Where else can one find stunning Khmer temples, laid-back beaches, coastal resorts, tree-lined boulevards and river promenades? With the old-world charm of quiet colonial towns and the fresh flavours of a distinctive cuisine, Cambodia enchants every visitor with its magic.
In Phnom Penh, see the splendid Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, and the National Museum for Khmer art. Take a cruise along the Mekong River and shop for silk and handcrafted souvenirs at the Russian Market. Visit the grim but compelling Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the killing fields of Choeung Ek.
Outside Siem Reap, Angkor Wat rises vast and unforgettable with the sunrise. Marvel at the rose-coloured beauty of Banteay Srei, the tree-strangled ruins of Ta Prohm, and the carved faces of Bayon in the walled city of Angkor Thom. Catch a traditional Apsara dance or take a daytrip to ancient Sambor Prei Kuk, cliff-side Preah Vihear and the reclining Buddha of Phnom Suntuk.
Experience the floating villages and languid fishing lifestyle of the Tonle Sap. Explore attractive Battambang, the border town of Poipet and the Banteay Chhmar that's lost in the jungle. Near quiet Kompong Cham, catch a glimpse of Irrawady dolphins at Kampie, ride the elephants of Sen Monorom, and enjoy the natural beauty of Banlung and the enchanting waters of Yeah Laom Crater Lake.
Get away from it all at Sihanoukville and the coast, with their sandy beaches, seafood, and offshore islands. Visit the French-influenced Kampot and Bokor Mountain, the faded elegance of Kep, and the mangroves and wildlife of Ream National Park.
Getting around Cambodia
Road improvements in recent years have greatly benefited the tourists. Regular long-distance buses connect the hub of Phnom Penh to all regional destinations. Arrangements can be made at any guesthouse or travel agent. Minibuses that depart when full are probably the cheapest way to travel, but these tend to be crowded (with both people and livestock!) For a more comfortable way to travel across the country, try shared taxis, or in remote areas, pick-up trucks.
There are regular boats plying the rivers and the Tonle Sap, and scenic cruises up the Mekong River. Planes and trains exist, but both modes of transport are underdeveloped and irregular. In towns, get around by tuk-tuks, motos, and cyclos, as taxis are only available in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Or rent a car and driver for full-day excursions.
Do's and Don'ts in Cambodia
• Do dress conservatively, especially at the temples. Cover knees and shoulders.
• Do ask permission before taking photos. Cambodians often hide their shyness with a smile, so make sure to get their consent.
• Don’t touch anybody on the head, as it's considered holy. Conversely, feet are considered the lowest part of the body, so don’t point with them or put up legs on a chair.
• Don't show frustration or anger. It's not socially acceptable and will make many Cambodians uncomfortable.
Did you know…?
Though it's known as Cambodia, the country has been changing its name with every new government. It was called the Khmer Republic during its republican years, Democratic Kampuchea under the Khmer Rouge, and the People’s Republic of Kampuchea under the Salvation Front. Today, its official name is the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The chequered krama has many uses: as a scarf, a head wrap, to carry children, to cover up, and as decoration. Most common in red or blue, kramas are made from cotton, hand-woven Khmer silk, or chunchiet, a coarse cotton-synthetic blend. Quintessentially Cambodian, they make a popular souvenir and can be bought in markets everywhere.
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