I was lucky enough to take a whirlwind trip around Cambodia a couple of years ago. What amazed me about the country – aside from its staggering beauty, incredible food and amazingly kind people – was the diversity of places to visit. There were so many amazing places to be found, and they all offered totally different experiences. I’ve listed my top five here (in no particular order) so you know what not to miss.
As well as being the gateway to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is a brilliant city and surprisingly sophisticated city. With a strong cultural scene, great food and accommodation and markets galore, it’s easy to get lost in this city for days. It’s a big city with a relax, small-town vibe. The people couldn’t be nicer, the markets are some of the best in the country and it offers some of the best value hostels in the country.
Take a 20-minute tuk tuk ride away from Sihanoukville and you’ll arrive in a whole other world. While Sihanoukville is known for its 24-hour party scene which can be overwhelming to the even the most committed partiers, Otres Beach offers an oasis of calm. Feeling totally overwhelmed by Sihanoukville I quickly moved on to Otres Beach, and it couldn’t have been better. The town is basically a single street along the seaside. Cafes and bars overlook the ocean, hawkers offer seafood which is sizzled on a barbeque right in front of you and the water is crystal clear. It’s easy to spend several days at Otres Beach just lounging round and wondering whether you’ve arrived in paradise.
My personal favourite was the sleepy riverside town of Kampot, surrounded by mountains. Staying in a hostel right on the river, taking boat trips a scootering and exploring the mountains around the town made Kampot an unforgettable place to visit. Kampot is also known for its pepper, widely regarded as the best in the world, and you can take tours of surrounding plantations. It’s also an easy scooter trip from Kep, a seaside town with amazing seafood restaurants.
This city is a whirlwind. Unlike Siem Reap with its relaxed and easygoing feel, this city is bustling with traffic, people and busyness. In the country’s biggest city, and its capital, you’re well aware you’re in a third world country, and the poverty can be overwhelming. Desipte this, Cambodians unbelievable kindness charm you wherever you go, and its markets and riverside setting are beautiful. The home of the Killing Fields, a must-visit, Phnom Penh is a confronting city, where the country’s dark history is less hidden. And that’s why it’s important to visit.
While the party scene in the main village is less beach-tranquil than you might expect, you only have to walk for minutes out of the tiny, packed-in town to find some of the most beautiful beaches Cambodia has to offer. Think endless white-sand beaches, crystal blue water and sea as far as the eye can see. You can take snorkelling and fishing trips to hard-to-reach places, and most tours cost no more than ten dollars. The village itself is a super social, fun place, with bars and cafes spilling onto the sandy beaches.