Reasons to Visit
Otherwise known as the water festival, Bon Om Tuk is when Siem Reap and Phnom Penh come alive. Cambodia's most important festival, Bon Om Tuk celebrates the turning of the water in the Mekong, a phenomenon to which the Tonle Sap owes its very existence.
Despite Cambodia`s turbulent history the Khmer people show true strength of character. Everywhere you travel you will be greeted with a smile, from the urbanites of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh to the eclectic indigenous populations of the remote Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces.
Often overlooked by the more famous cuisine from its neighbours Cambodia is actually home to some savoury delights. Sample a tasty amok at the market in Siem Reap or indulge in Kep's delicious crab. For those more adventurous you could try an infamous deep fried spider or cricket!
From the sleepy coastal town of Kep with its dilapidated 1960s villas to the mangroves near Koh Kong, the Southcoast has plenty to offer. And for a bit of barefoot luxury, you can spend some time at Song Saa or the 'Sweetheart' islands.
The number of visitors to Angkor multiplies exponentially each year but we can recommend ways to appreciate even the busiest sites, like Angkor Wat, and would encourage you to visit some of the lesser-known temples, such as Beng Melea and Banteay Srei. Alternatively, escape the crowds and explore the temples further afield on a temple camping safari.
It's hard to ignore the mass genocide of an estimated 2 million people. The effects of Polpot transcend the nation and every Khmer can tell you a story of their time under the despot, the history can be felt and explored throughout the country - from the historical musuems in Phnom Penh to the final resting place of Pol Pot near Anlong Veng.
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Siem Reap is famous for one thing: the temples at Angkor - the world’s largest religious monument. Here, knowledgeable guides will bring these ancient temples’ colourful history alive.
Once a small market town, Siem Reap has undergone one of the fastest periods of growth in Southeast Asia, and is still growing.
Now a gateway to Angkor - and home to all the hotels - the town has a surprisingly sophisticated selection of good restaurants and bars, but you do not have to look far to find a more authentic Cambodia, for example, on the stalls of the fascinating local market.
Travellers from far and wide congregate in a small corner of northwest Cambodia to marvel at this truly staggering collection of temples. Scattered throughout a huge area of forest, together they comprise one of the world’s greatest man-made wonders. Though often used to refer to the entire complex, Angkor Wat is the most famous temple, but to see even this you should allow several hours and will probably want to return.
Built between 1113 and 1150 A.D., this is the world’s largest religious monument, with countless towers, cloisters, courtyards and carvings. As the most famous, it attracts the most visitors and its main avenue can become crowded with photographers at sunset. However, in the immediate area there are more than 50 other temples to explore.
The 'Grand Circuit' comprises the walled city of Angkor Thom, the centrepiece Bayon temple decorated with over 200 intricately carved faces, the former Buddhist university Preah Khan, and finally Ta Prohm. Engulfed in jungle, this temple remains much as Henry Mouhot would have originally found it when he rediscovered the deserted temples in the 1860s.
Beyond the Grand Circuit are many other temples, often more overgrown and almost deserted, sharing 360 square kilometres with a dense forest of tall, majestic trees. Our favourites include the Rolous Group, a collection of early Khmer temples built in the 9th century; Banteay Srei, a charming early Hindu temple; and the recently opened Beng Melea. Less visited, these provide the seclusion to take in the splendour and vastness of this lost empire’s achievement.
A great excursion is on Tonle Sap Lake, a vast body of water that, when the Mekong floods, is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. A boat trip on the lake reveals rural Cambodian life as it co-exists with the seasonal floods, with floating and stilted villages where communities dwell in an aquatic world.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was set up to protect culturally important sites from around the world. Here, we focus on eight sites in Indochina.
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Include a visit to Siem Reap on your tailor-made trip around Cambodia by contacting one of our specialists...
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Further reading:Tours in CambodiaWhen to GoHighlightsItinerary IdeasPlaces to GoThings to DoAccommodationAbout CambodiaCountry Guides
Other countries in Southeast Asia:BorneoBurmaIndonesiaLaosMalaysiaPapua New GuineaThailandThe PhilippinesVietnam
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