Cambodia


Cambodia is a land of contrasts. From the majesty of the former Khmer Empire showcased by the legendary city of Angkor to the country’s recent history under the Khmer Rouge still echoing in the Killing Fields, Cambodia is a mixture of triumph and tragedy. The country has emerged from the dark shadows of the past and is rapidly developing into a modern, vibrant society that stands side by side with magnificent edifices and artifacts. Few visitors to Cambodia leave without being somehow touched by the warmth of the Cambodian people, its rich culture and history, and stories laced with sobering realities. Its diverse land stretches from pristine beaches and wetlands along the Gulf of Thailand to the rolling Cardamom and Annamite mountains. Nestled in between is one of Southeast Asia’s largest wildernesses. Those looking for a fun, fascinating and unforgettable journey should spend time in Cambodia.

More About Cambodia

Top Ten Things to Do on Holiday in Cambodia

Heading to the Coast (National Highway 4)

Driving the Coast (National Highway 48)

The Cambodian Wilderness

Koh Kong

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Wat

2012_12_30 Cambodia Silver Pagoda

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Horizon

2012_12_31 Cambodia Tatai River

Map picture

Cross-posted from MGEdwards. Visit MGEdwards for more great travelogues, photos, and video from around the world.

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Top Ten Things to Do on Holiday in Cambodia


Here is a list of top ten things to do if you visit Cambodia, a country in Southeast Asia. This list is based on my travels in Cambodia from December 2012 to January 2013. It’s generally ordered by proximity to the country’s premier tourist destination, Angkor.

The destinations and activities below will give you a taste of what this incredible country has to offer. A study in contrasts, from the majesty of the former Khmer Empire showcased by the legendary Angkor to the country’s recent tragic history under the Khmer Rouge still echoing in the Killing Fields, Cambodia is unique. It is a wonder to behold. These are some of the best places where you can experience what Cambodia has to offer, although this is by no means a complete list.

1. Angkor: The capital of the Khmer Empire from 802 A.D. until its conquest by the Thais in 1351 A.D., Angkor today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northwest Cambodia near the city of Siem Reap. Hailed as one of the world’s most spectacular ancient historical sites, Angkor is a large complex that includes the former palace of Angkor Thom and dozens of Hindu and Buddhist temples scattered across an area more than 1,000 square kilometers (390 square miles) where as many as one million people once lived. Today more than two million tourists flock annually to this remarkable place to see the timeworn temples, buildings, and points of interest that coexist with contemporary Cambodia. Angkor is by far the most popular tourist destination in Cambodia, and its highlights would easily fill their own top ten list. The site is so far flung that it has inner and outer roads to take you to take you near and wide around Siem Reap.

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Pre Rup

2012_12_27 Cambodia Countryside

2012_12_27 Cambodia Siem Reap Traffic

2012_12_28 Cambodia Countryside

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Sunset

Angkor Wat: A Hindu temple built between 1113 and 1150 A.D., majestic Angkor Wat overshadows the Angkor complex and is by far its most popular attraction. It is splendidly beautiful. No visit to Cambodia would be complete without spending time in Angkor Wat. Walk around the gardens, admire the reflecting pools, and climb up to the main courtyard where you can see an amazing 360-degree view of the horizon.

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Wat (4)

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Wat (3)

Moonrise Kingdom

Angkor Thom: The former Khmer capital in the epicenter of Angkor is surrounded by a wall with preserved gates you can drive through in a car or tuk tuk. Several important sites are located inside its walls, including the Bayon, Baphuon, and Terrace of the Leper King.

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Thom Gate

Angkor Thom

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Horizon

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Thom

Bayon: The state temple of the Khmer kings, the Bayon is a Buddhist shrine built in the late 12th Century or early 13th Century. The out-of-this-world mystical site is filled with towers graced with faces carved into the stone, giving the impression that the temple guardians are watching you. The walls also features impressive bas-reliefs.

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Bayon (3)

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Bayon (4)

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Bayon (2)

Baphuon: A Hindu temple built in the 11th Century, the Baphuon lies northwest of the Bayon and just south of the royal palace. The collapsed temple was rebuilt in the last half of the 20th Century and now offers a great view of Angkor Thom from the top. The back of the temple features one of the world’s largest Reclining Buddhas. Can you spot him in the picture below?

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Baphuon (2)

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Baphuon Reclining Buddha

Terrace of the Leper King: The semi-submerged structure at the center of Angkor Thom winds through a hillside like a snake, its walls adorned with images from Hindu lore. The site was reportedly used for cremation ceremonies and named after an Angkor king who had leprosy.

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Leper King Terrace

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Leper King Terrace (2)

Ta Prohm: A Buddhist monastery located to the east of Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm is the second most popular of the many temples and monasteries after Angkor Wat. Much of it has been left its natural state, although some efforts have been made to preserve the site and keep it from being gradually torn apart by the roots of the tetrameles nudiflora trees growing on its walls. The site is otherworldly – a scene from the movie “Tomb Raider” was filmed at Ta Prohm. One hopes that it won’t fall to ruin from the very trees that make it more awe-inspiring than computer-generated imagery (CGI) animation.

