Where is Cambodia?
Officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia and once known as the Khmer Empire, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Its total landmass is 181,035 square kilometers (69,898 sq. mi), bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.
What’s the weather like in CambodiaTemperatures are always high in Cambodia. Nevertheless, we can distinct three periods of four months.The best time to go is from November to February. Temperatures are pleasant and rains are few and far between. The less pleasant time to go is from March to June. Temperatures rise and short downpours happen about three times a week. Nevertheless, these conditions have some advantages, tourists are less numerous around temples and hotel prices are more affordable. From July to October, it is a pleasant time to go. Average temperatures and more frequent downpours are waiting for you. But, sudden showers generally do not last more than one hour in a day and are welcomed when temperatures are high. And brightness is pretty and perfect to take a photo when stones in temples are wet. In fact, the only inconvenience of visiting temples in these conditions is muddy pathways around Temples.
Riel notes (there are no riel coins, nor is US coinage used in Cambodia) are available in denominations of 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000. New notes were introduced in 2002, and now circulate alongside older notes and can be used interchangeably; you may also be passed an old 200 riel note, which is valid although no new notes of this denomination are being issued. The exchange rate is stable at around 4000 riel to the dollar; the best rates can be had in Phnom Penh, usually around Psar Thmei.
You can pay for most things solely in dollars, or solely in riel, or with a mixture of the two currencies; the larger the amount the more likely it is that the price will be quoted in dollars – note that the exchange rate when paying for dollar services in riel is inferior to the rate at the money changer by a few percent. Generally, you’ll be charged in dollars for accommodation, when shopping in supermarkets and malls or eating in Western restaurants, and when paying for air tickets and boat fares. In markets, at noodle shops and food stalls, and when using local transport (such as motos, tuk-tuks, buses and pick-ups) prices are generally in riel (unless you wish to hire transport for the day, in which case you’re likely to be quoted a dollar price). Things get a bit more confused near the Thai border, where people prefer to deal in Thai baht, or at Bavet, the Vietnamese border crossing where you may be quoted in dong. If you don’t have baht you can generally pay in US dollars or riel, though you might end up paying fractionally more – you can change riel and dollars into baht at banks and local money changers.
When paying in dollars, change will usually be given back in dollars for larger amounts, while for small sums and fractions of dollars you’ll be given riel.
Siem Reap province is located in northwest Cambodia. It is the major tourist hub in Cambodia, as it is the closest city to the world famous temples of Angkor (the Angkor temple complex is north of the city). The provincial capital is also called Siem Reap and is located in the South of the province on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake, the greatest sweet water reserve in whole Southeast Asia. The name of the city literally means Siamese defeated, referring to the victory of the Khmer Empire over the army of the Thai kingdom in the 17th century.
At the turn of the millennium Siem Reap was a Cambodian provincial town with few facilities, minor surfaced roads and little in the way of nightlife. Tourism industry catered largely to hardy backpackers willing to brave the tortuous road from the Thai border on the tailgate of a local pick-up truck. There were a couple of large hotels and a handful of budget guesthouses. Tuk-tuks and taxis were non-existent and the trusty motodup was the chosen means of touring the temples of Angkor.
The proximity of the Angkorian ruins turned Siem Reap into a boomtown in less than half a decade. Huge, expensive hotels have sprung up everywhere and budget hotels have mushroomed. Property values have soared to European levels and tourism has become a vast, lucrative industry. The Siem Reap of today is barely recognizable from the Siem Reap of the year 2000.
Though some of the town's previous ramshackle charm may have been lost the developments of the last few years have brought livelihoods, if not significant wealth, to a good number of its citizens. This has been at a cost to the underprivileged people living within and beyond the town's limits that now pay inflated prices at the central markets and continue to survive on poorly paid subsistence farming and fishing. If Cambodia is a country of contrasts Siem Reap is the embodiment of those contrasts. Despite the massive shift in its economic fortunes, Siem Reap remains a safe, friendly and pleasant town. There is an endless choice of places to stay or dine and a host of possible activities awaiting the visitor.
