The magic of Cambodia

By Dave Papenfus Time of article published Dec 1, 2017

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Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh is a city that never stops - chaotic yet wonderfully charismatic -  as it sits on the banks of the mighty Mekong River, which flows from the mountains of Laos through the length of Cambodia and empties into the sea via a delta in southern Vietnam.

Phnom Penh has beautiful temples, palaces and pavilions, stunning dining and shopping, a vibrant nightlife and some dark historical stories: such as Toul Sleng - the notorious genocide prison and Choeung Ek - the extermination camp known as "The Killing Fields".

Siem Reap is the city next to the enormous Tonlé Sap Lake which is the largest freshwater lake in southeast Asia and permanent home to more than 90 000 people who live in around seventy floating villages on the lake. This is along with huge numbers of permanent and migratory birds who also make the lake their home.

Siem Reap is also the town outside which you find the remarkable Angkor temple complex. This mind-blowing complex remembers another time when the Khmer empire ruled much of what is now known as Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam - between 800 and 1400 AD.

Siem Reap is also where you can indulge in numerous different types of adventure tourism. These include zip-lining, quad biking, cycling, hiking, trekking as well as food tours, cooking, bird-watching and playing golf at a number of great courses. The old city of Seam Reap has wonderful examples of French colonial architecture, a night market, a festive pub scene, excellent restaurants as well as a great craft brewpub.

Battambang is Cambodia's second largest city and has an olde world feeling about it. Once upon a time it was the capital of Cambodia and sits on the banks of the picturesque Sangker River which is lined with French colonial architecture and lots of riverside pubs and restaurants. It is the closest province to Thailand and was under Siamese rule at various times during its turbulent history.

There are beautiful temples nearby such as Phnom Banon and Wat Ek Phnom as well as Phnom Sampeau (Ship Hill) with the notorious killing caves to which Cambodians make a pilgrimage. Here you will also find the remarkable bat cave where around 1,5 million bats fly into the evening sky at dusk to feed on insects in the rice paddy fields. A lovely attraction just outside the city is the Bamboo Train which you can find on a small remaining section of the old Bangkok/Phnom Penh train line.

Sihanoukville and the islands are a must-visit for anyone wanting the ideal seaside/beach holiday. This town is the biggest port in Cambodia and is home to back-packers and travellers of all kinds and where accommodation to match any requirement can be found. 

From the cheapest lodge to the ridiculously beautiful Song Saa private resort. It has miles and miles of white, sandy beaches with restaurants and pubs offering food and drink under perpetual warmth and sunshine.

Just an hour or so east of Sihanoukville lies the beautiful province and town of Kampot - famous for its Kampot pepper that used to be found on the tables of the best restaurants of the world. The town is also situated on the banks of a lazy, picturesque river lined with old French colonial buildings and fantastic restaurants. Sihanoukville is also the gateway to the islands which are a short 30 to 40 minute ferry trip away. 

On Koh Rong Samloem you can relax like nowhere else and soak up the pristine views that Saracen Bay offers - full of peace and tranquility - or party hard on the neighbouring island of Koh Rong. There are opportunities for some wonderful diving, snorkelling and the opportunity to swim amongst glowing bioluminescent plankton at night. 

Cambodia is a wonderful place to visit - safe, friendly and with everything to offer the traveller - at prices that are excellent value for money. Think of Thailand 25 years ago before the stampede of commercialism engulfed it.

Cambodia and Beyond offers Classic Cambodia trips for first time visitors who want to sample a bit of everything that Cambodia has to offer. Specialized Holidays that cater to specific interest groups such as golfers, eco tourists, mountain-bikers, hikers, dirt-bikers and birders and Incentive Travel.

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