Cambodia defies definition. It is known for historic greatness and recent atrocities. A thousand years ago it was one of the richest, most powerful kingdoms on earth, leaving behind one of the world’s true wonders: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the surrounding temples. It’s more recent history left more visible scars in the form of human remains seeping up from the Killing Fields and invisible scars on the people. Having recently stabilized, it is a must see if you are in South East Asia or interested in ancient temples. While Cambodia has many affordable sights to see, it offers even more in educating ourselves about ancient and modern history alike.
DON’T MISS: Beng Mealea, a less-visited Angkor temple just outside Siem Reap. Get more information here.
MUST SEE: The Angkor temples within the Archaeological Park near Siem Reap such as Bayon and Angkor Wat. Don’t forget the temples outside the Archaeological Park and most of all, make time for the Angkor artistic masterpiece, Banteay Srei.
MUST TASTE: Beach BBQ in Sihanoukville. Enjoy a delicious plate of freshly caught seafood, a salad, baked potato and beer for only $5 USD, while watching the sunset into the ocean just steps away.
TRIP PLANNING: You can fly in/out of Siem Reap and see the temples in less than 5 days. While there are other “sights” in Cambodia, they pale in comparison to neighboring countries. If you want to extend your stay in Cambodia make sure to visit Sihanoukville and the Khmer Rouge museums and Killing Fields in Phnom Penh.
GETTING AROUND: Capitol Tour buses. They have nice, air-con buses that generally run on time. The most professional and comfortable buses for a dollar or two more.
OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $47.59 (excluding motorcycle we rented for $20 per day, with gas)
COST OF A BEER: $1-2 everywhere but Siem Reap tourist bars, which charge U.S. prices.
KEY MONEY-SAVING TIP: Rent bicycles in Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat-area temple and avoid the hassle of tuk-tuk “tours”.
YOU NEED TO KNOW: Study up on the “border scams” crossing to or from Thailand if you are crossing overland. The border is easy if you know to avoid the fake “immigration” and moneychangers. They may take your passport and make you pay to get it back, so arm yourself with information.
IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would have taken the bus to get around. We rented a motorcycle and toured the country, it was more costly, uncomfortable and much more stressful than taking the bus, but it did provide great travel stories.
HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: Travelfish Cambodia, Wikitravel, Please send us any sites you found useful and we’ll add them!
WE WERE THERE FOR: 3 weeks
OUR HIGHLIGHT: Relaxing in Sihanoukville after a very uncomfortable week on a motorcycle.
WHERE WE WENT: Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Beng Melea, Koh Ker, Tbeng Menchey
WE REGRET MISSING: The wild northeast provinces such as Kratie, Mondulkiri, Ratatakiri and Stueng Treng provinces, which are supposed to be fantastic if you can handle the harsh trip and hiking.
- Motorcycle Touring in Cambodia
- Siem Reap/Angkor Wat region
- Khmer Rouge: When a Country Becomes a Prison
Phnom Penh is a city that represents Cambodia's past and present as it rebuilds from the terror of the Khmer Rouge and joins the ranks of SE Asia's capitals. The buzz of traffic whizzing by and the pungent smells immerse visitors into the city immediately while the riverfront and wonderful dining coaxes them to stay.
The temples of the Angkor Kingdom represent heaven on earth as each structure was built to house the gods. The Cambodian kings each strove to out-do their predecessors in the size, scale, detail and symmetry of the temples culminating in the world's largest religious building Angkor Wat. This album features the highlights of the ruins of the amazing Kingdom of Angkor.
The Rolous temples located 13 km East of Siem Reap make up the majority of the "outer temples". The monuments of Rolous, which served as Indravarman I's capital, Hariharalaya are among the earliest temples built by the Khmers. These temples may not be as breathkaking as Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, but allow visitors to see the progression of Khmer classical art.
Angkor Wat is the mother of all temples and widely believed to be the largest religious building in the world. It is the only temple that faces West, which is symbolically the direction of death. Therefore it is commonly accepted that Angkor Wat was both a temple and a mausoleum for Suryavarman II. The bas reliefs and beautiful apsaras (dancing fairies) make Angkor Wat stand out for more than just it's size and wonderfully restored exterior.
Beng Melea was built to the same floor plan as Angkor Wat, however nature has taken over and most of the temple lies in ruins while trees grow over the walls that are still standing. Built in the 12th century under Suryavarman II it hasn't been touched since. Exploring the ruins requires maneuvering over huge sandstone blocks and tree roots, through long dark chambers and between hanging jungle vines. The central tower has completely collapsed, but there are still many impressive carvings and a well-preserved library to see.
The temple of Preah Khan (Sacred Sword) is one of the largst complexes of the Angkor Kingdom. It was built by Jayavarman VII and probably served as his temporary home while Angkor Thom was being built. This temple may receive fewer visitors, but the vaulted corridors and intricate carvings deserve a visit.
Buried in the jungle Ta Phrom is a beautiful synergy of nature and stone. Built from 1186 and originally known as Rajavihara (monastery of the king) it was a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII. It is better known nowadays as the Tomb Raider temple where Angelina Jolie filmed the famous movie.