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For many adventurous travellers, the allure of an unspoilt and little-explored country is irresistible. Emerging from a violent past of human rights atrocities, war and political instability, Cambodia is steadily recovering and slowly emerging as a top destination on the Southeast Asian travel trail. The magnificent Lost City of Angkor is undoubtedly one of the most magical tourist attractions in the world and a bucket-list destination for many, drawing hordes of travellers to Cambodia.
Modern day Cambodia is the successor kingdom of the powerful Khmer Empire which ruled most of what is today Vietnam, Laos and Thailand from the 9th to 14th centuries. Although the country might not boast the same volume of famous attractions as some of its neighbours, the Cambodian people are incredibly friendly, providing a warm welcome for travellers and authentic glimpses into their culture.
This magnanimous national spirit is astonishing, given the suffering Cambodians endured during the three-and-a-half year reign of Pol Pot, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated two million people. The Khmer Rouge, under Pol Pot's leadership, altered the face of the country. Overnight, cities were emptied and property destroyed, the economy was left in tatters, and so were the lives of countless families. This period between 1975 and 1979 represents a particularly dark spell in the nation's history.
The horrors of the Khmer Rouge are commemorated by fascinating museums and sites that are an important part of the Cambodian itinerary. Those who understandably may want to avoid the infamous and solemn Killing Fields will find that the country offers many more peaceful and cheerful diversions. Beautiful moments can be had in the tranquillity ushered in by Buddhist prayer, or while enjoying the charms of the French-flavoured capital city Phnom Penh. Travellers can drift past sleepy riverside locations on a traditional boat and or explore the illustrious ancient history at sites such as Angkor Wat.
The scenery is breathtaking, shaped by landscapes of lush green forests, jungles, banana plantations, agricultural fields and mighty rivers. People here live modest and simple, uncluttered lives, and the populace is largely rural. Visitors seeking fast and efficient transport, luxurious hotels or resort pleasures may want to look elsewhere. Infrastructure is basic and travelling between destinations can be quite an experience, which is part of the country's allure.
The country's world-class attractions, golden beaches and virtually untouched islands beckon the enterprising traveller, and make Cambodia a unique off-the-beaten-track travel destination.
Cambodian attractions are unique, moulded by the country's culture and history, making sightseeing a real Khmer experience. The fact that Cambodia has only recently emerged as a popular tourist destination has ensured that visitors can still get an authentic experience of this ancient culture. Most people who holiday in Cambodia are enticed by the impressive ancient temple city of Angkor in Siem Riep. Once hooked by the ancient attractions however, tourists will discover that the more recent history of the Khmer Rouge, though tragic and frightening, is intriguing in its own way. The more sombre Phnom Penh attractions, such as the Killing Fields and Tuel Sleng Prison Museum, are contrasted to the vibrant Central Market and to the peacefulness of the river front and lake side, not to mention the habitually friendly local population. For even more relaxation, the beach towns of Kep and Sihanoukville on the Cambodian coast are well worth a visits, if only to catch a glimpse of the rare Irrawaddy river dolphins of the northeast.
Getting around Cambodia can be challenging. Visitors should bear in mind that in monsoon season - June to October - the roads can get really muddy, making travel outside of the main centres more difficult. The rest of the year travel can be dusty but is more manageable.
The Royal Palace is one of the principal attractions of Phnom Penh and contains the best examples of 20th-century Khmer architecture in the city. It has remained the official residence of the kings of Cambodia since 1860. Set among the perfectly manicured gardens are the exquisite Throne Hall, the Elephant Pavilion, the Royal Treasury and the Chan Chhaya Pavilion, built especially for performances of classical Cambodian dance.
Although much of the palace is off-limits, the Silver Pagoda with its floor of silver tiles is open to visitors. The internal walls are decorated with frescoes depicting episodes of the Ramayana myth, painted in 1903 by 40 Khmer artists. It is also called the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha, a tribute to the magnificent baccarat crystal image of the Emerald Buddha that sits in the centre.
There are other intricately carved Buddha images on display, notably the life-size solid gold statue that stands in front of the pedestal, decorated with 9,584 diamonds. Visitors should remember to dress conservatively and respectfully when visiting the Royal Palace; bare shoulders or legs are frowned upon within the complex.
