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Cambodia travel guide

Cambodia travel guide

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  • 1. Cambodia travel guide Cambodia is located at the border of Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Formerly known as Kampuchea, its name is derived from the Sanskrit name Kambujadesa. Once the heart of the mighty Khmer empire, Cambodia is almost synonymous with Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cambodia is gifted with waterfalls, national parks, volcanic craters, secluded islands, beaches and rare freshwater dolphins.When to go?Cambodia has two distinct seasons, the rainy season (June-Oct) and dry season (Nov-Mar). Thetropical climate means the temperature is hot and humid with an average of 27°C. The best timefor travelling to Cambodia is during the cool and dry season from November to February whentemperatures average 23°C.Getting thereBy airThere are four commercial airports in Cambodia, the most popular being Phnom Penh and SiemReap. Regional airlines fly from cities like Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Taipei and Hong Kong.By landCambodia shares border crossings with Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The most popular landroute for travelling to Cambodia is from Bangkok to Angkor Wat. The entire journey takes about10 hours and involves trains, buses and tuk tuks.By boatThere are daily fast boats from Thailand’s Krong Koh Kong to Cambodia’s coastal town ofSihanoukville. The journey across the Gulf of Thailand takes about 4 hours.Getting aroundBy airTravelling in Cambodia by air is possible, as airlines like Angkor Airways, Siem Reap Airways andPMT Air all serve domestic routes between the towns of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Ban Lung andSihanoukville.By busLong distance buses are available from Phnom Penh to towns like Siem Reap, Battambang,Poipèt, Kratie, and Preah Vihear. Most are air-conditioned and comfortable.By boatBoats are a popular means of transport for travelling in Cambodia, especially along the TonléSap, Bassac and Mekong river. The most popular boat route is the 6-hour journey from PhnomPenh to Siem Reap on the Tonlé Sap. © 2012 Threeland.com. All rights reserved.
  • 2. By cyclo and motoCyclos are pedicabs which are a cheap and leisurely way of travelling in Cambodia’s cities.Remorque-kangs are similar, but with trailers attached to the back of bicycles. Speedieralternatives are the motos, or motorcycle taxis, which are a quick way of making short hopsaround town. Remorque-motos are Cambodia’s tuk tuks and are the equivalent of local buses.By motorbike and carRenting a car or motorcycle is a good way of exploring the countryside and travelling inCambodia. Drivers can also be hired along with the vehicle and prices range from about US$30 aday.SightseeingAngkor WatA visit to Angkor Wat, dubbed ‘the mother of all temples’, features on every visitor’s list of thingsto do in Cambodia. Cambodia’s top tourist site is located in the northern town of Siem Reap. TheUNESCO World Heritage Site has magnificent remains of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to 15thcentury which can take up to a week to fully explore. Don’t miss the Churning of the Ocean Milksculptures in the east gallery and the gargantuan Bayon-face sculptures in Angkor Thom.Preah Vihear Temple ComplexThe temple complex of Preah Vihear is another outstanding piece of Cambodia’s templearchitecture. Situated atop a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains near the border with Thailand, the 9thcentury Khmer temple bears exquisite carvings and stone ornaments. Start from the north andmake your way south past the four gopuras (sanctuaries) and finish at the Preah VihearOverlook, which is right at the edge of the cliff and has outstanding views of the northernCambodian plains and surrounding mountains.Royal PalaceThe Royal Palace along Sothearos Boulevard in Phnom Penh is a must-see as it is a greatexample of classic Khmer architecture. Featuring towering spires, ornate gildings and manicuredgardens, it is the official residence of King Norodom Sihamoni. Within the compound is the SilverPagoda, famed for its silver-tiled floors and collection of Buddha statues adorned in crystal, goldand diamonds.National MuseumThe National Museum in Phnom Penh is the country’s largest museum, housing over 14,000items of national and historical importance. Opened in 1920, its collection includes bronze, stone,wood and ceramic sculptures, as well as treasures from the pre-Angkor kingdoms of Funan andChenla. One highlight is the kinnari box, a lacquered wooden box carved in the shape of a duckwith a human head used by elder Khmer women to store betel nut and leaves.Tuol Sleng MuseumIn stark contrast, the Tuol Sleng Museum in Phnom Penh is certainly not for the faint-hearted.The genocide museum located on the site of Security Prison 21 catalogues the crimes of PolPot’s Khmer Rouge regime, which left 1.7 million Cambodians dead from 1975 to 1979. Themuseum is lined with portraits of victims and features cabinets filled with human skulls and torturecells used to execute victims. A visit is crucial in order to understand the nation’s tragic past andhow it affects Cambodian society today. © 2012 Threeland.com. All rights reserved.
