5 Underrated Cambodian Destinations
Five Cambodia desinations that are off the beaten track
Those traveling through Cambodia tend to make a few quick stops. A few days viewing Angkor Wat, straight down to Phnom Penh, perhaps a pit stop on Koh Rong and be on their way. Though it is a small country, there is so much more to see here. You’d be doing yourself a favor, to really get in there and explore everything that Cambodia has to offer.
So maybe you like big cities, but you can’t stand the crowds of tourists constantly snapping pictures. Then Battambang is the perfect place for you. The second largest city in the country, it has the hustle and bustle and flow that you’d expect from a metropolis. Yet do to the lack of major tourist attractions like nearby Siem Reap, it tends to fall lower on the back packer totem pole. Charming, ornate, and full of French colonial architecture, it’s a great break away from a normally fast paced traveler lifestyle.
The French once made this city a household name. At one time, no decent Parisian dining establishment would be caught dead without Kampot pepper on their tables. Today it’s a bit sleepier, a delightful spot on the river. Slurping tasty noodles in the shade and kicking your feet up is just simply satisfying. Take a bike out and ride through the hills; if you’re feeling ambitious, ride up to the now deserted Bokor Hill Station, about 20km away. For a laugh, make sure to drive by the town’s well known round-about, which features a gigantic sculpture of the notoriously smelly fruit, the durian.
Western Cambodia definitely gets more attention from the travel pack, but the east deserves a little love as well. Kratie, a small town of just 13,000 people, is a wonderful little spot toward the end of the Mekong River. The central market is truly a treat, a blend of Khmer and French cultures. The natural beauty in the area in overwhelming, and if you’re lucky enough, you might even be able to spot the elusive and rare Irrawaddy River dolphin. Bird watching is also popular in this area. If relaxing isn’t what you’ve come for, then the Mekong Discovery Trail is for you. Running from Kratie along the Cambodian/Laos border, this ecotour allows you to explore some of the least populated areas in the region.
4. Rabbit Island (Koh Tonsay)
Of the shores of the town of Kep, you’ll find yourself so close to the mainland, and yet mentally, so far removed. This small island in the Gulf of Thailand is fairly undeveloped. No air conditioning, no television, no internet…these were modern luxuries you’ve left behind on shore. Instead, you find yourself immersed in a beautifully rustic beach community, left to your own devices. Bring a book or two, and maybe a hammock. It’s time to throw caution to wind and enjoy the solitude of this delightful island.
5. Sen Monorom
To really experience the everyday life of a Cambodian, you need to get away from the city. Most Khmer people thrive in villages, away from the tourist attractions. In the remote northeast, the village Sen Monorom can give you a glimpse of it. Small and somewhat remote, it’s worth the trek of getting there. The scenery gorgeous, with mountains surround the town and several lakes a short walk away. Take the time to soak up the community lifestyle of these friendly people, and get a taste for the rural life.
Cambodia is becoming a more and more popular travel destination. Only a decade ago were tourists allowed back into the country, and it has truly started to flourish. There’s more to see here than the brief gloss over the guidebooks give you.