Nestled between rice paddies and stretched along the Siem Reap River, the provincial capital of Siem Reap town serves as the gateway to the millennium-old temple ruins of the Angkorian-era Khmer Empire. No Cambodia tour itinerary would be complete without visiting the temples of Angkor. Designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO, the Angkor Archaeological Park encompasses dozens of ruins of Cambodian temples including Bayon, Bantaery Srey, Ta Prohm and legendary Angkor Wat. The artistic and archaeological significance and visual impact of this immaculate temple put it in a class with the Pyramids, Machu Pichu and the Taj Mahal. Although the major temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park appear on every Cambodia itinerary these days, it is still possible to get away from the crowds, explore the area and discover the ancient Angkor temples.
Siem Reap town has been receiving foreign visitors to the Siem Reap temples for over 100 years. The town is actually a cluster of old villages, which originally developed around individual pagodas. Nowadays the town has grown out of all recognition from its humble roots. There are several elegant 5 star hotels, and a multitude of alternative accommodation options; an amazing variety of restaurants, lots of shopping locations and vibrant nightlife. Many Cambodia itineraries miss the many opportunities to experience traditional lifestyles. Boat trips on the great Tonle Sap Lake, fishing villages and the Prek Toal bird sanctuary provide these opportunities. Craft shops and silk farms, road tours through rice paddy countryside to distant temples and beyond, should always be part of your Cambodia itinerary..
‘Battambang’ means disappearing stick and is named after a powerful stick used by a legendary Khmer king to achieve and maintain power in the Battambang area.
Sitting on the Sangker River just southwest of the Tonle Sap Lake, Battambang town is at the heart of Cambodia’s ‘rice bowl’. Even though it is the country’s second biggest town, it still has a very local provincial atmosphere. Much of the architecture is French colonial whilst some is traditional Cambodian. Few buildings are over three storeys and the main streets are shared by cars and horse drawn carts alike. Unlike most tourist towns the local economy is truly local, based firmly in rice, wood, sapphires and food crops. This is reflected in the character of the town. Make Battambang part of you Cambodia itinerary.
Kampong Thom is one of the five provinces that surround the Tonle Sap Lake. It is another sleepy provincial capital, but the ruins of the nearby Sambor Prei Kuk and the hill top temple of Phnom Suntok make it a very rewarding stop.
Kampong Chhang is a sprawling lake side fishing town which is relatively unvisited but offers the inquisitive traveler a real insight into quintessential Cambodian riverside life. Take some time to walk down to the river and sit on the bank and watch the daily grind of the hard working fishermen.
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