2.Angkor national MuseumVisiting the Angkor National Museum was an eerie, surreal experience. For the first 45 minutes of our trip through the mammoth, 20,000-square-metre building, we didn't spot another visitor. The museum opened in November 2007, and its freshly painted, shopping mall-like feel contrasts with the thousands-year-old artefacts contained within it. A visit is a comfortable, air-con alternative to visiting the temples themselves, and a nice educational supplement to the history of Angkor if you visit the park without a tour guide. It's composed of eight separate galleries, all connected by a vaulted corridor with a series of fountains and lined with what seems like all the Angkorian limestone lion and demon heads missing from statues at the temples. After an explanatory film screening called Story behind the legend, you're pointed toward the galleries:
Gallery 1: 1,000 Buddha Images
This is the only gallery that's just one large room, rather than a series of maze-like alcoves, and the sight of all these Buddhas at once is striking. Hundreds of small and miniature Buddha figurines, made of metals, jewels and wood, all individually illuminated, line the walls here, identified according to the period they were made during and where they were discovered. In the centre, life-size and larger Buddha characters are displayed. The display includes Buddhas from Banteay Kdei, Bayon, Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear.
Gallery 2: Pre-Angkor Period: Khmer Civilisation
This gallery and all the subsequent ones combine mural-size explanations and short films through maze-like rooms explaining Angkorian history. The styles of figurines precede the trademark Angkor style, and there's a large collection of lingas, lintels and colonnettes.
Gallery 3: Religion and Beliefs
This room explains several of the most significant Hindu and Buddhist religious stories and folk tales depicted on Angkorian temples, including the most memorable Churning of the Sea of Milk carved into the rear wall at Angkor Wat. Carvings of Buddhist and Hindu religious figures are concentrated here as well.
Gallery 4: The Great Khmer Kings
The gallery focuses on King Jayavarman II, Yasovarman I, Soryavarman II and Jayavarman VII, those most responsible for Angkor's greatest constructions. Figures of the kings and relics from the temples they commissioned abound.
Gallery 5: Angkor Wat
There's a large film gallery inside this section of the museum. It features beautiful, panoramic images of the temple and explanations of how it was constructed. There are also many restored figures from the temple itself as well as post-Angkorian wooden statues used for worship at the temple until several hundred years ago.
Gallery 6: Angkor Thom
In addition to recovered artefacts from Angkor Thom, this gallery includes a history of and artefacts from the vast irrigation projects commissioned by the king who built Angkor Thom with his smiling face looking out from every tower: Jayavarman VII.
Gallery 7: Story From Stones
This room is one of the most interesting. It's a collection of stone pallets with ancient Khmer and Sanskrit inscriptions. The writing on each slate is explained on placards below. The writing on them includes the declaration of the construction of a new hospital, lists of slave names, mediations of land disputes and adulations of kings and gods.
3. Angkor WatThere are few places anywhere on earth to match the splendour of Angkor Wat. The temple is one of the largest monuments to religion ever built and is truly one the wonders of the world. Believed to have been constructed as a temple and mausoleum for King Suryavarman II at the peak of the Khmer empire in the first half of the 12th century, Angkor Wat is probably the best-preserved of the Angkorean temples. As with other Angkorean temples and walled cities such as Angkor Thom, the central theme of Khmer architecture revolved around the idea of the temple-mountain. By the time building on Angkor Wat was begun early in the 12th century, this had been elaborated to a central tower surrounded by four smaller towers. The central monument represents the mythical Mount Meru, the holy mountain at the centre of the universe, which was home to the Hindu god Vishnu. The five towers symbolise Mount Meru's five peaks. It is difficult to express in words the enormous scale of Angkor Wat, but it can be explained in part by a look at the dimensions of the complex. The temple is surrounded by a moat which makes the one around the Tower of London, built at roughly the same time, look like nothing more than a garden trench.