The National Museum is a striking and famous example of the Khmer architectural tradition and houses the country's most important collection of ancient Cambodian cultural material and art. It is made up of four galleries containing relics, sculpture, art and tools covering history from the prehistoric, the pre-Angkorian, the Angkorian and the post-Angkorian periods of Cambodian culture. Arranged in chronological order the already impressive collection continues to grow as new treasures previously hidden from the Khmer Rouge are discovered. Guided tours in English and French cost a bit extra but they are worthwhile as the printed information in the museum is minimal. Photography is not allowed inside the building.
When the Khmer Rouge came into power in 1975, they commandeered and converted a secondary school into a primitive prison where they detained and tortured anyone suspected of anti-revolutionary behaviour. Between 1975 and 1979, an estimated 20,000 victims were imprisoned in Security Prison 21, or S21 as it was known. The building appears almost exactly as the fleeing Khmer Rouge left it, serving as a testimony to the crimes and atrocities of the organisation.
It is a tremendously moving and sombre experience, the museum's photographs, instruments of torture and bloodstained walls giving an idea as to the pain and horror borne by the Cambodian people. Thousands of victims were transported from here to the extermination camp outside the city, Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields). There are some first person accounts on display at the museum, despite the fact that, of the estimated 20,000 prisoners incarcerated in S21, there are only 12 known survivors.
A trip to Phnom Penh would be incomplete without a visit to Central Market and its quirky architecture. This famous Art Deco building consists of a huge central dome with four wings spilling out into large halls. Psah Thmey contains countless stalls run by more than 3,000 merchants. When the market was first opened in 1937, it was said to be the biggest market in Asia. Visitors can buy almost everything here (make sure to haggle), including souvenirs, clothes, fresh produce, books, flowers, postcards, antiques and a vast selection of jewellery. Its central location is walkable from almost anywhere and is a recognisable landmark from many of Phnom Penh's main roads.
A pleasant way to spend the evening in Phnom Penh is on the wide balcony of the Foreign Correspondents Club. It sits on the banks of the riverside overlooking the converging Mekong and Tonle Sap, with spectacular views best appreciated at sunset. The FCC can be more expensive than its neighbours, but the colonial-chic style and atmosphere of the place lends a certain French flair to the experience. The club is one of Southeast Asia's most legendary watering holes, famous for being the meeting place of numerous journalists who covered the last days of Pol Pot's regime.
Amuse your inner warrior with one of Phnom Penh's best carnal pleasures: shooting big guns. Whatever one's taste, be it automatic rifles, rocket launchers, or grenades, they are on offer. The city is known for availability of weapon that are probably deemed unsuitable at home. There are about four well-known shooting ranges in Phnom Penh that are generally run by the military. While there are safety measures in place, it is a remarkably casual and free environment. This comes at a cost, at more than a dollar a bullet, ensuring that Rambo instincts are kept in check.
Upon arrival you should be able to see all the weapons on display and read a 'menu' detailing what is available and how much handling each weapon costs. Guides generally recommend that you visit the shooting range first if you plan to also see sites like the Killing Fields, as experiencing Cambodia's violent past has been known to dampen the excitement and fun to be had at the range. Most guesthouses and taxi drivers can recommend a good shooting range, but it is best to check online reviews to ensure you are going to a respected establishment. The Cambodia Extreme Outdoor Shooting Range is a favourite with travellers and has been awarded certificates of excellence by review sites like TripAdvisor in recent years.
The magnificent Temples of Angkor are iconic symbols of Cambodia, the spectacular complex a vivid vestige of the ancient Khmer Empire. Built between the 9th and 13th centuries, more than 100 temples have been uncovered as evidence of this impressive ancient civilisation and one of the biggest cities of its time. The complex's ancient ruins, well-preserved temples and stone monuments take a few days to explore in its entirety.
An impressive Hindu temple surrounded by a moat, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument ever built and acknowledged as one among the greatest marvels of humankind. The walled Royal City of Angkor Thom is home to the Bayon Temple and its huge stone faces, another fascinating attraction.
