Despite having an abundance of sandy white beaches, mouth-watering French-influenced cuisine, and one dollar Angkor beer, Cambodia still remains overlooked.
And for no good reason either — the country is certainly not to be missed out on.
To get the most out of your journey, the best option is to start in the north and work your way down the country, starting at the historic city of Siem Reap.
Exploring the historical Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap
In Siem Reap you’ll find the world-famous Angkor Wat, the largest and most recognised religious temple complex in the world, spanning across 402 acres of land with over a thousand separate temples and temple ruins for you to explore.
However, make sure to hire out a tuk-tuk for the day. Your driver will take you around the whole complex and will be your most loyal companion for a flat fee of approximately $15.
If you venture 15km south of Siem Reap, you’ll also discover Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in the whole of Southeast Asia with a massive surface area of 2,700km2.
Learning about the country’s dark history in Phnom Penh
In fact, the lake is connected to the Mekong River, and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous and ready to leave Phnom Penh, you can take an eight-hour-long ferry boat to the country’s capital city of Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh is situated in the south-central part of the country and is arguably one of the most interesting destinations in the whole of Southeast Asia — a visit to the Killing Fields and the S21 Museum is a must if you’re looking to familiarise yourself with the country’s dark history.
However, be warned: Both these sites chronicle the horrors and brutality of the repressive Khmer Rouge regime, spearheaded by tyrannical communist dictator Pol Pot, who orchestrated the killing of a quarter of Cambodia’s population between 1975 to 1979.
What you’ll see here is certainly not for the faint of heart. In fact, Phnom Penh, in general, is not always for the faint of heart.
Cruising around the countryside of Kampot
The city can become overwhelmingly busy and, at times, increasingly claustrophobic. We recommend only spending a few days there before packing your suitcase and moving southwards to Kampot, a coastal city that sits quietly on Cambodia’s longest river close to the majestic Bokor National Park.
The city is surrounded by gorgeous, untouched countryside that blends in with the salt fields found further beyond the horizon — a perfect place to unwind after the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh!
Beach time at the Southern beaches and Islands Koh Rong (Sanloem)
Further along the Gulf of Thailand to the west lives Sihanoukville, a once-renowned sleepy beach paradise, but now overwhelmed by Chinese investors developing casinos in many parts of the city — the noisy construction work isn’t suitable if you’re looking for a relaxing place to stay.
Because of this, we recommend finding accommodation near (or on) Otres Beach, which can be found six miles (10 km) south of Sihanoukville’s city centre.
There, you’ll be greeted with a calmer atmosphere alongside a beautifully picturesque seafront landscape — the blue ocean waters against the endless white of the beach is a sight unrivalled by many other locations in Cambodia.
After your brief visit, you can then take one of the five ferry services over to the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem, which takes roughly 40 to 50 minutes, costing you around $25 for a return ticket.