At 190 metres wide and forming a rectangle measuring 1.5 km by 1.3 km, it is hard to imagine any attacking force overwhelming the defences. But the moat was more than just a defensive bulwark, in line with the temple's Hindu origins it represented the oceans of the world. A rectangular wall measuring 1025 metres by 800 metres borders the inner edge of the moat. There is a gate in each side of the wall, but unusually for the mainly Hindu-influenced Angkorian temples, the main entrance faces west. This entrance is a richly decorated portico, 235 m wide with three gates. However, the temple's greatest sculptural treasure is its 2 km-long bas-reliefs around the walls of the outer gallery and the hundred figures of devatas and apsaras. This intricately carved gallery tells stories of the god Vishnu and of Suryavarman II's successes on the battlefield. The whole complex covers 81 hectares.
4.Angkor ThomAngkor Thom is undeniably an expression of the highest genius. It is, in three dimensions and on a scale worthy of an entire nation, the materialization of Buddhist cosmology, representing ideas that only great painters would dare to portray. Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Empire, was a fortified city enclosing residences of priest, officials of the palace and military, as well as buildings for administering the kingdom. These structures were built of wood and have perished but the remaining stone monuments testify that Angkor Thom was indeed a "Great City" as its name implies. Temples inside the walls of the city described in this article are Bayon,Phimeanakas,Baphuon,Terrace of the Elephants,Terrace of the Leper King,Prah Palilay,Tep Prana and Prasat Suor Prat. The Royal Palace situated within the city of Angkor Thom is of an earlier date and belonged to kings of the tenth and first half of the tenth and first half of the eleventh centuries. Although the foundations and an enclosing wall around the palace with entry towers have been identified, little evidence remains of the layout of the buildings inside the enclosure. This absence of archaeological evidence of the royal buildings suggests that they were constructed of wood and have perished. The French ascertained a general plan of the Royal Palace. It included the temple-mountain of Phimeanakas and surrounding pools together with residences and buildings for administering the capital, which were probably at the back of the enclosure. Jayavarman VII reconstructed the original site of the Royal Palace to erect the city of Angkor Thom, which was centered on the temple of Bayon and surrounded by a wall. The city of Angkor Thom consists of a square, each side of which is about three kilometers (1.9 miles) long a laterite wall 8 meters (26 feet) in height around the city encloses an are of 145.8 hectares (360 acres). A moat with a width of 100meters (328 feet) surrounds the outer wall. An entry tower and along causeway bisect each side of the wall except on the east where are two entrances. The additional one, called the "Gate of Victory "is aligned with the causeway leading to the Terraces of the Elephants and the Leper King. A small temple known as "Prasat Chrung' stands at each corner of the wall around the city of Angkor Thom.
5.BayonThe Bayon temple features a sea of over 200 massive stone faces looking in all direction. The curious smiling faces, thought by many to be a portrait of king Jayavarman VII himself or a combination of him and Buddha, are an instantly recognizable image of Angkor. Built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII as part of a massive expansion of his capital Angkor Thom, the Bayon is built at the exact center of the royal city. The Bayon is the only state temple at Angkor built primarily as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine dedicated to the Buddha. Following Jayavarman’s death, it was modified by later Hindu and Theravada Buddhist kings in accordance with their own religious beliefs.
The Bayon temple rises through three levels to a height of around 43 meters (140 feet). The outer gallery on the first level depicts scenes from everyday life and historical events, while the inner gallery on the next higher level depicts mythical figures and stories. Some of the figures depicted are Siva, Vishnu, and Brahma. The third level is where you will encounter many of the famous faces (and tourists).
Ta Prohm is undoubtedly the most atmospheric and photogenic ruin at Angkor, with trees growing out of the ruins. Here you can still experience an India Jones moment and feel like an early explorer. If Angkor Wat and other temples are a testimony to the genius of the ancient Khmers, Ta Prohm equally reminds us of the awesome power of the jungle.
Built from 1186, Ta Prohm was a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII. It is one of the few temples in Angkor where an inscription provides information about the temple’s inhabitants. The temple was home to more than 12,500 people, including 18 high priests, while an additional 80,000 khmers, living in the surrounding villages, were required to maintain the temple. The inscription also notes that the temple contained gold, pearls and silks. After the fall of the Khmer empire in the 15th century, the temple was abandoned and swallowed up by the jungle.