If budget allows, visitors can see Angkor from the air in a hot air balloon or helicopter. It is particularly special to see the temple complex at sunrise and sunset, and it is best to avoid going during the midday heat. Also note that visitors are expected to dress respectfully and ticket vendors may refuse entry to those showing too much skin.
The Aki Ra Museum provides a jarring counterpoint to the ancient Khmer glories on display at Angkor Wat, instead showcasing the more recent horrors of Cambodia's political and social upheavals. Founded by a former Khmer Rouge child soldier, the museum provides a clear and compelling account of this troubled time, and the appalling legacy of landmines and unexploded ordinance that remain a blight on the lives of Cambodian people. Despite ongoing efforts to find and defuse these sleeping weapons, it is estimated that about five million still remain. The museum teaches visitors how to recognise mines and what to do should they encounter them.
Psar Chaa, the Old Market, is Siem Reap's most popular shopping experience for visitors. Stalls sell all kinds of souvenirs including silk, carvings, stoneware and paintings, while fresh produce and seafood stalls can be found inside. In fact, the market presents an excellent opportunity to sample all kinds of authentic Khmer food, invariably served with the distinctive local prahok, a type of fermented fish paste. A good accompaniment is coconut milk drunk directly from the fruit. The ubiquity of baguettes and frog legs is a delicious legacy of the French colonial era. Haggling is normal. So be patient, good-natured and maintain your sense of humour and you can get wonderful deals. The Old Market is central and conveniently located close to the river and the popular Pub Street.
The Angkor National Museum is an archaeological institution dedicated to the preservation and presentation of the Angkorian articles. A source of rich insight, it provides important historical, cultural and mythological context to the temple complex. Its fascinating treasures include the lion and demon heads missing from statues, Khmer artefacts predating the Angkor period and an enthralling collection of ancient Khmer and Sanskrit stone tablets. The museum also uses multimedia displays and various artefacts to evoke the golden age of Khmer culture. In addition to the entrance fee, and the optional extra cost for taking in a camera, visitors can pay for an educational audio tour.
Cambodian cooking classes are one of Phnom Penh's most popular tourist attractions. Khmer cuisine distinguishes itself from Thai and Vietnamese cooking through delicate use of spices and aromatic herbs, creating finely-balanced flavours that run a gamut of sweet, salty, sour and spicy. Frizz Restaurant in downtown Phnom Penh prides itself on 'small classes, maximum attention', and space is limited to 16 participants per day. During the full-day lesson visitors will learn to prepare a full-course Khmer meal, and get some useful tips about the blending of spices and the decorative aspects of Cambodian cuisine. Included in the price are transportation to and from the restaurant, a visit to the market to buy ingredients and a full-colour recipe booklet.
Not to be confused with the Central Market (Psah Thmay), the Russian Market (Psar Toul Tom Poung) is located south of Mao Tse Toung Boulevard. It's home to a huge mishmash of treasures, such as silk scarves and hammocks, motorcycle parts and curios, as well as souvenirs, jewellery and custom tailors. The market is also a wonderful spot for sampling local food, the fish soup particularly popular. It can get rather crowded and, combined with the midday heat making it unbearably hot inside, it can be a little overwhelming so it's best to go early or later in the evening. Visitors in need of a reprieve from the heat can head to one of the nearby cafés lining the market for a refreshing fruit cocktail.
Cambodia's climate is tropical with seasonal monsoons. There are two distinct seasons, the rainy and dry. Temperatures during the rainy season, between May and October, average 81°F to 95°F (27°C to 35°C). The dry season can be divided into cool months, from November till February, with temperatures averaging 63°F to 81°F (17°C to 27°C); and hot months, from March till May, with temperatures averaging 84°F to 100°F (29°C to 38°C). The cooler, dry months of November to February are a pleasant time to visit Cambodia, but the best time to visit does vary depending on desired activities.
Riel (KHR) is the official currency and is divided into 100 sen. Foreign currency can be difficult to exchange, with the exception of US Dollars. Most transactions require cash but credit card use is on the rise, especially in tourist-orientated hotels and restaurants in larger cities and towns. US Dollars and Thai Baht are accepted, although smaller transactions are usually done in Riel. A torn US Dollar note is useless. There are ATMs in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville but they shouldn't be relied upon as a source of money.
