Kampot city sits along the east side of the Kampong Bay River near the base of the Elephant Mountains and is of quite different character than the beach town of Sihanoukville. The city is an old provincial capital of quiet lanes and colonial architecture, a bit worn but radiating a quaint, welcoming, small town ambiance. A partially destroyed bridge, bombed in the wars, thought now unused, still sits city center, its unique haphazard appearance iconic kampot.
Kampot is a place to get a taste of provincial Cambodia, both urban and rural. The dining and nightlife scene, while still modest, is developing quickly, with several interesting new eateries in town, well worth exploring. For touring, use Kampot as a base to explore and tour the surrounding countryside, caves and pepper plantations, and a stepping stone to the nearby beaches and islands of kep, the Bokor Hill Station and the rest of southeastern Cambodia.
Koh Rong Island
The largest and most development of the islands is Koh Rong, located 40-50 minutes by express ferry. This island is one of the most beautiful in the archipelago, with miles of white sand beaches, gently swaying palms and tropical fruit orchards. In the evening, you might catch a glimpse of bio-luminescent plankton creating a haunting illumination in the dark night-time waters. In addition to the sandy beaches lining the coast, the island’s interior is filled with relatively pristine forests where you’ll find birds and other wildlife. Lonely Beach and Coconut Beach are perfect spots to view bio-luminescent plankton. Although diving, snorkeling, and trekking can all be arranged, the island is still fairly peaceful.
Tuol Sleng genocidal museum (S-21)
In 1975, Tuol Svay Prey High School was taken over by Pol Pot’s security force and turned into a prison known as Security Prison 21 (S-21). It soon became the largest such center of detention and torture in the country. Over 17,000 people held at S-21 were taken to the extermination camp at Choeung Ek to be executed; detainees who died during torture were buried in mass graves in the prison grounds. S-21 has been turned into the Tuol Sleng Museum, which serves as a testament to the crimes of the Khmer Rough.
The museum displays include room after room in which such photographs of men, women and children cover the walls from floor to ceiling, virtually all the people pictured were later killed. Altogether, a visit to Tuol Sleng is a profoundly depressing experience. There is something about the sheer ordinariness of the place that make it even more horrific; the suburban setting, the plain school buildings, the grassy playing area where several children kick around a ball, ousted beds, instruments of torture and wall after wall of harrowing black-and-white portraits conjure up images of humanity at its worst. Tuol Sleng is not for the squeamish.
This distinctive building is a city landmark a unique Art Deco interpretation of a traditional market. Four arms of the market converge in a soaring dome at the hub, perhaps reflecting the four arms of the chatomuk (the confluence of the Mekong River). Prior to 1935 the area was a swampy lake known as Beng Decho that received the runoff during the monsoons. The lake was drained and the market constructed in 1935-37 during the colonial period, and originally dubbed the ‘Grand Market’.
The central section of the market building displays an amazing collection of gems and jewelry. Souvenir vendors along the central entrance walk offer curios, statuary, handicrafts, silks, t-shirt, etc. (Phsar Tmey is properly translated New Market, but Central Market has caught on in English.
Royal Place and Silver Pagoda
The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda compounds sit together behind the crenellated yellow walls of the royal compound on the river front, and are usually seen in a combined visit. Set aside 1-2 hours to see both. Tours guides are available at the gate, and though they charge a fee, are still recommended. As most of the buildings face east, the best light for photos is in the morning hours.
Within the Palace grounds street wounds are silenced and Royal buildings sit like ornate islands rising from the manicured gardens. The Palace serves as the King’s residence, a venue for court ceremony and as a symbol of the Kingdom. It was established at the location when the capital as move to Phnom Penh in 1866. Khmer and European elements as well as echoes of the palace in Bangkok are present in the design of the buildings.
Attached to the Palace compound. Wat Preah Keo Morokat (the silver pagoda) is unique amongst pagodas. So named for its silver tiled floor, it is where the King meets with monks, Royal ceremonies are performed and it houses a collection of priceless Buddhist and historical objects including the ‘Emerald Buddha’. The temple building, library and galleries were first constructed between 1982 and 1902.
Located in the eastern part of Cambodia, Mondulkiri is an interesting place to visit in Cambodia due to its abundant wildlife and natural beauty. Mondulkiri is the most sparsely populated province in the whole country although being the largest province in Cambodia. The province is chock full of natural beauty, with thickly forested mountains, powerful waterfalls and the lush green rolling hills of the western side.
Despite the growing deforestation, especially due to the valuable minerals remaining in the deep red, fertile ground, Mondulkiri has still one of the biggest successional woodlands of Cambodia. You’ll find deep pure jungle, with a huge variety of flora and fauna. You may also find gigantic and beautiful waterfalls, where you can take an empowering shower, such as the impressive Bou Sraa.
Siem Reap Province
Siem Reap is being a popular tourist destination has a large number of hotels, resorts, restaurants and businesses closely related to tourism. 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. Visitors come here to see the temples. A number of significant temples are dotted around Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom within the Angkor Archaeological Park, including Ta Prohm, Preah Khan, Banteay Kdei, Phnom Bakheng, Ta Keo, Ta Som, an.
In the city, there are museums, traditional Apsara dance performances, a Cambodian cultural village, souvenir and handycraft shops, silk farms, rice-paddies in the countryside, fishing villages and a bird sanctuary near the Tonle Sap Lake.
Koh Ker Temple
Koh Ker was constructed during a period of internecine strife within the Angkorian kingdom (from the year 928 to 944 AD). Abandoned to the forests of the north, the site is 130km north of Siem Reap and Koh Ker now can be reached in a day-trip via a new toll road.
The ensemble has 42 major structures in an area, but one of the highlight is Prasat Thom, a seven–tier sandstone temple pyramid. That standing 98-feet tall with a mythical half-man half-bird guarding the top. A wooden walkway to the summit has improved access and safety and views from the top are rewarding. This archaeological site has been rarely visited until very recently.
Beng Mealea Temple
Beng Mealea, located in about 40km east of the main group of Angkor temple, is “the romantic temple ruin in the jungle” par excellence. Beng Mealea is an incredibly special place to visit. The site looks as though an earthquake has struck it. Large stone bricks are all that remain of the tall buildings that once stood here, and nature has run riot. There are many more trees covering the walls of temple edifices in Beng Mealea. The temple is truly a forest, an ensemble of ruins and intact buildings with trees growing out of temple towers, vines entangling walls and columns, and lichen covering stones. There are some superb example of Apsara carvings on the extant parts of the temple. The real charm of Beng Mealea is its sense of ruined grandeur.
Angkor Wat is the most magnificent and largest of all Angkor temples and the top tourist attraction in Cambodia. Built in the first half of the 12th century (113-5BC). Its perfection in composition, balance, proportions, relief’s and sculpture make it one of the finest monuments in the world. Be sure to check out the temple’s thousands of Apsaras carvings, or nymphs, each of which is astoundingly unique.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Everyone does it; you’d be amazed by how many tourists show up at 5:30am. You just have to know how to beat the crowds and where to sit for optimal unobstructed viewing.