Cambodia is a captivating destination, offering some of the most remarkable places to visit in Southeast Asia. With its ever-changing landscape and an abundance of ecotourism opportunities, Cambodia guarantees an unforgettable travel experience. In this travel guide, I will share expert advice to help you make the most of your Cambodia trip, beyond the iconic Angkor Wat.
How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the largest religious monument in the world and a must-visit attraction in Cambodia. To fully experience its magnificence, follow these tips:
Tip 1: Witness the Sunrise
The best way to appreciate Angkor Wat is by witnessing the sunrise. Although waking up early may be a challenge, the enchanting sight is worth it. Arriving at the main temple before sunrise allows you to observe the sun emerging behind its spires. The early morning hours also offer a tranquil opportunity to explore the temples, avoiding the midday heat and crowds.
Tip 2: Discover the Outer Temples
While the main temples in Angkor Wat are popular tourist attractions, there are many lesser-known ruins that offer a more serene experience. Take the time to explore the outer temples, which are often overgrown and provide a mysterious atmosphere. Rent a bicycle or hire a tuk-tuk and ask your driver to take you beyond the standard circuit for a more immersive exploration.
Duration of the Visit
If you have limited time, a one-day visit will provide you with a good impression of Angkor Wat. However, to fully appreciate the historical significance and explore the more remote temples, two days is recommended. A one-day pass costs $37, and a three-day pass is priced at $62.
Discover Siem Reap
Siem Reap serves as the perfect base for exploring Angkor Wat. This vibrant city offers more than just a gateway to the temples. While staying in Siem Reap, you can indulge in various activities such as cooking classes, pottery workshops, quad bike tours, and vespa adventures. After a day of exploration, head to Pub Street for a great nightlife experience.
Tonle Sap Lake: A Day Trip from Siem Reap
After visiting Angkor Wat, consider taking a day trip to Tonle Sap Lake. There are two floating villages to choose from: Chong Kneas and Kompong Khleang. It is advisable to support the sustainable and community-based tourism at Kompong Khleang, which offers a more authentic and enriching experience.
Traveling to Cambodia from Vietnam or Thailand
Many travelers combine their trips to Cambodia with visits to neighboring countries like Vietnam and Thailand. If you have a few spare days, you can make a trip solely to visit Angkor Wat. It may involve some travel time, but experiencing this UNESCO World Heritage site is a unique opportunity.
From Bangkok, Thailand, you can take an 8-hour bus ride or a 70-minute direct flight to Siem Reap. From Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, there is a 13-hour bus journey or an 80-minute direct flight to Siem Reap. If time permits, spend at least a week in Cambodia to explore the islands or the jungles and gain a comprehensive understanding of this remarkable country.
What to Skip in Cambodia
While Cambodia has many amazing destinations, some places may not be worth your time. Phnom Penh, the capital, lacks the vibrancy of other Southeast Asian capitals and does not offer as impressive marketplaces or temples. However, it does provide an opportunity to learn about Cambodia’s history, particularly the tragic Khmer Rouge regime. Sihanoukville, once a popular seaside resort, has undergone drastic changes due to extensive Chinese casino construction. Currently, it lacks charm and appeal, making it a less desirable destination.
Best Experiences Besides Angkor Wat
Although Angkor Wat is undoubtedly the highlight of Cambodia, there is much more to explore:
1. Island Getaways
Escape to the Cambodian islands off the coast, such as Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem, and Koh Ta Kiev. These islands offer a tranquil and less-developed environment compared to their counterparts in Thailand. Immerse yourself in the solitude of jungle lodges or beachfront bungalows and experience the remote beauty of the islands.
2. Ecotourism in the Cardamom Mountains
For breathtaking landscapes and untouched wilderness, head to the Cardamom Mountains in southwest Cambodia. These mountains house protected nature areas, including unfragmented rainforests. Engage in ecotourism activities, such as trekking, jungle boat tours, and homestays, to support local communities and conservation efforts.
3. Relaxation and Local Experiences in Kampot
The towns of Kampot and Kep, located just 20 minutes apart, offer a blend of relaxation and local experiences. Kep is a serene seaside resort with beautiful sea views and abandoned French colonial villas to explore. Kampot, a charming riverside town, boasts a vibrant downtown area and provides a gateway to pepper farms, salt fields, fishing villages, mangrove forests, and caves. Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and savor the authentic flavors of Cambodia.
Cost of Travel in Cambodia
Cambodia is known for being an inexpensive destination. Backpackers can comfortably get by on a budget of $20 or less per day, while those seeking a more comfortable experience can expect to spend around $40 per day. Accommodation options range from affordable dorm beds to rustic bungalows or private rooms in charming guesthouses. Prices for food, drinks, and transportation are also reasonably priced. Keep in mind that Angkor Wat entrance fees cost $37 for a one-day pass and $62 for a three-day pass.
Getting Around Cambodia
Traveling within Cambodia is relatively straightforward. Coach services operate between major cities, offering comfortable transportation. However, some destinations are only accessible by minivans, which can sometimes be crowded. Train lines in Cambodia are currently limited but are expanding. Booking buses and minivans can be done through local travel agencies or online platforms like 12go Asia.
Going Off the Beaten Path
If you have additional time, consider exploring lesser-known destinations in Cambodia:
- Kratie: A laid-back town on the Mekong River, known for its French colonial buildings and rare Irrawaddy dolphins.
- Other Khmer temples: Beng Mealea, Koh Ker, and Preah Vihear are temples near Siem Reap that are worth visiting.
- Battambang: Cambodia’s second-largest city offers an authentic experience and can be explored on a day trip from Siem Reap.
- Mondulkiri: A remote and nature-rich province in northwest Cambodia, offering waterfalls and untouched landscapes.
Embark on an adventure to Cambodia and discover the country’s rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and warm hospitality. By venturing beyond Angkor Wat, you will be rewarded with unique experiences that will leave an everlasting impression. Remember, the true beauty of Cambodia lies in its diverse and lesser-known destinations. Book your trip today and explore the wonders of this remarkable country.
To learn more about Cambodia and plan your trip, visit Ekilove.