Khmer is the official language. French is also spoken, but English is fast becoming popular with the younger generation.
Local electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. The European round two-pin plug is standard. Travellers should be aware that power cuts are frequent and, outside the capital, electricity is generally only available in the evenings.
US nationals: US travellers must have a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, and a visa, which can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to 30 days. Alternatively, US nationals can obtain an e-visa before departure at www.evisa.gov.kh
UK nationals: UK travellers must have a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, and a visa, which can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to 30 days. Alternatively a visa can be obtained online before departure at www.evisa.gov.kh
CA nationals: Canadian travellers must have a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, and a visa, which can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to 30 days. Alternatively, a visa can obtained online before departure at www.evisa.gov.kh
AU nationals: Australian travellers must have a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, and a visa, which can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to 30 days. Alternatively an e-visa can be obtained online before departure at /www.evisa.gov.kh
ZA nationals: South African travellers must have a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, and a visa, which can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to 30 days. Alternatively visitors can obtain an e-visa online before departure from www.evisa.gov.kh
IR nationals: Irish travellers must have a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, and a visa, which can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to 30 days. Alternatively visitors can obtain an e-visa online before departure from www.evisa.gov.kh
NZ nationals: New Zealand travellers must have a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, and a visa, which can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to 30 days. Alternatively visitors can obtain an e-visa online before departure from www.evisa.gov.kh
All visitors must have sufficient funds to cover their stay and documentation for onward travel. A visa can be issued on arrival for 30 days. For a visa to be issued on arrival one passport photo is required and an empty page in the passport is required, along with US$30 for a tourist visa or US$35 for a business visa. E-visas can be obtained before departure at https://www.evisa.gov.kh/. Extensions of visas are usually possible.
Malaria is common in Cambodia and malaria prophylaxis is recommended for all areas except Phnom Penh and around Lake Tonle Sap. Dengue fever, transmitted by mosquitoes, is also prevalent, especially in the heavily populated areas. Insect protection measures should be taken throughout the day. Travellers staying long-term, or for more than one month, and those who may engage in extensive outdoor activities, should be vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis. Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid are recommended for all travellers. If you come from a yellow-fever-infected area then a yellow fever vaccination is required. Avoid swimming or paddling in fresh water as Bilharzia is present. Tap water is not suitable for drinking but bottled water is widely available. Avoid uncooked meat, unpeeled fruit, salads and food sold by street vendors, and don't drink beverages containing ice. Medical facilities are very limited in most of Cambodia, except for a few expensive private clinics in Phnom Penh. Treatment must be paid for with cash and health insurance is essential.
Tips are not necessarily expected, but are welcomed in restaurants and hotels. Hotels often add a 10 percent service charge to the bill, but small amounts for personal services are appreciated, as salaries in the country are low. Tour guides should be tipped.
Cambodia remains one of the most heavily land-mined countries in the world. When hiking or visiting rural areas, travel with a local guide and never stray off the main paths. It is not advisable to travel in rural areas at night.
Caution should be taken in the capital, Phnom Penh, especially at night, as street crime is a problem, and popular tourist nightspots may be targeted. After dark there is also a risk of crime in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. Visitors should be aware that bag snatching is becoming an increasing problem on tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis, and while walking in the main towns. Due to the large numbers of tourists involved in road accidents on motorcycles, police in Siem Reap and other tourist centres have in the past banned rental outlets from hiring motorcycles to tourists - these bans are sporadic and may happen at any time.
There is political tension, tourists should avoid large gatherings, demonstrations, and political meetings. Travellers are also advised to avoid the Cambodian-Thai border areas because of ongoing border disputes; the Preah Vihear temple area has become particularly dangerous.
Permission should be sought before taking pictures of people, particularly monks. Avoid touching someone on the head as it is considered the most sacred part of a person's body. When visiting religious sites, shoes should be removed, and shorts avoided; women in particular should dress modestly. A traditional greeting in Cambodia is a bow, bringing together the hands at chest level (similar to hand position for prayer). With foreigners Cambodians sometimes convert to the handshake. The simple rule is to respond with the same greeting you were given.