7.Banteay SreyThe roads have been recently repaired and it takes about 30 minutes from Siem Reap to get to the temple. To reach Banteay Srei, follow the main road north out of Siem Reap, turn right at Angkor Wat and follow the road to Srah Srang where you turn right past Pre Rup.
At the East Mebon there is a check post where you need to obtain clearnce. Turn right again at the road before the East Mebon; pass through the village of Phoum Pradak, where there is a junctions (if you continue straight, after about 5 minutes, you will reach Banteay Samre). At this point, you come to a fork; take the road on the left and follow it to Batneay Srei which you will reach shortly after crossing two rivers - on your left hand side.
Banteay Srei is an exquisite miniature; a fairy palace in the heart of an immense and mysterious forest; the very thing that Grimm delighted to imagine, and that every child's heart has yearned after, but which mature years has sadly proved too lovely to be true. And here it is, in the Cambodian forest at Banteay Srei, carved not out of the stuff that dreams are made of, but of solid sandstone.
8.The Great Lake Tonle Sap & Floating VillageFive provinces circled the area of Tonle Sap Lake, more than three million of population inhabited around the bank of the Lake and 90% of them earn a living by catching fish and making agricultures. As you can see on the map of Cambodia It stretches across the northwest section of the country.
The Lake is the largest fresh water in South East Asia. Its dimension changes depending on the monsoon and dry season. During raining season from June to October, the lake is filled by water flowing from the Mekong with 14 meters in depth and expands the surface of 10,000 square Kilometers. In dry season from November to May its size 3,000 square kilometers with two meters in depth and water flows out from the Lake to the Mekong, in and out flowing is the natural phenomenon occurrences. The flooded forest surrounding the edge of the lake is the best shelter and also very important for all kinds of fishes spawned and breeding babies. This lake providing many of biodiversities, over 300 species of fresh water fishes, as well as snakes, crocodiles, tortoises, turtles and otters. More than 100 varieties water birds including storks, pelicans, etc
The lake located about 15 km south of Siem Reap town; you can make your journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh by express boat crossing the lake and dock at the village of Chong Khneas. Its takes only six hours, but this trip we may recommend you during Monsoon season. In dry season the boat sometimes stuck in mud because the water is low. There are several ways to see the culture and wildlife of the lake area depending on the amount of time you have and your interest.
Chong Khneas is the name of famous floating village at the edge of the lake. It locates at Southern part of Siem Reap town about 15 Km, and takes only 30 minutes by vehicles to the boat dock where there are always boats waiting for visitors. The boat trip through the floating village takes approximately two hours. You will explore the different of Khmer, Muslim and Vietnamese floating households and the floating markets, fisheries, clinics, schools, basketball course, pigsty and other boatloads of tourists. Chong Khneas, was before very interesting, but now region is owned by private firm they did increasing prices and the area looks more commercial. The boat trip usually includes two stops: one at a touristy floating 'fish and bird exhibition' with a souvenir and snack shop, and the other at the very highly recommended Gecko Environment Centre, which offers displays and information introducing the ecology and biodiversity of the lake area.
9.Phnom BakhengPhnom Bakheng is a temple built on a hill of the same name, where the first city at Angkor was established. This gives its state temple on Phnom Bakheng special significance. It was to here that Yasovarman I moved his capital from Roluos. His capital city, called Yasodharapura, was larger than Angkor Thom, which came later, and was centred around the hill of Phnom Bakheng.
The design of the temple of Bakheng borrowed elements from the Bakong which was built 20 years earlier. Both are step pyramids of ascending square terraces. We do know that work on the temple began at the end of the 9th century. The lingga in the central sanctuary was dedicated around 907AD, while construction work continued. The temple was called Yasodharesvara, after its patron deity, which means Lord who Bears Glory. In 928 the temple was abandoned, only to be briefly rehabilitated in 968 by Jayavarman V.
