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Cambodia

The years of fear and loathing are over. Right now, Cambodia is just about as hot as it gets on the global travel map. Peace has come to this beautiful yet blighted land after three decades of war, and the Cambodian people are embracing the world. Tourism is taking of, but a journey to this little kingdom is still one of Asia's genuine adventures.

Contemporary Cambodia is the successor state to the mighty Khmer empire, which during the Angkor period (9th to 15th centuries) ruled much of what is now Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The remains of this empire can be seen at the fabled temples of Angkor, monuments unrivalled in scale and grandeur in Southeast Asia. The traveler's first glimpse of Angkor Wat, the ultimate of Khmer genius, is simply staggering and is matched only by a few select spots on earth such as Macchu Picchu or the Taj Mahal.

But behind the brochures just as Angkor is more than its wat, so too is Cambodia much more than its temples. The south coast is ringed by tropical islands with barely a beach hut in sight. The mighty Mekong River cuts through the country and is home to some of the region's last remaining freshwater dolphins near Kratie. And the northeast is a world unto itself, its wild and mountainous landscapes a home for Cambodia's ethnic minorities and shy wildlife.

Finally there are the people. Cambodians have weathered years of bloodshed, poverty and political instability. Somehow they have come through the experience with their smiles intact: no visitor comes away from Cambodia without a measure of admiration and affection for the inhabitants of this beautiful land.

Highlights:
  • Chill out on the beach at Sihanoukville
  • Make a pilgrimage to the mountain sanctuary of Prasat Preah Vihear
  • Leave the lowlands behind with a trip to the rolling hills of Mondukiri Province
  • Hitch a ride on an elephant in the rewarding northeast

Siem Reap
Siem Reap (see-em ree-ep) is the gateway to Cambodia's spiritual and cultural heartbeat, the temples of Angkor. The town was a quiet, sleepy backwater until a few years ago, but it's quickly reinventing itself as a sophisticated centre for the new wave of visitors passing through each year. If Cambodia is hot right now, then Siem Reap Is at bolting over, the one place everyone coming to Cambodia will hit during their visit...
Rattanakiri
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Phnom Penh
At times beautiful and beguiling, at times chaotic and charmless, Phnom Penh is a crossroad of Asia's past and present, a city of extremes of poverty and excess, but one that never fails to captivate the visitor...
Sihanoukville
Sihanoukville is the closest thing you get to the Costa del Cambodia, but fear not, development here is light years behind most Thai resorts, let alone Spain. The charmless town is fortunate enough to be hemmed in on all sides by palm-fringed, squeaky, white-sand beaches and undeveloped tropical islands...