  • 3. Killing Fields14km southwest of Phnom Penh is the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, a memorial to the country’stragic past where 17,000 people executed by the Khmer Rouge are buried. Guided tours areavailable to the white stupa which holds almost 9000 skulls and bones of victims, and the tripconsidered one of the most important things to do in Cambodia in order to understand thecountry’s deep history.Where to eatSisowath Quay, Phnom PenhPhnom Penh is home to delicious food, and many good restaurants can be found along theriverfront which serve Khmer, Asian or French-inspired flavours. Delightful local dishes can befound at Sa Em Restaurant, Khmer Borane Restaurant and Frizz Restaurant. Or else, head toChiang Mai Riverside for Thai, Pop Café for Italian, Pacharan Bodega for Spanish, or dine atRiverside Bistro, a colonial-style building with riverside dining al fresco.Psar Chaa, Siem ReapIn Siem Reap, the eating area is largely clustered around the Psar Chaa, which is the Old Market,with many options for street food round alleyways. Bar Street and The Alley is home to populareateries like Soup Dragon, Blue Pumpkin, Red Piano and Khmer Kitchen Restaurant which serveclassic Khmer, Asian and international cuisine.ShoppingSorya Shopping CentreThe eight-storey Sorya Shopping Centre in Monireth Boulevard is an extremely popular shoppingdestination. Hundreds of retail shops sell everything from clothes and accessories to homewareand electronics. The mall also has food courts, restaurants, cinemas and entertainment centres.Psar Thmei (Central Market)Located near the riverfront is the dome-shaped Psar Thmei, known also as the Central Market,which sells everything from flowers and food to video games and jewellery. Originally known asthe Grand Market during the French colonial days, the market certainly deserves an entireafternoon’s attention with its huge array of clothes, knick knacks and souvenirs.Psar Tuol Tom Pong (Russian Market)Psar Tuol Tom Pong, or the Russian Market, has a huge variety of clothing, Cambodian silk,handicrafts, designer rejects and replica jewellery. Not to be confused with the Orussei Market,the Psar Tuol Tom Pong got its name from being a favourite among Russian expatriates.Haggling is a must at these markets, but do remember that a smile and some basic Khmer goesa long way.Night marketsPsar Reatrey, Phnom PenhPhnom Penh’s Psar Reatrey is a weekend night market located by the riverfront off PreahSisovath Boulevard. Over 150 stalls offer a wide and varied selection of Cambodian handicrafts,silks, art, curios, souvenirs, clothes, ornaments and furniture catering to tourists and expatriates.The market is open from 5pm to 10pm. © 2012 Threeland.com. All rights reserved.
