Coloured by its recent tragic history, Cambodia is a country in many ways still recovering from the fallout of the Indochina wars and the turmoil that followed. Despite this, just beneath the surface is a rich history and fascinating culture, with people everywhere eager to show you another side of their homeland.
Famous Angkor Wat near Siem Reap steals the show, with the gargantuan complex serving as a defiant reminder of the Khmer golden age. You can spend days here exploring the myriad of temples resisting the ever-encroaching plant life, as nature attempts to reclaim what was once hers. Sunrise and sunsets are a particularly good time to enjoy the area, as the ancient structures glitter in the faint light.
While Siem Reap focuses on the country’s golden past, the capital of Phnom Penh is a city firmly astride the space between the old and the new. Rapidly disappearing colonial architecture is interspersed with modern concrete structures, contrasting legacy and heritage with potential and modernity. It’s also in the capital where reminders of the country’s tragic past can be felt most intensely, with the S21 Prison Museum and the Killing Fields being popular places to visit.
The southern part of the country, especially Kampot and the islands off the coast by Sihanoukville, provides ample opportunity for rest and relaxation. The atmosphere here is incredibly tranquil, and it’s easy to lose track of the flow of time as you relax in a hammock or at the beach.
While Cambodia doesn’t have the vast wealth of nature and trekking opportunities that its neighbours have, there are still some to be found. Ratanakiri Province and its capital Banlung in the rugged hills of the northeast is one such place. However, Kompong Chhang takes the prize for nature lovers, being easily the best preserved natural area in the country, and boasting a wonderfully authentic and off-the-beaten-track atmosphere.
All in all, Cambodia is a country with a wide range of experiences to offer, inhabited by people happy to welcome you into their world.