Cambodia has so much to offer to the international traveler in terms of a rich cultural, natural and historical heritage. Not only are there the world-renowned Angkor Wat complex and surrounding temples steeped in history and mystique, but for those who enjoy relaxing on tropical beaches. The country undoubtedly offers some of the most beautiful unspoiled beaches in the world. Offshore lie coral islands and exotic fish while inland indigenous flora and fauna, waterfalls, and tropical forests all await discovery.
Cambodia has places of interest all over the country but the principle attractions can be divided into three main areas: Phnom Penh, Siemreap (Angkor), and the South coast. However, for eco-tourists, more and more people are heading off the beaten track and venturing into the hill tribe regions of Rattanakiri, Mondulkiri, the Kirirom National Park and other more remote but beautiful rural areas.
Without question, the heritage of Cambodia far surpasses that of any of its neighbour, harking back to a past time when it was the dominating force of the region. Its territory, far in excess of its current one, encompassed much of what is now Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. The architectural achievements from this period are without equal in the region and are on par with the wonders of ancient Egypt or Aztec Monuments.
Kompong Som, Cambodia’s only maritime port is 232 kilometres from Phnom Penh and accessible via one of the best inter-provincial roads in the country. Kompong Som is not only a seaport but an area famous for its picture-postcard tropical beaches. Situated as it is on a headland, visitors can choose from a range of beaches, several of which can often remain completely deserted. The most popular are Ochatial beach and Sokha Beach due to their immediacy to the town. Local fishermen will take visitors to any one of the nearby islands where the coral, teeming with tropical fish, is perfect for snorkelling, diving, and fishing. There are many restaurants catering to various national tastes but its well worth trying the freshly caught crab, shrimps and other seafood the region has to offer.
There are two great complexes of ancient temples in Southeast Asia, one at Bagan in Burma, the other at Angkor in Cambodia. The temples of Angkor, built by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD, represent one of humankind’s most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements. From Angkor, the Khmer kings ruled over a vast domain that reached from Vietnam to China to the Bay of Bengal. The structures one sees at Angkor today, more than 100 stone temples in all, are the surviving remains of a grand religious, social and administrative metropolis whose other buildings – palaces, public buildings, and houses – were built of wood and have long since decayed and disappeared. Their temples have been featured in blockbusters, the most famous being, of course, Tomb Raider.