Developing a personal relationship in Cambodia is important before any business can be discussed, a process which might include shared meals and plenty of socialising. It is considered rude to cause any business associate to 'lose face' publically, so tact and politeness are important.
On introduction, the most senior in the group will be introduced first, and visitors are advised to do likewise so that the hosts understand the hierarchy of the group; the highest-ranking person on both sides should greet each other first and perform the introductions. A light handshake is appropriate on introduction, after which business cards can be exchanged using both hands; it is considered impolite to put the card away without making a show of studying it for a short while. If men are dealing with women they should wait and see if they extend a hand before doing so. Eye contact should be kept to a minimum.
In Cambodia people are addressed with the honorific title 'Lok' for a man and 'Lok Srey' for a woman followed with the first name or both the first and surname. Dress is conservative, but formal business suits will be out of place in the tropical heat; lightweight suits can be worn for formal meetings. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, often with a long lunch from about 12pm till 2pm.
The international access code for Cambodia is +855. The outgoing code is 001 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00144 for the United Kingdom). Phnom Penh's area code is (0)23; the code for Siem Reap is (0)63. Internet cafes provide a fast and inexpensive service in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and other main towns. Free wifi is available at restaurants, cafes, and hotels in most tourist centred areas. Local prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for a reasonable price to avoid expensive international roaming fees.
Travellers to Cambodia are allowed to enter the country with a reasonable amount of tobacco products and spirits for personal use: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 200g of tobacco; about 350ml of perfume; and two litres of alcohol. Cambodian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations on the import or export of drugs, firearms, antiquities, and ivory.
Ministry of Tourism, Phnom Penh +855 (0)23 884 974 or www.tourismcambodia.org.
Embassy of Cambodia, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Canada): +1 206 726 7742.
Embassy of Cambodia, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 8451 7850.
Embassy of Cambodia, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 (0)2 6273 5867.
United States Embassy, Phnom Penh: +855 (0)23 728 000.
British Embassy, Phnom Penh: +855 (0)23 427 124.
Canadian Embassy, Bangkok (also responsible for Cambodia): (66) 0 2646 4300.
Australian Embassy, Phnom Penh: +855 (0)23 213 470.
South African Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand (also responsible for Cambodia): + 66 (0)2 659 2900
Irish Embassy, Hanoi, Vietnam (also responsible for Cambodia): +84 (0)4 974 3291.
New Zealand Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand (also responsible for Cambodia): +66 (0)2 254 2530.
The Cambodian genocide during the late 1970s ranks as one of the great horrors of modern history. Under Pol Pot, an estimated 1.7 million people were either ruthlessly slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge, or died of starvation in the communal fields. Choeung Ek was the extermination camp where the prisoners from S21 (now the Tuol Sleng Museum) were executed. Also known as the Killing Fields, after the movie of the same name, this football-field-sized area contains the mass graves of about 20,000 people.
A tall Memorial Stupa has been constructed to commemorate the dead with more than 8,000 human skulls displayed behind the glass. At the entrance, a handwritten sign in Khmer and English summarises the atrocities perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. As a reminder of the reality of this great tragedy, human bones are still frequently unearthed by heavy rains in the area, and many of the tour guides have personal stories to tell about their experiences during Pol Pot's reign. A visit to the Killing Fields is harrowing and perhaps not suitable for children, but remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cambodia.
The slightly inaccessible Ratanakiri Province sits along the border with Vietnam. Visitors to the area enjoy exploring its stunning natural beauty of lush tropical rainforests, volcanic lakes and pristine waterfalls, along with abundant wildlife such as Asian elephants, monkeys, guar and a kaleidoscope of endangered and exotic birds.
One of the key tourist attractions is Yak Loum, a perfectly round crater lake with crystal-clear waters, surrounded by dense jungle foliage. The lake is great to swim in and a relatively short distance from the town of Banlung. Also close by is the lovely Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary, which is also home to number of endangered species including banteng, tiger, dholes and sun bear, as well as leopards, Eld's deer, sambar deer, muntjacs and wild pigs
Ratanakiri is cooler than most of the country and a favourite among eco-tourists. But visitors should be aware that roads in the region aren't great, turning very muddy during the wet season and covered in thick red dust during the dry season. Boats serve as popular alternative modes of transport for scenic trips.
