.

Vietnam has a tropical climate and four seasons

Hot & rainy, June-August
Cool & rainy, September, October
Hot & dry, March-May
Cool & dry, November-February

The most uncomfortable time to visit is the 'green' season June - August, when it's hot, wet and humid. Going in the late wet season is not a bad idea from September and October with less heat, less crowds and lower prices. At this time the beauty of Angkor is reinforced by lush greenery.

 

A fruit seller on Sihanoukville beaches, Cambodia

Sihanoukville, 230 kms southwest of Phnom Penh, is the place to find comfortable white sandy beaches.

Beaches

Sihanoukville is not quite up to neighbouring Thailand's pristine sands, these previously uncrowded, white sandy beaches are now action packed play grounds. The town itself is not peaceful with dusty, noisy construction and too many street hustlers, but as Cambodia's premier beach destination, it is still rewarding after temple burn-out.

 

Sihanoukville beaches and more information >>>

 

Floating village of Chong Kneas in Cambodia

Floating villages of Chong Kneas and Tonlé Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia.

 

Tonle Sap photos and information >>>

 

Activities

Apart from Angkor sightseeing, activities are still relatively limited and primitive, though Cambodian tourism is rapidely developing and booming.

• Hiking, elephant rides with guides and boat trips along Tonlé Sap River and Mekong River are possible at various locations.

• Snorkelling, diving, beaches and nature walks are on offer at Sihanoukville coastal town (see beaches above).

• Eco-tourism at wildlife sanctuary and nature consavation area in the Cardamom Mountains and protected forest (the second largest virgin rainforest on mainland of South East Asia) in Koh Kong province. It is home to many threatened animal species including tigers and over 100 species of endemic vegetation.

• Rare Irrawaddy dolphin watching happens at Kratie along the Mekong River.

 

Koh Ker temple, Cambodia

Koh Ker is a slightly out-of-the-way collection of Angkor temples, 2-3 hours by car from Siem Reap.

 

Off-the-Beaten-Track photos and information >>>

 

Visas

Visas are obtainable on arrival at the both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap International airports for most visitors.
Visas are also available for people crossing by land from Thailand at Poi Pet, Banteay Meanchey and Cham Yeam.
However, you need visas prior to arrival if you are entering from Vietnam at Bavet (Moc Bai in Vietnam) and Ka-Om Samnor (Chao Doc in Vietnam). Visa availability may vary at other crossing points, always check the latest situation before you go.

 

 

Accommodation
Can be found easily in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, or Sihanoukville. Phnom Penh is foreigner-friendly and Siem Reap is replete with high standard hotels.

 

Food
A wide range of fabulous Southeast Asia cuisine - with a French twist - make eating out a great experience in the capital and Siem Reap.
Splendid seafood and plump mangoes are available from pretty fruit sellers at beaches in Sihanoukville.

 

Money
Take $ cash. No need to change money and you'll pay much the same as paying with the local currency (Riel).
Thai baht are also accepted.
Travellers cheques can be a problem outside tourist areas.
Credit cards can be used in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Battambang, but with an extra charge.

 

Shopping
The usual souvenirs are only found in major tourist places such as Siem Reap or Phnom Penh with nothing elsewhere, even in Sihanoukville.
Popular items are silver jewellery, replica carvings, antiques and kramas (cotton scarves). Bargaining is essential.

 

Tipping
Not a tradition in Cambodia, but service personnel in any area with tourist connections will be expecting something. A small donation on visiting a wat (temple) is appropriate, especially if a monk gives you a guided tour.

 

Electricity
240v, flat 2 pins or sometimes round 2 pins.

A traditional Khmer dance show in Siem Reap, Cambodia

A traditional Khmer dance show in Siem Reap. Photo by Pierre Andre Leclercq.

 

Main festivals

April, Khmer New Year, 3-4 day festival with much spring cleaning and offerings for the new year.
Early May, Bon Chroat Preah Nengkal, (the Royal Ploughing Festival), an agrarian ritual for good harvests; takes place near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

Full Moon Day at beginning of November, Bon Om Tuk (the Water Festival), the country's biggest and most important festival. Locals go bananas celebrating a natural phenomenon - the reversing of the current of Tonle Sap River- with boat races and fireworks. Nationwide but Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are the places to be.

For some precise dates, more suggestions and information see: Exotic Festivals

 

Ta Som in Angkor Archeological Park, Cambodia

Ta Som in Angkor Archeological Park. Photo by Diego Delso.

 

Angkor AP Photos and Information >>>

 

Siem Reap >>>

 

 

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Doorway in Angkor Archeological park