The view from the top with Phnom Bakheng in the south and Phimeanakas in the north is magnificent.
10.Roluos Group of MonumentsThree temples Bakong, Lolei and Preah Ko 11 Kilometers (6.8 miles) southeast of the Siem Reap Market, comprise the Roluos group of monuments they are close together and extend over an area of three kilometers ( 1.9 miles ) east of the Great Lake.
The Roluos group, dating from the late ninth century, is the earliest site of the 600 years Angkor Period that is open to visitors.
The three temples belonging to this important group have similar characteristics of architecture, decoration, materials and construction methods, which combine to reveal the beginning of the Classic Period of Khmer art.
Roluos is the site of an ancient center of Khmer civilization known as Hariharalaya (the abode of Hari-hara'). Some 70 years after Jayavarman II established his capital on Mount Kulen in 802 inaugurating the Angkor Period, the king moved the king moved the capital to Hariharalaya, Perhaps for a better source of food or for defence purposed. He died at roluos in 850. It is generally believed that his successors remained there until the capital was moved to Bakheng in 905.
11.Beng MealeaPrasat Beng Mealea was built by king Suryavarman II, early 12th century by primary deity to Vishnu with architecture of Angkor Wat. This temple is located 40 km east of the main group of temples at Angkor, and 77 km from Siem Reap by road. Beng Mealea (its name means "lotus pond") is a temple in the Angkor Wat style located 40 km east of the main group of temples at Angkor, Cambodia, on the ancient royal highway to Preah Khan Kompong Svay. It was built as hinduist temple, but there are some carvings depicting buddhist motifs. Its primary material is sandstone and it is largely unrestored, with trees and thick brush thriving amidst its towers and courtyards and many of its stones lying in great heaps. For years it was difficult to reach, but a road recently built to the temple complex of Koh Ker passes Beng Mealea and more visitors are coming to the site, as it is 77 km from Siem Reap by road.
Map of Beng Mealea, from a drawing by D'apres Leon de Beylie (1849-1910). In red the partially equipped path used to visit the temple.
Beng MealeaThe history of the temple is unknown and it can be dated only by its architectural style, identical to Angkor Wat, so scholars assumed it was built during the reign of king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Smaller in size than Angkor Wat, the king's main monument, Beng Mealea nonetheless ranks among the Khmer empire's larger temples: the gallery which forms the outer enclosure of the temple is 181 m by 152 m. It was the center of a town, surrounded by a moat 1025 m by 875 m large and 45 m wide.
Beng Mealea is oriented toward the east, but has entranceways from the other three cardinal directions. The basic layout is three enclosing galleries around a central sanctuary, collapsed at present. The enclosures are tied with "cruciform cloisters", like Angkor Wat. Structures known as libraries lie to the right and left of the avenue that leads in from the east. There is extensive carving of scenes from Hindu mythology, including the Churning of the Sea of Milk and Vishnu being borne by the bird god Garuda. Causeways have long balustrades formed by bodies of the seven-headed Naga serpent.
It was built mostly of sandstone: Beng Mealea is only 7 km far from the angkorian sandstone quarries of Phnom Kulen, as the crow flies. Presumably sandstone blocks used for Angkor were transported along artificial water canals and passed from here. Despite of lack of information, the quality of architecture and decorations has drown the attention of French scholars just from its discovery.
12.Khmer Classical DancingThe Hotel Grande de Angkor has a restaurant and stage near the river that features nightly performances of the apsara-style dancers. The show and buffet dinner is US$ 22.
13.Old MarketPsah Chas ("Old Market"), is a market in the city of Siem Reap in northern Cambodia. Not to be confused with the similarly named Psah Chas in Phnom Penh that is geared toward locals, this open air market in the south of the city caters to locals and tourists alike. The market is such a fixture in Siem Reap that most businesses give their address in relation to Psah Chas.