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Te Prohm (5)

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Te Prohm (2)

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Te Prohm (4)

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Te Prohm

Ruluos: A cluster of Hindu temples in Angkor about 15 kilometers southeast of Siem Reap, the site is dominated by the Bakong and Preah Ko temples. Built in the 9th Century, they were among the first shrines built by the Khmer kings.

2012_12_27 Cambodia Roluos

Ruluos

2. Siem Reap: Cambodia’s tourist hub is a fun city of about 200,000 located near some of Angkor’s most stunning sites. Stay in the center and enjoy the town in the evening after a long day touring Angkor. Siem Reap has several markets, including a night market, and its lively evening atmosphere makes it a great destination for food, shopping, and entertainment.

2012_12_26 Cambodia Siem Reap Nightlife (2)

3. Kompong Phluk Stilt Village/Tonle Sap Lake: Kompong Phluk Stilt Village is located about 25 kilometers southeast of Siem Reap off National Highway 6; the entrance is just past the road to Ruluos. During the dry season when it’s not flooding, villagers who make a living fishing on Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia’s largest, live in stilt houses that rise more than five meters (15 feet) off the ground. The town offers an interesting glimpse into the lives of local fishermen and looks like the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. Wooden boats take tourists downriver past the town on a brief cruise through a semi-submerged mangrove forest and along the shore of Tonle Sap Lake. It’s a great daytrip combined with a visit to Ruluos. Those who don’t have a car can take a tuk tuk or taxi from Siem Reap for a reasonable price.

2012_12_28 Cambodia Tonle Sap Kompong Phluk (2)

2012_12_28 Cambodia Tonle Sap Kompong Phluk

2012_12_28 Cambodia Tonle Sap Mangrove Forest

2012_12_28 Cambodia Tonle Sap Lake

4. Koh Ker: Briefly Angkor’s capital from 928 to 944 A.D., Koh Ker lies about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of Siem Reap in a remote area of Cambodia. The seven-tiered pyramid is the most famous of several historical sites in Koh Ker. Perhaps most significantly, Koh Ker is a nice get away from the throngs of tourists who congregate around Siem Reap.

Koh Ker

5. Preah Vihear: An ancient Hindu temple built in the 9th Century on the edge of what was once Angkor, Preah Vihear sits atop a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains of Cambodia overlooking a plain in Thailand. The temple is beautiful and the view spectacular. A 140-kilometer trip from Siem Reap, the temple sits on the Cambodian-Thai border. Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand over access to the location and instances of violence has made the area somewhat volatile, although the situation has been quiet as of late.

Preah Vihear

6. Phnom Penh: Cambodia’s capital is a study in contrasts. It is fast emerging as a dynamic engine of growth for development with the opening of a new stock exchange and financial center. And yet, it can’t escape its brutal past under the Khmer Rouge regime that captured Phnom Penh in 1975 and decimated the city and its people until its overthrow in 1979. A walking tour of the center, from Wat Phnom Penh temple to the markets near the waterfront for shopping and a meal, to glimpses of historic sites such as the French architecture along Monivong Boulevard and the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge, are reminders of Phnom Penh’s past and present. Try some Cambodian food with French coffee and dessert at one of Phnom Penh’s many eateries.

2012_12_30 Cambodia Phnom Penh Skyline (2)

2012_12_30 Cambodia Phnom Penh Monivong Blvd

2012_12_30 Cambodia Phnom Penh Waterfront

2012_12_28 Cambodia Phnom Penh Japanese Bridge

7. Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda: Cambodia’s Royal Palace and famed Silver Pagoda – named for the silver tiles on the temple floor covered by carpet – are among the most beautiful sites in Phnom Penh. Much of the palace of the Cambodian king is closed to the public, but it still offers a taste of Cambodia’s rich culture and heritage.

IMG_8939

8. Tuol Sleng (S-21) Prison: This former high school in a quiet Phnom Penh neighborhood was once the site of unspeakable horrors. An estimated 20,000 victims of the Khmer Rouge were interred, interrogated, tortured, and killed at Security Prison 21 (S-21) or transferred to the Killing Fields to be executed. Only 12 known survivors escaped death here. Today the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum serves as a poignant reminder of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. It is a sobering look at the darker side of Cambodian history and the tragedy of genocide.

