- Halong Bay
- Mui Ne/ Phan Thiet
- Nha Trang
- Ho Chi Minh City
- Can Tho
- Phu Quoc Island
What to see
Siem Reap is a cluster of villages with a French colonial centre and the gateway to the Temples of Angkor. The capital city Phnom Penh enjoys a delightful setting on the confluence of three rivers and is an interesting mix of colonial buildings, temples, markets and broad avenues.
When to go
The rainy season falls between late April and September. The best time of year to visit is during the cooler and drier winter months between November and March.
Phnom Penh was founded in the 14th century and made the Khymer capital after abandonment of Angkor in 1434. In 1867 it became the capital of Cambodia. During World War II, the city was occupied by the Japanese. Phnum Penh was the cultural, political and commercial centre of Cambodia, during the civil war in the 1970s it was hardly stressed and battered. The beginning of the fighting between government forces and the Khmer Rouge (Cambodian communist soldiers) brought many refugees from the near countryside to Phnom Penh.
Its population boomed from about 500,000 in 1970 to about 2 million in early 1975 when it was evacuated after falling to the Khmer Rouge. In 1979 the Khmer Rouge were overthrown and there were only about 50,000 residents left in Phnom Penh. During this period, all its cultural institutions and university were closed. Only in the 1980s was Phnum Penh revived slowly, the university was again operating in 1988.
The city of Kampot is located in Southern Cambodia.
Comprised of 8 districts which is divided in to 92 communities having 477 villages in all, Kampot is known as one of the off-the-beaten track travel destinations. Such places are hard to find; hence, Kampot is becoming increasingly popular day-by-day. This city has still been left untouched by majority of people. From the geographical point of view, Kampot is described as a ‘sleepy river town’ situated between beaches along the coast and capital of ‘Phnom Penh’. It’s amongst the finest places to chill out; especially during vacations.
The climate of Kampot is quite pleasant. One can observe the green lands and pastures all through the year; except for the summers. Pepper is widely grown at Kampot. There were times when none of the Parisian restaurants would dare serving even a single meal without ‘Kampot Pepper’ on table.
Near Siem Reap, Angkor is a city in Cambodia. Today, the ruins of Angkor are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to over one thousand temples, including the famous Angkor Wat. The region has a tropical monsoon climate and receives plenty of rainfall. The winter monsoon period from November to March is cool and dry. The summer monsoon lasts from May to October.
Historically, from the ninth to the twelfth centuries, Angkor was the site of the Khmer empire, but soon their power reduced and Angkor became the site for a number of invasions, loots and natural disasters. The ‘lost city’ of Angkor remained undiscovered until the nineteenth century. The inhabitants of Angkor are mainly the Khmer. The temples of Angkor are classic examples of Khmer art and architecture. Apsara dancing, a popular dance form, is widely practised.
SihanoukVille is located on the coast of Cambodia, about halfway between Thailand and Vietnam on the Bay of Thailand. It's locally known as Kampong Som. A spread out tourist town for both foreigners and local people from all over the country. Three sides of the town are bordered by tropical beaches and islands. Filled with empty beaches, crowded beaches, seafood, restaurants, bars, Buddhist Temples, casinos, hotels, and more beaches. English is widely spoken with many French speakers here as well. About 20 other languages are spoken at various guesthouses and restaurants.
There are two seasons -- the hot dry season and the hot wet season. Chances are if you're from anywhere outside the tropics, you'll find Cambodia to be very hot -- and sweaty.
Dry season runs from November to April on the back of the northeast monsoon. November to January are cooler while February to April are hot and dusty. November is the coolest month, April the hottest.
Wet season runs from May to October courtesy of the southwest monsoon. Wet season brings some 75% of Cambodia's annual rainfall. July to September are the wettest months.
For a country as hard-up on its luck as Cambodia, getting around is surprisingly straightforward. All the primary trunk routes are all-weather sealed roads, there is a reasonably developed bus network, a comprehensive "we can go anywhere if the price is right" taxi for hire system and, while some of the routes have faded away, it is still possible to get to some places by boat. Overall fares are very reasonable.
Start with the worst first. Cambodia goes through national airlines like there's no tomorrow. Carriers that have faded from the scene include Angkor Airways, First Cambodia Airlines, Kampuchea Airlines, Mekong Airlines, President Airlines, Royal Air Cambodge, Royal Khmer Airlines, Royal Phnom Penh Airways, and, most recently, Siem Reap Airways -- and that list is for just the last ten years or so.
As it stands, there is no Cambodian airline flying in-country, but Thai carrier Bangkok Airways flies the very popular Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route.
If you thought the airline network was a dog's breakfast, you'll love the train system. Describing Cambodia's rail network as antiquated is generous in the extreme. Originally there were two lines, Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh to Battambang. As far as we're aware the Sihanoukville line doesn't run anymore. The Battambang train runs once a week, with the trip taking anywhere from 18 to 24 hours. It departs on Phnom Penh on the Saturday, returning the following day. Many foreign passengers go for the ride, but get bored and jump off after one leg (for example at Pursat if coming from Battambang). Fares are nominal.
The train system shouldn't really be taken seriously, but for novelty value (you can easily sit on the roof of the car should you wish) it is unbeatable.
By Local buses and minibuses
In recent years, as Cambodia's road network has improved, so has the bus system. There are now a number of private bus companies running out of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap serving destinations across the country. The hubs are Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
Share taxis for long distance travel are a very popular way to get around and, if you've got a small group of three or four, this is a very cost-effective and fast way to move. Generally a taxi charter is priced at six passengers, so you have to pay six passengers' worth to get the car for yourself. Renting a car without a driver is far less common.
Cambodia is awash in motodops -- guys with a motorcycle and a baseball cap -- who'll take you anywhere on their bike for a few dollars. This is a great way to do half-day tours, such as exploring Battambang, but longer distance riding, such as Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, isn't the norm. Larger enduro-style dirt bikes can be hired long term from a number of dirt bike rental shops in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Prices are reasonable, but be sure to carefully check the bike, and whatever you do, do not use the chain and padlock provided by the shop to lock up the bike at night -- use your own.
Long, with a scenic flat coastline, Cambodia can be a great destination for cyclists. Most nearly every town in Cambodia will have some lodgings, so you shouldn't struggle for a room. Make sure you pack a good supply of inner tubes and patch kits and of course, your bike -- but you probably knew that already. Cambodian bikes are of a poor standard, so absolutely bring your own.
Only two regular ferry runs still operate in Cambodia -- Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Battambang. Boats no longer run north up the Mekong to Kompong Cham and we've heard the Ko Kong to Sihanoukville boat now only goes as far as Ko Sdech, making it close to useless for travellers (other than those heading to Ko Sdech).
The Phnom Penh to Siem Reap boat is worth doing once and once only. It is expensive (when compared to the bus), the middle of the trip is boring (you're in the middle of a lake with no scenery) and, if you sit on the roof, chances are you'll get sunburnt. Do it once then catch the bus back.
The Siem Reap to Battambang trip is much more of a lucky dip -- the quality of the boats varies from one day to the next, overloading is the norm, boats run aground regularly and occasionally sink. That said the Battambang portion of the trip is spectacular -- very, very beautiful. So if you're not too fussy about taking dodgy boat trips, give it a go. In windy, stormy weather though we'd go with the bus, as the shallow lake gets a big chop on it very quickly, making for a very uncomfortable trip.