The market is popular with tourists in the city and sells souvenirs but it is also known for its variety of Cambodian cuisine, and has a number of food stalls which sell a variety of rices, dried fish and pork sausages, vegetables and fruits, and a Cambodian specialty Prahok, a type of fermented fish paste. Some stalls sell baguettes and spiced frogs, which is believed to be a relic of French colonialism in the area.Other stalls cook up various Khmer soups and red chili slices and peanuts.
14.Bar StreetPub Street is Siem Reap's party hub, so grab a drink (or a scoop of Siem Reap's best ice cream at Blue Pumpkin) and soak it all up. Start your evening at Red Piano, on the corner. The French cuisine is good, but it's best known as Angelina Jolie's haunt while filming "Tomb Raider. "Try her favorite cocktail -- Cointreau, lime and tonic -- now named for the movie, and if you're the lucky 10th buyer, it's on the house.
Continue down the road to find a spot for dinner. All the restaurants offer reasonably priced Western and local food, but Soup Dragon's eponymous fare always brings a crowd, and just two doors down is "Angkor What?" bar. Inscriptions on the walls and tables attest to this old favorite's popularity, and it's always one of the last to close. If you're not quite digging the backpacker vibe, duck down a small side street in search of Miss Wong, a classy cocktail bar that will transport you back to 1930s Shanghai and a good refuge from the madness one street over.
15.Phnom PenhThe capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, is located at the confluence of three rivers - the Mekong, the Bassac and Tonle Sap. The city is divided into three sections - the north, an attractive residential area; the south or the French part of the city with its ministries, banks and colonial houses; and the center or the heart with its narrow lanes, markets, foods stalls and shops.
Over the past four years, the city has undergone tremendous changes - businesses are springing up constantly and tourism is once again booming. Cambodia has one of the most liberal investment laws to further boost managed to retain its charm and character - cyclos that weave through traffic with ease, broad boulevards, old colonial buildings, parks and green spaces that reminds one of the country's French heritage, and above all its people who always have a smile for you.
16.Cheung Ek Killing FieldsBetween 1975 and 1978, about 17,000 men, women, children and infants (including nine westerners), detained and tortured at S-21 prison (now Tuol Sleng Museum), were transported to the extermination to death to avoid wasting precious bullets.
The remains of 8985 people, many of whom were bound and blindfolded, were exhumed in 1980 from mass graves in this one-time long an orchard; 43 of the 129 communal graves here have been left untouched. Fragment of Human bone and bits of cloth are scattered around the disinterred pits. Over 8000 skulls, arranged by sex, are visible behind the clear glass panels of the Memorial Stupa, which was erected in 1988.
The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are 15 km from Central Phnom Penh. To get there, take Monireth Blvd south-westward out of the city from the Dang Kor Market bus depot. The site is 8.5 km from the bridge near 271 St. A memorial ceremony is held annually at Choeung Ek on 9 May.
17.Independence monumentThe monument was built in 1958 to symbolize the independence that Cambodia gained from France in 1953. The French fully abandoned their interests in Indochina following defeat by the Vietnamese at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in May 1954. Independence is marked in Cambodia o¬n the 9th November. The monument has a unique and peculiar style and doubles as a memorial to Cambodian patriots who died for their country.
18.National MuseumThe NATIONAL MUSEUM of Cambodia is housed in a graceful terracotta structure of traditional design (built 1917-20) just north of the Royal Palace. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8 to 11 am and from 2 to 5 pm; entry is $3. Photography is prohibited inside. The School of Fine Arts (École des Beaux-arts) has its headquarters in a structure behind the main building.
19.Wat phnomYou may also want to check out WAT PHNOM which sits on a tree covered hill about 30m high in the northeast of the city. It is said that the first pagoda was built in 1373 to house four statues of the Buddha deposited here by the Mekong River. It was discovered by a woman named Penh. Thus, the name Phnom Penh, the hill of Penh. The people believe that this temple is powerful in that anyone who makes a wish will have it granted. It is not surprising to see many people coming here to pray for protection or healing. Many bring lotus flowers as offerings for prayers answered.
20.New Central MarketA visit to the markets and market halls is a must as they give an opportunity to be acquainted with the country's local produce and also to buy textiles, antiques gold and silver jewelry.
