The Kingdom of Cambodia lies in the southern peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is undeniably a country of unparalleled contradictions. Looking at the rather brutal history, you would think its people are miserable. But everywhere you look around, the warm smiles and welcoming faces literally transports you to another world. With the ominous presence of such a place called ‘killing fields' one would think that Cambodia is a wicked place. However, nestled and tucked away in serene nooks and corners are breathtaking oasis of beaches and places to relax, enjoy and watch stunning sunrise and sunsets. Such is the beauty and wonder of this little slice of paradise called Cambodia.Today we look at ten of these incredibly beautiful towns and places in Cambodia.
1. Phnom Penh
The beauty of Phnom Penh is not just in its geographical and physical attributes. It is the resilience of the people in the aftermath of a devastating history. The people with the welcoming smiles and pleasant attitude towards life are part of the charm of Phnom Penh.The place is a seamless blend of bustling activity and a haunting killing field, a thriving mix of markets and meditative temples, the old Khmer traditions, and state of the art resorts. It is an excellent example of peaceful coexistence of old and the new.It is indeed a product of the blood and tears. It is evident from the fantastic architecture of its temples, the carefully archived Tuol Sleng, a torture camp, Cheoung Ek or the killing fields, indulgent spas, and excellent food.You cannot help but marvel at the grandeur and majesty of the Royal Palace. A night’s stay in one of the resorts such as the Raffles Hotel Le Royal will make you feel like a celebrity in the bosom of luxury. A visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, on the other hand, will remind you of the stark reality the people had endured while a trip around the city in a tuk-tuk will engulf you in the bustling world.You will gawk at the womenfolk cooking the traditional way on a trip to the countryside while the small children and elephants will thrill you.Phnom Penh is genuinely an underrated city, but the beauty of it is hard to put down in words. You need to see it to truly experience the joy, wonder, sadness, reflection, and love.
2. Chi Phat Village
This small little town in the Cardamom Mountains is the ultimate destination for experiencing the rural Cambodian life one on one. It is also a nature lover’s heaven, located in Koh Kong province, Southwest of Cambodia.In the township, you will see wooden houses perching precariously on poles, sandalwood and palm trees lining the sides of dusty roads. A handful of guest houses cater to the increasing population of tourists ever since the introduction of community-based ecotourism or CBET by Wildlife Alliance.The primary attraction of Chi-phat lies in the diverse wildlife reserve. The travelers are treated to activities such as camping, cycling, crossing elephant trails and hiking. The pristine forests provide an excellent place to relax and get in touch with nature.There are also water activities that add to this town's beauty — kayaking, canoeing or an idyllic cruise along the river.What sets this town apart from many others is you get to experience authentic rural life. You can engage in cooking classes and Khmer massages. You can also volunteer to help in nature conservation as the ecotourism is managed entirely by the community.
3. Koh Rong
Off the coast of Cambodia lies an undiscovered blue and green paradise that is Koh Rong. It is home to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful beaches on the planet. Apart from the scenic beauty, the beaches can suit the most outgoing party person to someone who likes their privacy.The blue-green waters of the ‘lonely beach' remain practically unoccupied, while the ‘long beach' is bustling with human activities.One of the most incredible features of Koh Rong is the glowing plankton. Numerous colonies of water planktons accumulate on the shoreline, and they emit stunning blue colors at night. The island is practically free of artificial light which compounds the intensity of the out-worldly light on the beaches. You can avail any of the several night tours to experience this magical natural phenomenon.Snorkeling and diving with marine life such as sea horses is another incredible aspect of the Koh Rong adventure. The many beach activities you could indulge in are enjoying the nightlife, eating authentic local food and sleeping on the beach with the soundof waves as your lullaby. This small place is indeed a jewel and must be experienced at least once in life.
As the country’s second largest city, one would expect Battambang to be overcrowded and suffocating with activity. But surprisingly, this city is a well-balanced mix of everyday activities and calm.It is a cultural hub without the hoard of tourists as in Siem Reap. The beautiful and unique features of this town include the Battambang circus which depicts the life of the countrymen through acts and plays. Another thing that is exclusive to this town in the bamboo train, which takes you through an exhilarating ride along the countryside.The Banan Temple is a beautiful Angkor era temple that is definitely worth a visit. A traveler itching to have an authentic Cambodian culture should try out the Soksa Bike Tour. You will have a glimpse of the culture in an unadulterated manner.A visit to a local cave will have you showered with the sacred water and be blessed for the future. Overall, Battambang is a great place to visit if you prefer the relative quietness without the pushing crowds.