Most tuk-tuk and moto drivers in Siem Reap will be only too happy to take you on a tour of one of the area's famous 'villages on stilts'. Many of the houses lining Tonle Sap Lake are built on ten foot (3m) poles, so that when the water rises - as it does every year during the monsoon - the homes are not flooded or washed away. There are three main floating villages around Siem Reap located around the Tonle Sap Lank. The closest floating village is situated in Chong Khneas, just an hour's drive from Siem Reap. Villages closer to Siem Reap tend to be touristy, while those further away are far more picturesque and authentic.
A two-hour boat trip through Chong Khneas village costs about $8 per person or around $20 for a boatload. While the stilted homes are at their most practical during the wet season, the villages are most visually spectacular during the dry season, when their long stilts rise up eerily out of the mud or shallow water. Be aware that there have been tourist scams in the villages and that the poverty witnessed can be disturbing.
While this beach town isn't nearly as famous as those found along Thailand's pristine coast, it does make a great tourist getaway. Sihanoukville is the country's only deep water port, making much of the town industrial and unattractive to tourists. But the coastal city is surrounded on three sides by the Bay of Thailand and there are several secluded tourist beaches with all the requisite trappings: dishevelled beach bars, guesthouses, and smiling hawkers. As there isn't much to do in town, it is worth the extra money to stay in the quaint beachside accommodation.
Daytime activities include swimming, fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving, and boat trips to the nearby islands. There are also several Buddhist temples to be explored in the area and the Ream National Park is only 11 miles (18km) away. Most hotels and guest houses offer transport and day passes for visiting the National Park. Nightly beach barbecues prepare great food and offer cheap beer. The government is said to have plans to develop the area for larger resorts which may well ruin its laid-back beach charm in years to come. Regular daily buses provide a three to four hour journey to and from Phnom Penh, along Cambodia's best road. There is also a ferry connecting to Koh Kong, the Cambodian/Thailand border.
From Phnom Penh, a great excursion is the formerly lavish resort town of Krong Kep. Once a famous high-society destination called The Pearl of the Orient, Kep is now more of a rustic off-the-beaten-track fishing village. The Khmer Rouge wreaked havoc on the town, but the ruined villas of the rich now add to Kep's crumbling mystique. A beautiful coastal road, beautiful beaches, jungled mountains and the nearby Rabbit Island ensure that Krong Kep continues to draw visitors to its shores.
The Irrawaddy river dolphins inhabit a 118-mile (190km) stretch of the Mekong River. These odd but delightful creatures are in danger of extinction, with recent population estimates as little as 85, but are fortunately now protected. They are sometimes spotted from the riverbank but many tourists opt to rent small boats to get closer to them. The local oarsmen retain a healthy distance from surfacing animals but viewers can get close enough to recognise individual characteristics and see the famous dolphin smiles.
Boeung Tonlé Sap is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia. Containing a rich and diverse ecosystem, it's home to a wide array of fauna such as crocodiles, turtles, macaques and otters. Villagers live in stilted or floating houses. The Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary in the Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve is home to ibis, stork, pelicans and fish eagles, all best viewed during the dry season. There is also a Tonlé Sap Exhibition in Siem Reap, showcasing Khmer heritage through a display of the local people's culture and environment. Boat tours on the lake are popular and an enthralling way to see the riverside villages and interact with the locals. It usually costs well under $20 to hire a boat and you can share it between a few people. Tips for the guides are also expected.
For those charmed by Ta Prom's jungle-clad stones within the Angkor Wat temple complex, it's well worth making the five-hour round trip to visit Beng Mealea, the ruins of an ancient town centre. This little-visited sandstone temple, whose name means 'lotus pond', has now almost completely fused with the surrounding jungle. Built in the 12th century as a Hindu temple but long since abandoned, this sprawling complex is built in a similar style and scale to Angkor Wat. If you prefer to travel off the beaten track then Beng Mealea, overgrown and largely unrestored, will captivate you with its mystique and the relative freedom to explore its nooks and crannies.
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