The four wings of the yellow colored Central Market are teeming with numerous stalls selling gold and silver jewelry, antique coins, clothing, clocks, flowers, food, fabrics, shoes and luggage.
21.Sihanoukville – Beach Resort'Beach town', 'port community', 'fledgling resort destination' - all describe Sihanoukville, Cambodia's premier beach town. Sihanoukville's white sand beaches and warm Gulf of Thailand waters combine with a laid back, beachy atmosphere to provide a great little tropical getaway. Sihanoukville is a place to unwind by the beach, enjoy the fresh from-the-ocean seafood, take in a snorkeling or scuba trip, and generally slow-down, lay back and chill-out. Sihanoukville has a different look and feel than most Cambodian towns. Constructed as a port city in the late 1950s, the town is much newer, more urban and cosmopolitan than most Cambodian provincial cities. Nowadays, Sihanoukville is as much a beach town as it is a port town, catering to beach-going weekenders from Phnom Penh as well as a steadily increasing number of foreign visitors. Still, the pace of life in Sihanoukville is very relaxed. Cows occasionally wander the main road, outside town foreign faces draw smiles and curious stares, and most of the beaches offer only beach umbrellas, thatched roofed eateries, and a growing number of restaurants, bungalows and hotels.
Sihanoukville has a more than ample supply of accommodations, including a 5-star resort complex on Sokha Beach, several mid-range places downtown and at the beaches, a few 'upscale' three-star hotels, and dozens of budget guesthouses, especially on Weather Station Hill (Victory Hill). Considering the moderate number of visitors to Sihanoukville, the town offers a surprising number and variety of restaurants and bars. Fresh seafood, especially crab, prawns and ocean fish, has always been one of the town's biggest draws, but there is also a wide variety of places offering foreign cuisines - Australian, French, Indian, German, Sri Lankan, British, Italian, pizza places, a couple of western bakeries and even a espresso coffee shop. And these days Sihanoukville offers a pretty good night life as well with a wide variety of bars staying open well into the wee hours, especially on Weather Station Hill, in the downtown area, and the beach bars on Ochheuteal, ‘Serendipity’ and Victory Beaches.
22.Monkey Island (Koh Rong)Stay in a thatched-roof bungalow and laze away the days on Koh Rong, part of a string of islands in the Gulf of Thailand, where ATMs and electricity will be as scarce as your sense of time. About 15 miles from Sihanoukville, it is the second-largest island in Cambodia, leaving plenty of room for four small villages, long stretches of untouched beach, clear waters ideal for diving and snorkeling, and a dense interior jungle of virgin forest. Trek through the island on hidden trails or hire a local fishing boat to take you around Koh Rong or to other surrounding islands.
The rumours surrounding Monkey Island are as thick as the London fog… Some say its called Monkey Island because of the events that lead to the making of the film “King Kong”, apparently based on truth and ancient Cambodian legend – Monkey Island Koh Rong is said to be home to a mighty ape the likes have never been seen!
Years ago when the first fishermen set foot on Koh Rong or Khao Rung as it’s sometimes spelled, they were greeted by a strange and eerie presence – as if they were being watched. As the night drew on strange sounds came from deep within the jungle and sometime after dark…. The “hairy big-man” came out to play…
23.Bamboo Island (Koh Russei)A few days on Bamboo Island, off Sihanoukville's coast, comes highly recommended. The boat ride takes about half an hour and once there you will find that only about 30 people live on the island. On its north-facing crescent beach Bamboo Island has three bungalow resorts, two restaurants and two bars and is very, very laid back. Unlike on the more frenetic mainland, there are no hawkers and the bungalows are right on the casuarinas-lined beach itself.
There are a few day-trippers but come nightfall the island is practically deserted. Electricity is provided by two generators for the early hours of the evening but after that it's back to the moon and the stars for light.
24.What to eat in CambodiaSquished between culinary heavyweights Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia is often overlooked when it comes to food. But once you've sampled Khmer cuisine, you won't turn back. Here are 7 dishes to start you off.
