Cambodia is a country that has a special place in my heart. It feels like a second home to me, because for more than 2 years of being on the road, I spent my 6 months in Cambodia where I gained so many friends. I'm happy to see that even slow, this country is recovering from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. Up to now, they're still demining all the land mines in some provinces, fighting poverty and restoring devastated key infrastructures.
Nevertheless, Cambodia is certainly not lacking in charm and allure. In fact, the number of tourists visiting this Kingdom of Wonders is increasing annually. Obviously, the amazing temples in Siem Reap draw most of the tourists. But of course, Cambodia has much else to offer; from colonial buildings, tropical beaches to other natural attractions.
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Here's my Top Five Must Visit in Cambodia:
The Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. This is a great place to visit if you want to see how the local people lives in a floating village. There are several numbers of floating village in Tonle Sap. The Chong Kneas, which is the most touristy and most of the people living here are Vietnamese. The Kampong Phluk, which is not actually a floating village because the houses are built on tall stilts. This is also the place where you can take boat rides through the flooded forest. The Kampong Khleang which has an inner tall stilted village and an outer floating village. This area has the largest population of all the floating villages on the lake. The Prek Toal is a very small floating village but this is the starting point for bird watching.
During the dry season the lake drains into the Tonle Sap River which flows into the Mekong River. But in the monsoon season, the huge amount of water in the Mekong casues the Tonle Sap River to reverse it flow increasing its size to more than 5 times causing floods in the surrounding plains and forests, creating a diverse and rich eco-system.
Angkor Archaeological Park
As I mentioned above, this may seem pretty obvious as one of the must things to do in Cambodia. Angkor Archaeological Park is the country's number 1 tourist attraction. In fact, most tourists come to Cambodia just to see the mighty Angkor. The Park is located in Siem Reap province and a home to dozens and dozens of ancient temple ruins. It's very impossible to visit all the temples in a day so spending a few days or a week in Siem Reap is an ideal thing to do.
Phnom Penh is the capital city of Cambodia. This is also the place where the key government offices are located. You can also see a lot of old French colonial buildings. Some of the must visit is the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, Sisowath Quay and Markets. Another must visit in Phnom Penh is the Tuol Sleng Museum or also known as S-21. It was a former high school that the Khmer Rouge transformed into a torture prison. Thousands of men, women and children were imprisoned here. This place is not for the faint of heart.
Sihanoukville or locally known as Kampong Som is one of the most visited provinces of Cambodia. It is located on the Gulf of Thailand. It offers a relaxed beach atmosphere making it a rapidly growing tourist attraction of Cambodia. Some of the popular beaches are Serendipity Beach, Ochheuteal Beach, Sokha Beach, Otres Beach, Koh Russei (Bamboo Island) and Koh Rong.
Battambang is the second largest province of Cambodia. Compared to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Battambang is a laid back town. The popular things to do in Battambang are riding the Bamboo train, visit the Banan temple, Killing Cave and seat in the riverside to enjoy the serene atmosphere of this town.