What else does Cambodia offer you?

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There are many great and wonderful places to see and visit in Vietnam. We will continue to bring you some of those. However, there are some other countries in Southeast Asia. Cambodia is the focal point of this newsletter.

Cambodia shares a border with Vietnam and that would be one way to travel there but typically people fly to either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. These are the two most recognizable cities in Cambodia and while the former is the capital the latter is justifiably famous for Angkor Wat. Both cities are excellent tourist destinations and any first visit to Cambodia should include one or both. Both cities have also been extensively documented and described so this newsletter will look at some other cities and regions of Cambodia. Cambodia is a great country for a road trip. Let’s start our journey from Siem Reap.

About 50 miles or 80 kilometers from Siem Reap is Battambang. Although a short distance separates the two cities, the trip can take a while as there is not an interstate connecting them. Battambang is one of the bigger cities in Cambodia but retains a small-town feel and numbers just over 100,000 people. Spend a couple of nights and enjoy a nice counterpoint to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Sampeou Mountain is topped by a colorful temple and has three natural caves containing Buddhist shrines and statues and also some bones as this was also a killing field. Bats are not popular right now, but return to the bottom of this mountain and watch innumerable of these mammals begin their nightly feeding. It is a stunning sight. The most famous road trip is to the Bamboo railroad. Enjoy this fun ride, the topiary and native house reconstructions at the top, and then travel to Prasat Banan, an 11th-century temple. Conquer the 300+ stairs and you will be rewarded with a great view, a good sweat, and an accomplished feeling. It is easy to succumb to templeitis in Cambodia, but Wat Banan is worth the trip, It lacks the size and scope and preservation of Angkor Wat, but it also lacks the tourists.

Return to Siem Reap and enjoy the town and hotel another night before journeying in the other direction. You could make this a day trip and see Preah Vihear and a couple other sites, but we are going to journey for a couple of days all the way to the Mekong and ultimately to Phnom Penh. Preah Vihear is another Khmer temple and like better known Angor Watt is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. It sits on the Thailand border and has been the subject of disputes between the two countries and cannot be visited from Thailand. As Preah Vihear is on a cliff, be ready to climb and then descend to the border area and then climb again but this temple is well worth the visit. There are several other nice temples along this route. Lodgings are not the Hilton, but they are not bad.

The next day enjoy the rest of the trip to the Mekong and Stung Treng. Don’t forget to stop on your drive and buy some of the local delicacies from roadside vendors. Sticky rice in bamboo and deep-fried spiders are probably not seasonal but jack fruit, jujubes, pomelos, and other fruits might be. As you drive, you will notice many stands selling the same thing in the same stretch of road. Make sure and stop and see what they are selling. There is not a huge tourist resume in Stung Treng, but it is a good spot to hire a boat and cruise on the Mekong or rent a kayak.

Either way, you will enjoy some fine scenery. Spend a night there and then head to Kratie. In addition to some of the best pomelos I’ve eaten, the Kratie highlight is the Mekong dolphin. This requires hiring a boat and spending an hour on the river watching them. Stay in Kratie if you like or continue the journey to Phnom Penh. It is a long drive from Stung Treng to Phnom Penh but worth it.

Angor Wat and Phnom Penh are must-sees for Cambodia but if you want something a bit different and a more local experience, try a road trip. Cambodian people are very friendly, tourists are scarce, the food is good, and the experience is memorable.

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