  • 4. Angkor Night MarketIn Siem Reap, head to Angkor Night Market located off Sivatha Boulevard. Conveniently situatedopposite the Old Market, it is a good place to buy handmade souvenirs and support the localcommunities in nearby villages. Directly opposite is the Noon Night Market, named so because it isopen daily from 12pm to 12am. Over a hundred stalls sell ornaments, gifts and souvenirs likeclothes, jewellery, CDs, books and artwork.NightlifeSisowath Quay, Phnom PenhPhnom Penh has a vibrant nightlife mostly clustered around the riverfront of Sisowath Quay.Located on Street 104 are hostess bars like Barbados, OneZeroFour Bar and Zanzibar, whileMonsoon Wine Bar has an intimate and cosy atmosphere. By Golden Sorya Mall along Pasteur(Street 148) is the popular Heart of Darkness nightclub. Allen Bar, DV8 Bar, Pit Stop and Howie’sare all dotted along the same road.The Alley, Siem ReapThe Alley behind Psar Chaa is the main Cambodia nightlife area in Siem Reap, with populardrinking spots like Angkor What?, Warehouse, Molly Malone’s and Linga Bar. Temple Club andLaundry Bar have dance floors and DJs spinning tunes throughout the night. Elsewhere, theAngkor Night Market houses the Island Bar and Brick House Bar in open-air garden settings.FestivalsChinese New Year (Jan/Feb)Chinese New Year is celebrated with much fanfare and enthusiasm on the streets of PhnomPenh by the large Chinese and Vietnamese communities. The 15-day lunar festival in Cambodiasees dragon dances, lanterns, firecrackers and fireworks displays throughout the streets.Chaul Chnam (April)Ethnic Khmers celebrate Chaul Chnam, a three-day festival that marks the end of the harvest andthe new year according to the Khmer lunar calendar. Homes will be decorated, shrines filled withfood offerings to God and Khmers will worship in wats to cleanse their sins and throw water andtalc on each other.Royal Ploughing Ceremony (May)Celebrate the Royal Ploughing Ceremony, a ritual agricultural festival which takes place in a field inthe Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. The Cambodia festival celebrates the start of the rainyseason, when farmers get ready to plough the land to cultivate rice. The highlight of the festival iswhen the cows are seen to predict the success of the upcoming harvest by choosing which crop toeat from a variety they are given.Visakha Puja (May/June)Visakha Puja celebrates three important incidents in Buddha’s life - his birth, enlightenment anddeath, or passing to nirvana. Celebrated on the full moon of the sixth lunar month, the best placeto see this is in Angkor Wat, where an evening procession of candlelit monks line the templecomplex. © 2012 Threeland.com. All rights reserved.
  • 5. Bon Om Tuk (Oct/Nov)One of the most important festivals in Cambodia is Bon Om Tuk, a water festival that celebratesthe epic victory of Jayavarnam VII over the Chams in 1177. During this time, hundreds ofthousands of Cambodians flock to the riverfront in Phnom Penh to watch the three-day boatracing competition on Tonlé Sap. In the evening, there are fireworks and a flotilla of boats sailingunder the full moon.Angkor Festival (Dec)The Angkor Festival is a time when dance and music troupes from all over Asia perform epicstories from myths and legends from the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic. The showcase ofperforming arts with Angkor Wat as a backdrop makes for a beautiful and mesmerising setting fordance, music and rhythmic interpretations.HistoryCambodia’s history dates back to the first century AD when it was ruled by the ancient kingdom ofFunan. By the 9th century, a series of small kingdoms formed the mighty Khmer empire, whichflourished in the province of Siem Reap. By the 15th century, the Khmer civilisation began todecline due to internal strife and an attack by the Chams. Cambodia’s young king NorodumSihanouk called for independence in 1953 and the 1960’s became a period of economic growthfor the country until the king was overthrown by the military. The Khmer Rouge communist partyunder Pol Pot took over from 1975 to 1979, but the brutal regime shocked the world with agenocide that left 1.7 million Cambodians dead from torture, starvation and disease. Wars withVietnam ensued until 1998 when the Khmer Rouge finally came to an end. Today, Cambodia is aconstitutional monarchy ruled by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) under President Hun Sen.CultureEthnic Khmers make up 95% of the Cambodian population, alongside the Chinese, Vietnameseand Thais. The country has a diverse minority group living in the countryside, like the Kreung inRatnakiri and Pnong in Mondulkiri. The official language is Khmer, although English is becomingcommercially important followed by French, which many older Cambodians still speak.Cambodian culture is largely defined by the family, with a strong emphasis on communal livingand respecting the extended family. Religion and food also play a strong role, with rice being astaple in every meal.Useful infoTime zone GMT +7Population 15 millionCapital Phnom PenhLanguage KhmerCurrency riel (r), US dollars (USD)Dialling code +855Weather 20-38°C all year round © 2012 Threeland.com. All rights reserved.