Tuol Sleng

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Genocide (3)

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Genocide (2)

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Genocide (4)

9. Cheong Ek Memorial / Killing Fields: Cheong Ek, better known as the Killing Fields, is a former Chinese graveyard and orchard used by the Khmer Rouge to torture and execute thousands of victims in a horrific act of genocide. Mass graves with the remains of 8,895 out of an estimated one million victims of the Khmer Rouge were discovered at the site. Today it is a memorial with a stupa (tower) filled with the skulls of more than 5,000 victims and a walking tour of the grounds that will leave you in tears. The graphic photos and depictions of torture and execution at Tuol Sleng and Cheong Ek are not for young children or those faint of heart but a necessary reminder of the country’s past. It’s important to focus on all that is good about Cambodia during your visit, but these sites should not be overlooked.

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Killing Fields (2)

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Killing Fields

Cheong Ek

10. Cambodian Coast / Sihanoukville: The Cambodian Coast is a generally unspoiled region waiting to be enjoyed by those who like great beaches, national parks, tropical forests, mountains, and nature hikes. A stopover in Cambodia’s largest seaside city, Sihanoukville, is a great starting point for travel along the coast. See my recent series on the Cambodian Coast for more information about the Cambodian Coast.

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (2)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (3)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (6)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (8)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (9)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Tatai River (2)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (5)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast Sunset

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong

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clip_image0013[3]M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Cambodian Coast–Koh Kong


This is the final article in a four-part series about the Cambodian Coast. This one is about Koh Kong, a coastal city in western Cambodia on the Cambodian-Thai border. Previous articles featured National Highway 4 heading from Phnom Penh to the coast, National Highway 48 along the coast, and the coastal wilderness. This series is intended as a resource for those interested in exploring this intriguing area of Cambodia.

After a long day driving from Phnom Penh through the Cambodian wilderness on New Year’s Eve 2012, we arrived in Koh Kong City at nightfall.

nh48

I wished that we could have stayed in town but had to settle for a rural lodge several kilometers up the road. We stopped for a quick sunset photo on the Koh Kong City waterfront and headed to our hotel. I suddenly fell ill and celebrated the New Year in bed with a fever. What I thought were symptoms of dengue fever turned into a 24-hour flu, and thankfully I felt better in the morning.

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong

The next day we drove the 7-kilometer long Koh Kong Bridge back to town. Built in 2002, the bridge spans the mouth of the wide but shallow Prek Kaoh (Kah Bpow) River.

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (15)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (17)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (18)

The capital of Koh Kong Province and largest city in Cambodia’s western coastal region, Koh Kong City has a population of more than 35,000 but looks smaller with its residents scattered across a large area. With no stoplights and little traffic, the city streets resembled a ghost town when we visited. The city has long had a reputation as a “Wild West” frontier town and a haven for smugglers, but recent efforts to improve access via Highway 48 has helped integrate it with the rest of the country. It’s now more of a convenient stopover on the way from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, Thailand than a remote outpost.

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (1)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (2)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (3)

The regional branch of the National Bank of Cambodia, also known as the “Red House,” is one of the more recognizable landmarks in town. It’s more pink than red, but who’s quibbling?

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (8)

This lodge in the town center had a uniquely Kampuchean (former Khmer Rouge Cambodia) look to it with an odd melding of Cambodia architecture and communist symbolism.

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (23)

Canals and boat moorings crisscrossed the city center, creating picturesque views and great photo opportunities.

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (4)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (5)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (6)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (7)

When we visited, the city was in the process of sprucing up the waterfront, paving roads, and laying sidewalks in what looked like a half-hearted attempt to attract tourists, but it seemed like local officials were in no hurry to finish any projects. The place had an unkempt charm and organic look that centralized planning couldn’t duplicate. The tropical scenery just past the city center that gave the town a wild vibe.

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (11)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (12)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (9)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (10)

Koh Kong City has both Buddhist and Muslim communities served by the Neang Kok Temple and Al-Mubarak Dubai Mosque. We saw Buddhist statues in a local park and two monks asking a local store for alms.

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (13)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (14)

After our brief tour of Koh Kong City, we crossed the Koh Kong Bridge again and drove to the Cambodian-Thai border. The Prek Kaoh River looked more like a lake than a river.

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (16)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (19)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (20)

On the way to the Cambodia-Thailand border, we passed a hodgepodge of eclectic architecture, including a Thai-style Buddhist shrine, Khmer-style gate, and the gaudy entrance to the Koh Kong Safari World Resort.

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (21)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (22)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (25)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (26)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (24)

The drive from Koh Kong City to the border is about ten kilometers through some pretty countryside punctuated by a few beach resorts and homes. It’s one of the more organized, orderly, and uncrowded border crossings I’ve seen.

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (27)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (28)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (29)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (30)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (31)

Although crossing into Thailand was somewhat confusing with few English speakers in the Customs and Immigration offices on both sides of the border, we made it through and entered Thailand after sorting out paperwork and communicating in hand signals.

For more information about driving in Cambodia, contact me at me@mgedwards.com.

More About the Cambodian Coast

Heading to the Coast (National Highway 4)

Driving the Coast (National Highway 48)

The Cambodian Wilderness

Map picture

clip_image002[4]

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander and Ellie the Elephant, two books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.