Situated between Laos and Vietnam, bordered by Thailand and framed by the Mekong River - it is a fusion of Asia’s most fascinating regions.
The country’s historical past is present everywhere, with the vast beauty of Angkor’s temples, Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace and the humbling Killing Fields. For those who want to explore the bustling cities, Siem Reap and the capital, Phnom Penh both offer a sensory experience of sights, sounds and scenery to be discovered; and sun worshippers will be more than comfortable at any of the beautiful beach resorts found to the south of this amazing country.
Evidence of French colonialism can be seen in Phnom Penh, where broad tree-lined boulevards and colonial architecture skirt the colourful markets, bustling riverfront and roadsides teeming with food vendors and cafes.
The Khmer Empire's legacy is the highlight of any visit, most notably the incredible temple complex of Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Superbly preserved, the centrepiece Angkor Wat was built to replicate the heavens on Earth and is the world’s largest religious monument. Gateway to the temples is the former backwater town of Siem Reap, a lively city with sophisticated restaurants, bars and shops.
Nearby is a string of floating villages and stilted houses on Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. Join a cruise and glimpse fishermen at work, children playing by the shore and the wide variety of colourful birds, wildlife and plants that inhabit the mangroves.
Then comes Battambang, Cambodia’s second largest city, which has remained relatively undeveloped. Known for its striking colonial architecture and contemporary arts scene, it’s also the departure point of the Bamboo “Train”. Set up by villagers to transport themselves and their goods, join this very basic vehicle for a highly recommended short journey through beautiful landscapes and rice paddies to a local village.
What better way to conclude an exhilarating tour of cultural delights than with time to unwind on the southern shores? Anyone looking for a truly private, tranquil beach experience can find it on the pristine white sands of Song Saa; a private island located just 30 minutes away by speedboat from Sihanoukville. The 5* Song Saa private island sits within the untouched archipelago of Koh Rong, spanning the islands of Koh Ouen and Koh Bong.
This premium all-inclusive resort is connected by a footbridge running over a marine reserve to preserve the reef below. Guests can relax in their own beautiful villa (complete with private plunge pool) and enjoy a sunset cocktail, a romantic picnic on the beach or a fine dining experience in the world-class overwater restaurant.
Alternatively, the 5* boutique Knai Bang Chatt can be found secluded within the beach resort of Kep, just a 10- minute stroll from the small fishing village. Kep was once the beach destination of choice for Cambodian high-society, French Colonials and the country’s former King; and with beautiful surroundings framing this tranquil, relaxing region, it’s not hard to see why. Guests can enjoy spa treatments, yoga and meditation, take a dip in the saltwater infinity pool, join in with the sailing club or unwind in the library at Knai Bang Chatt – relaxation is key to an indulgent stay at this wonderful lifestyle resort.
The lively resort of Sihanoukville should not be forgotten, and is easily accessible from Siem Reap by air or from Phnom Penh by road. Surrounded by tropical beaches and undeveloped islands it offers something for all tastes, and the 4* Sokha Beach Resort is the ideal choice here. Featuring low-rise, elegant Khmer style architecture crafted in wood and stone, all within a short drive of the centre of Sihanoukville.
Eating is sure to be a significant highlight of any holiday here, as Khmer cuisine draws heavily on food from other Asian countries, especially Thailand and China. Most meals are rice based and whilst not particularly spicy, the cuisine is often delicately flavoured with herbs such as lemongrass and coriander.
Noodle shops, restaurants and the ubiquitous hawker stalls abound in the towns and cities along with international fare aimed towards tourists. Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have a good range of upscale restaurants including French, Italian, Indian and Thai; while in more rural areas the choice of where to dine is slightly more restricted.
Cooking classes take place in many hotels and resorts, which gives you the chance to learn local dishes and recreate the flavours of your holiday at home.
Cambodia is an ideal destination to combine with a selection of other Asian countries; such as Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar or Thailand. Enhance your tailor-made Far East holiday with a three-night stay in Siem Reap from just £249pp; including 4* accommodation, private transfers to and from your hotel, sightseeing of the Angkor temples and services of an English-speaking guide. This offer is based on two adults sharing, and is valid for travel until December 2015 (flights not included).
How to see it:
Choose to explore this beautiful country with a Colonial Cambodia tour from £1,999pp. A privately escorted tour, your guide will escort you by air-conditioned car through the resorts and cities of Siem Reap, Battambang, Phnom Penh and Kep.
This offer is based on two adults sharing, and includes international flights, private transfers between hotels, accommodation including breakfast throughout, 7 lunches, 6 dinners, sightseeing, the private services of an English-speaking guide and entrance fees to all main sights (based on travel during November 2015).