Bai sach chrouk: Pork and rice
Served early mornings on street corners all over Cambodia, bai sach chrouk, or pork and rice, is one of the simplest and most delicious dishes the country has to offer.
Thinly sliced pork is slow grilled over warm coals to bring out its natural sweetness. Sometimes the pork will be marinated in coconut milk or garlic -- no two bai sach chrouks are ever exactly the same.
The grilled pork is served over a hearty portion of broken rice, with a helping of freshly pickled cucumbers and daikon radish with plenty of ginger.
On the side, you'll often be given a bowl of chicken broth topped with scallions and fried onions.
Khmer red curry
Less spicy than the curries of neighboring Thailand, Khmer red curry is similarly coconut-milk-based but without the overpowering chili.
The dish features beef, chicken or fish, eggplant, green beans, potatoes, fresh coconut milk, lemongrass and kroeung.
This delicious dish is usually served at special occasions in Cambodia such as weddings, family gatherings and religious holidays like Pchum Ben, or Ancestor's Day, where Cambodians make the dish to share with monks in honor of the departed.
Khmer red curry is usually served with bread -- a remnant of the French influence on Cambodia.
Lap Khmer: Lime-marinated Khmer beef salad
Khmer beef salad features thinly sliced beef that is either quickly seared or "cooked" ceviche-style by marinating with lime juice.
Dressed with lemongrass, shallots, garlic, fish sauce, Asian basil, mint, green beans and green pepper, the sweet and salty dish also packs a punch in the heul (spicy) department with copious amounts of fresh red chilis. A refreshing dish that is more beef than salad, lap Khmer is popular with Cambodian men, who prefer the beef to be nearly raw -- but at restaurants it's generally served grilled.
Nom banh chok: Khmer noodles
Nom banh chok is a beloved Cambodian dish, so much so that in English it's called simply "Khmer noodles."
Nom banh chok is a typical breakfast food, and you'll find it sold in the mornings by women carrying it on baskets hanging from a pole balanced on their shoulders.
The dish consists of noodles laboriously pounded out of rice, topped with a fish-based green curry gravy made from lemongrass, turmeric root and kaffir lime.Fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts, green beans, banana flower, cucumbers and other greens are heaped on top. There is also a red curry version that's usually reserved for ceremonial occasions and wedding festivities.
Kdam chaa: fried crab
Fried crab is a specialty of the Cambodian seaside town of Kep. Its lively crab market is known for fried crab prepared with green, locally grown Kampot pepper. Aromatic Kampot pepper is famous among gourmands worldwide, and although it is available in its dried form internationally, you'll only be able to sample the distinctively flavored immature green peppercorns in Cambodia. It's worth a visit to Kep and Kampot for that alone, but Phnom Penh restaurants bring live crabs in from the coast to make their own version of this delicious dish, which includes both Kampot pepper and flavorful garlic chives.
Fried fish on the fire lake
Fresh coconut milk isn't used in every day Khmer cooking. Instead it's saved for dishes served at special occasions.
Fried Fish on the Fire Lake is one such dish -- it's traditionally made for parties or eaten at restaurants in a special, fish-shaped dish.
A whole fish is deep-fried and then finished on a hotplate at the table in a coconut curry made from yellow kroeung and chilies.
Vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage are cooked in the curry, and served with rice or rice noodles. The literal translation of this dish is trei bung kanh chhet, fish from the lake of kanh chhet, a green Cambodian water vegetable served with this dish.
Ang dtray-meuk: Grilled squid
In Cambodian seaside towns like Sihanoukville and Kep, you'll find seafood sellers carrying small charcoal-burning ovens on their shoulders, cooking the squid as they walk along the shore.
The squid are brushed with either lime juice or fish sauce and then barbecued on wooden skewers and served with a popular Cambodian sauce, originally from Kampot, made from garlic, fresh chilies, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar.
The summer flavor of the shore can be had even in Phnom Penh, where many restaurants bring seafood from the coast to make similar versions of this dish.