So you’ve decided to head to Cambodia. You know you’re going straight to Siem Reap so you can watch the sun rise over the almighty Angkor Wat, but then what? Many people turn straight back around and back to Thailand, or onwards into Vietnam or Laos, but Cambodia offers a lot more than just Angkor Wat. If you have a spare week or two I implore you to stay in this amazing but underrated country and enjoy some of the other fantastic sights it has to offer.
Here are my top 7 must see destinations in Cambodia.
1) Siem Reap (for Angkor Wat)
The majority of travellers head straight to Siem Reap. And it makes sense, it’s easy to get to, cheap, and a great place to stay if you intend on visiting Angkor Wat.
If you’re planning on visiting the temples please view my post on how to avoid getting scammed – here.
Siem Reap is full of backpackers, has heaps of Western amenities, cheap food and nice guesthouses.I stayed there for three nights. Unless you’re a massive temple fan, a one-day pass into the Angkor complex will suit you. There’s not tonnes to do in Siem Reap, and most people seem to only hang around for 3 or 4 days. It has great transport links to other towns and cities in Cambodia, making it a fantastic first stop on your Cambodia foray.
Must sees: Angkor Wat, Pub Street, Blue Pumpkin bakery, Apsara cocktails at Angkor What? Bar.
Now I hated Sihanoukville, and would never return, but plenty of travellers love the place. To be fair I’ve included it on the list. Sihanoukville is a beach town in the south of Cambodia. You can easily catch an overnight bus down from Siem Reap. These journeys are pretty interesting, a door broke off during the ride down and was held on with a combination of belts, duct tape and rope until we reached the coast.
Once you arrive in Sihanoukville you can enjoy the beaches (provided it’s not raining) meet over travellers, and party. Sihanoukville is full of backpackers looking for a good time, and the beach is lined with cheap bars handing out whiskey shots. There’s also a large number of sex tourists, and the place is undeniably a little seedy.
Must sees: The beaches, the bar strip, a trip to Koh Rong.
image credit: wikitravel
3) Koh Rong
Koh Rong was the highlight of my trip to Cambodia. A largely unspoilt island retreat a couple of hours by boat away from Sihanoukville, its beauty easily rivals that of the Thai islands. Here’s what I did during my trip to Koh Rong.
Must sees: The pristine white sand beaches and scuba diving.
Kampot is a gorgeously sleepy little town in the south of the country. There’s not much to do here, but it makes a great stop off point before heading onto the frantic mayhem of Phnom Penh.
Kampot has lots of lovely architecture from its time as a French colony, oodles of cute little restaurants along the water front, and is home to one of the best bakeries I’ve ever been to.
Must sees: Stroll down the promenades by the river, take a day trip to Kep, and sample the world famous Kampot pepper.
Kep is a fantastic little coastal colonial town in the south of Cambodia, about 2 hours from Kampot and makes a lovely day trip.
Here is a longer post detailing my trip to Kep.
Must sees: Eat some Kep crab at one of the little shacks along the sea front, browse the seafood market and enjoy the pretty but crumbling French architecture.
6) Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is a crazy place. Some people I met disliked the city immensely, and I will admit that it’s perhaps not the most likeable destination in South East Asia, but I still think it’s more than worth a visit. It’s a 6 hour bus journey from Siem Reap, and around 4 hours from Sihanoukville.
I went to the city in order to visit the s21 genocide museum and the killing fields, both of which were extremely sad but highly informative and interesting. The city is is slightly challenging for the solo female traveller, and females in general. I got harassed constantly, mainly by insistent but sometimes bordering on scary Tuk Tuk drivers. The city is also home to a large number of individuals who were maimed by land mines begging for money. This can be quite a difficult and saddening experience, however, it puts the country’s past troubles into perspective. Anyone visiting the Killing Fields, or Cambodia in general, may want to read First they killed my father by Loung Ung.
The city is also a great place to hang out for a few days while applying for a visa for Vietnam.
Must sees: The Royal Palace, S21 genocide museum, the Killing Fields and the markets.
image credit: sheknows.com
I didn’t get the chance to head to Battambang, as I would’ve backtracked on my route, but I’ve heard that it’s a great little place, and home to the bizarre but fun sounding bamboo railway. The city is the country’s second largest, and also contains many important temple sites and colonial architecture.
Must sees: The bamboo railway.
*Image credit: gdeichmann.photoshelter.com