Preah Sihanouk province is Cambodia’s most famous beach town. Better known as Kampong Som to locals, it is about 230 km southwest of Phnom Penh and boasts pristine white-sand beaches, unspoiled tropical islands, and a dynamic nightlife.
With its palm-studded shores and warm, clear waters, it hardly comes as a surprise that Preah Sihanouk attracts crowds of locals, expatriates, and tourists eager for a beachside holiday. Do as locals do and enjoy the stretches of powdery white sand with a chilled coconut and some toothsome grilled seafood. Or, indulge in a beachside massage, take a dip in the sea, and go for dinner in any of the local restaurants that serve fresh crabs, prawns, lobsters, fish, and scallops in a mouth-watering array of styles.
There are dozens of untouched islands off the coast of Preah Sihanouk: Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samlon both feature blissfully uncrowded beaches with palm-shaded shorelines. Being a beach town, there are also many sea-based activities for adventuous visitors, including boating, island-hopping, fishing, diving and snorkeling in crystal clear waters. For the expert enthusiast who wants to explore the mysterious underwater world of coastal Cambodia, the province has PADI Dive Centers and qualified instructors who know just the right spots to take you.
In the evenings, the nightlife heats up, and those in search of pulsing bars and nightclubs won’t be disappointed. Many entertainment venues, especially those on Weather Station Hill, stay open well into the wee hours.
Siem Reap, located in northwestern Cambodia, is the gateway to the world-famous Angkor temple complex, which includes the magnificent Angkor Wat. The province also contains a vibrant capital city boasting many luxury hotels, beautifully-aged colonial buildings, a buzzing Pub Street, silk farms, markets, and much more.
The city of Siem Reap, also the capital of the province, is a ‘must-visit’ destination for all visitors to Cambodia. This is where the glorious 12th Century Angkor Wat temple, the largest religious building in the world, is located. Situated on the northern bank of the Tonle Sap Great Lake, this mesmerizing eighth wonder of the world can be easily accessed by plane, land, and boat.
The ruins of Angkor, located in thick jungle, are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are over one thousand temples ranging in scale from nondescript piles of rubble scattered through rice fields to the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat–the best-preserved temple.
Apart from the legacy of the vast Angkor temple complex, Siem Reap has a lot more to offer to tourists, from the spectacular floating village on the Tonle Sap Lake to the heritage site of the Kulen Mountain, to the recently discovered Koh Ker ruins.
In town, there are a bevy of ethnic craft shops, galleries, cafes, eateries and top-notch restaurants serving every type of cuisine. The famous ‘Pub Street’ and the night markets of Siem Reap are now renowned tour destinations in their own rights. Additionally, siilk farms, rice-paddy countryside, fishing villages and a very rich bird sanctuary near the Tonle Sap Lake make Siem Reap one of the most captivating places in the world.
The province of Siem Reap is conveniently situated 314 km northwest of Phnom Penh, along National Road No 6. It can be reached all year round by National Road No 6 from Phnom Penh, Poipèt Border Checkpoint from Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Cham Province and Kampong Thom Province, and by National Road No 5 and 6 from Kampong Chhnang province, Pursat province and Battambang province.
How to reach Siem Reap
Siem Reap is accessible by direct flights from many major cities in the region including Bangkok, Danang, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Paksé, Vientiane, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kunming, Taipei, etc. From the capital of Phnom Penh, Angkor Air operates several direct flights per day to and from Siem Reap.
There are also speedboats operating along the Tonlé Sap from Phnom Penh and Battambang Province.
To the south of Rattanak Kiri is Mondul Kiri, the most sparsely populated province in Cambodia, despite being the largest in land area. This province is known for its thickly-forested hills, verdant landscapes, and cascading waterfalls. Its capital is Sen Monorom.
Though remote, Mondul Kiri will awe visitors who make the trip with its otherworldly tranquility and beauty. To truly appreciate this province, one should arrange for a trek (or an elephant ride!) through the area’s lush jungles to enjoy unspoiled scenery and the bracing fresh air, not to mention some of the country’s most spectacular waterfalls. Few visitors will pass up the chance to soak in the rare and dramatic beauty of a waterfall tucked in the thick of the Mondul Kiri jungle.
Mondul Kiri also offers a handful of unforgettable cultural attractions. Many visitors enjoy a stop at the Phnong minority villages where they can observe the rich culture belonging to local hill tribes. There are even opportunities to experience cultural community life on the edges of the forest through ‘home stay’ arrangements in the corridor zone of Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mondul Kiri Protected Forest.
Rattanak Kiri is the mountainous northeastern frontier province of Cambodia that borders Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east, Mondul Kiri Province to the south, and Stung Treng Province to the west. It extends from the mountains of the Annamite Range in the north, across a plateau between the Tonle San and Tonle Srepok rivers. Famed for its stunning natural beauty and ethnic diversity, Rattanak Kiri is full of natural and cultural treasures just waiting to be discovered. Its capital is Banlung City.
Phnom Penh, once known as the ‘Pearl of Asia’, is the capital and largest city in Cambodia. It is now a cultural, commercial, and political center that offers a unique blend of traditional charm and urban bustle.
Today, Phnom Penh is a place of diverse economic and urban growth. A swift wave of development has brought in new highrise buildings–including a 30-storey business center–restaurants catering to every palate, and stylish hotels promising all levels of luxury. Contributing to this development are burgeoning culinary and nightlife scenes that can rival any other in the region.
The alluring capital city also features a wide variety of historical and cultural attractions, along with myriad opportunities to sample local Cambodian culture. Here, classic colonial facades endure alongside sleek new eateries, golden-spired pagodas, and buzzing markets– all evidence of the dynamic energy of Phnom Penh’s city streets.
Phnom Penh’s famous riverfront is lined with trendy pubs, bistros, and restaurants. Stores offering beautiful Cambodian silk products and chic galleries dot the side streets. Add to this a blooming arts scene and a heady dusk-to-dawn nightlife and you’ll understand why Phnom Penh has become such a well-loved and compelling tourist destination.
Around Phnom Penh
The vibrant streets of Phnom Penh are full of colorful sights. The city possesses an exciting range of historical and cultural attractions to tout, along with countless restaurants and nightspots.
For a taste of Cambodian history and royal life, visitors can tour the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda located just next to the palace grounds. A short walk away, the National Museum beckons with room after room of Khmer sculpture, ceramics, bronzes, and ethnographic objects. To get a taste of city life, visitors can walk along Sothearos Boulevard, sampling local foods and patronising a clutch of ‘antique’ shops that sell silver trays, betel boxes, belts, ancient coins, silver or wooden statuettes and famed marble carvings from the province of Pursat.
Visitors may also find it pleasant to take leisurely strolls around Phnom Penh. Boulevards peppered by elegant colonial buildings and a bustling riverfront lined with cafes and restaurants make this a truly beautiful city to see on foot.
For those interested in shopping, ‘Phsar Toul Tum Poung’ also known as Russian Market offers antique pieces, sundry sounvenir items, and factory over-run designer clothing at hugely discounted prices. Visitors who prefer air-conditioned comfort may opt to stop in the city’s modern shopping complexes (Sorya Shopping Centre, Sovanna Centre and the City Mall).
A sunset cruise down Phnom Penh’s Tonle Sap river serves as a perfect, relaxing end to an activity-filled day. Catch the soft river breezes and watch as Cambodia’s capital begins to light up and shimmer for the evening.