This small colorful town is almost like an adult theme park. It has a lot of bright and beautifully made structures such as the Wat Preah Vihear, the 100-column pagoda, and the Sambor town. Kratie is also home to the famous Sahn-tah-rah-boh temple which is a magnet for many tourists.The town itself is a seamless blend of a historical site such as Chruoy Rey and natural reserves such as the dolphin reserve. A big chunk of attraction about Kratie is the Dolphin Habitat and the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins.Kratie is a wildlife lover's paradise. Apart from the Dolphin habitat, it harbors habitat to many mammals and bird species. The Waterfall of Cham Pey and the natural reserves include a wide variety of ancient looking trees and orchids.
Because of its reference to as the pepper capital of the world, most people tend to leave Kampot at that. However, this quaint little town in southern Cambodia is a unique beauty.Part of its appeal is from the abandoned ruins of churches and casinos on the top of mountains in the Bokor National Park. The vantage from these ruins combined with misty clouds can be an exhilarating experience. Heading up and back the top of the Bokor Mountain on a bike also offers fantastic views of the entire city.A relatively unknown feature of Kampot is the enchanting water bodies. There are waterfalls, beaches and salt fields. The salt fields are a phenomenon that can intrigue even the most laid back and seasoned traveler.The cave temples just outside of the town are another incredible addition to the charm of Kampot. Riding through rice fields and the elaborate countryside on the way to the temples can also be an experience in itself.The sunsets at this town can also be an out of body experience. At dusk, hundreds of fireflies gather and buzz around as you watch the sunset with your beloved which can be pretty magical.The food and music is another aspect of Kampot’s beauty. There are exotic fruits to try and live music to dance and listen to.
7. Siem Reap
This quintessential town of Cambodia is a mini-country in itself. The diversity, the complexity and the beauty of Siem Reap are almost impossible to be written down in words. It needs to be experienced to be understood.The majestic ruins of Angkor Wat make everything else pale in comparison. However, the other aspects that make this city a place of wonder are nothing short of splendor.The Angkor National Park and the network of other significant temples are enough to satiate the hungriest traveler. But a visit to the old market will take you back in time to the Khmer era.On the other hand, watching the temples at sunrise will inspire the dormant poet in anyone. The authentic street food will put Gordon Ramsay's restaurant to shame and bring out the adventurous eater in you. Relaxing with a traditional Khmer massage will most definitely make you realize there is a fine line between pain and pleasure.The hotels and lodging places of Siem Reap is another incredible thing to experience - party inside a shipping container, a traditional Khmer dance, exotic foods that repel or make your mouth water. Activities to suit even the most critical person, Siem Reap is a beauty that meets and exceeds the expectations of many a traveler.
This coastal city was named after the former King Norodom Sihanouk and is the capital of Sihanoukville Province.Geographically, it is located at the tip of the rolling hills on the Gulf of Thailand. It is a place surrounded with long strips of beaches, numerous islets, and is a backpacker’s paradise.Unlike other towns that can be hefty in price and lodging difficulties, Sihanoukville is very accommodating from the student traveler to an affluent businessperson.The outstanding feature of this place is the beaches. It is a favorite tourist magnet both national and international. With affordable beach bungalows and barbequed seafood running aplenty, it has a vibrant culture on its own. The city is also famous for its nightlife which can range from relaxing, partying to shopping.The other activities that you could treat yourself to while in Sihanoukville are exploring the waters. You could do such sports and activities as snorkelling and scuba diving and go hiking to enjoy the beautiful views.
This quiet, small town is best known for its authentic seafood and crisp countryside. It was once inhabited by mostly the affluent but who can put a price on beauty. It is now accessible to the masses and rightly so.Apart from the beaches that beg to be enjoyed and walked upon, Rabbit Island is the perfect place to hang out and eat the best seafood in the country.The Kep National Park is the place to go for taking some impressive photography even for amateurs. Be prepared to be greeted by a host of butterflies, birds, and monkeys.The crab market and the crab shack round up the wholesome appeal of Kep town. It is the place to get the freshest seafood and a beautiful place to showcase the most significant catch by the fishermen.
10. Tonle Sap
It is not a township per se. However, this Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO is among the most vibrant ecosystems on the planet.The most outstanding and beautiful feature of this freshwater lake is the floating villages. These houses on poles are a unique way of living and offer a glimpse into their world. Travelers can visit any of the four villages on the lake and have a once in a lifetime experience.Another aspect of this lake that draws a lot of tourists is the bird sanctuary where you can watch different varieties of birds. Several indigenous, as well as migratory birds throng the sanctuary at Prek Toal, situated on the lake. The birds that live and congregate here during the migration include Spot-billed Pelican, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black-headed Ibis, and Painted stork among others.Beauty, they say, lies in the eyes of the beholder. Each town, each place in each city has its definition of beauty. With that being said, the towns in Cambodia are unique and special in their ways, but each of them, and its people have a place for everyone that visits it. And that is what real beauty is all about.