1. Siem Riep:
Siem Reap province is located in northwest Cambodia. It is the major tourist hub in Cambodia, as it is the closest city to the world famous temples of Angkor (the Angkor temple complex is north of the city). The provincial capital is also called Siem Reap and is located in the South of the province on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake, the greatest sweet water reserve in whole Southeast Asia. The name of the city literally means Siamese defeated, referring to the victory of the Khmer Empire over the army of the Thai kingdom in the 17th century.
At the turn of the millennium Siem Reap was a Cambodian provincial town with few facilities, minor surfaced roads and little in the way of nightlife. Tourism industry catered largely to hardy backpackers willing to brave the tortuous road from the Thai border on the tailgate of a local pick-up truck. There were a couple of large hotels and a handful of budget guesthouses. Tuk-tuks and taxis were non-existent and the trusty motodup was the chosen means of touring the temples of Angkor.
The proximity of the Angkorian ruins turned Siem Reap into a boomtown in less than half a decade. Huge, expensive hotels have sprung up everywhere and budget hotels have mushroomed. Property values have soared to European levels and tourism has become a vast, lucrative industry. The Siem Reap of today is barely recognizable from the Siem Reap of the year 2000.
Though some of the town's previous ramshackle charm may have been lost the developments of the last few years have brought livelihoods, if not significant wealth, to a good number of its citizens. This has been at a cost to the underprivileged people living within and beyond the town's limits that now pay inflated prices at the central markets and continue to survive on poorly paid subsistence farming and fishing. If Cambodia is a country of contrasts Siem Reap is the embodiment of those contrasts. Despite the massive shift in its economic fortunes, Siem Reap remains a safe, friendly and pleasant town. There is an endless choice of places to stay or dine and a host of possible activities awaiting the visitor.
2. Preah vihear Temple:
Preah Vihear Temple locates at Preah Vihear Province of Cambodia and sites at the most spectacular location of any Khmer site at the near by Thailand border. It is 100 kilometers northeast of Siem Reap; Si Sa Ket Province, Thailand. It was a large temple which was built on the top of Chuor Phnom Dangrek which divides the Khorat Plateau from the lowland Cambodian plain below. It is about 550 meters from the ground level of Cambodia side.
Preah Vihear temple, which took over 300 years to complete the construction by a few famous Khmer king, was firstly built from 893 by the king Yasovarman I who ruled the country from 889 to probably 910. The majority of temple edifice was established by king Suryavarman I (1002 - 1049) and finally the temple was completed during the reign of great king Suryavarman II (1113 – 1150), the well-known king who was the founder of magnificent temple of Angkor Wat at Siem Reap province. King Suryavarman II known as a great khmer king who dominated the Khorat Plateau, Lopburi and even further north in Thailand and he extended the Khmer Empire to the border of Pagan in Myanmar; and south into the northern part of the Malay Peninsula.
The main purpose of the temple is the mountain temple which is the symbol of sacred mountain “Meru” where is the abode of all the gods of Hindu. The temple was mainly dedicated to the supreme god “Shiva”
3. Sihanouk Ville:
Sure, Sihanoukville would never win first prize in a pretty-town competition, and much of it is now dominated by casinos and tacky commercial centres. But despite the rapid and mostly unwanted development, it has remained the jumping-off point for the best of Cambodia's white-sand beaches and castaway-cool southern islands. The Serendipity Beach area is a decompression chamber for backpackers, who flock here to rest up between travels and party through the night.
Away from the hustle south of town is relaxed Otres Beach, where cheap bungalow joints and bohemian-flavoured guesthouses are now neighbours with rather swish boutique resorts. Although much of the beachfront will likely be cleared for large-scale development in the future, for now the mellow scene still allows for lazy days of sunbathing and whirlwind nights of bar-hopping.
4. Tonle Sap lake:
Temples aside, you shouldn’t leave Siem Reap without exploring the fascinating string of lakeside villages (both floating and stilted) on the nearby Tonle Sap, the massive freshwater lake that dominates the map of Cambodia. The majority of these lake’s inhabitants are fishermen, mostly stateless ethnic Vietnamese who have been here for decades, despite being widely distrusted by the Khmer. Most live in extremely basic conditions, their livelihoods increasingly threatened by the government, which has awarded large fishing concessions to wealthy businessmen at the expense of local villagers and who now have to either practise their trade illegally or rent a share from a concessionaire.
The ever-increasing numbers of tourists visiting the Tonle Sap villages has provided an important new source of revenue, although the downside (at least from the visitor’s point of view) is the steady erosion of traditional local life and increasingly theme-park atmosphere, particularly at the coach-party honeypot of Chong Khneas, while even formerly quieter villages down the lake such as Kompong Phluk and Kompong Kleang are no longer wholly immune. For a more authentic view of the Tonle Sap, head to the floating villages near Pursat and Kompong Chnnang on the opposite side of the lake.
5. Silver Pagoda:
Silver Pagoda was called as "The Temple of the Emerald Buddha", located next to the Royal Palace by a walled walkway. Its floor inlaid with 5329 solid silver tiles, hence its name.
The Silver Pagoda is located on the south side of the Royal Palace. The pagoda's official name is Wat Preah Keo Morokat (Temple of the Emerald-Crystal Buddha). It was originally constructed of wood in 1866. Its floor inlaid with 5329 solid silver tiles, hence its name. The pagoda has many national treasures including gold and jeweled Buddha statues. The most notable is a small Buddha statue made of baccarat crystal (the "Emerald Buddha" of Cambodia) from 17th Century and a life-sized gold gMaitreya Buddha decorated with 9584 diamonds, the largest of which weighs 25 carats.
6. Bokor Hill Station:
The once-abandoned French retreat of Bokor Hill Station , inside the 1581 sq km Bokor National Park, is famed for its refreshingly cool climate and creepy derelict buildings that had their heyday during the 1920s and 1930s. On cold, foggy days it can get pretty spooky up here as mists drop visibility to nothing and the wind keens through abandoned buildings. Appropriate, then, that the foggy showdown that ends the Matt Dillon crime thriller City of Ghosts (2002) was filmed here.
These days the hill station is becoming more famous for the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort, the ugly modern casino that blights the summit. It's part of a huge development project that includes a golf course (or, given the mist, a spot-the-ball competition?) and numerous holiday villas on sale at speculative prices.
7. Banteay Srei Pagoda:
Considered by many to be the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art, Banteay Srei is cut from stone of a pinkish hue and includes some of the finest stone carving anywhere on earth. Begun in AD 967, it is one of the smallest sites at Angkor, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in stature. The art gallery of Angkor, Banteay Srei, a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, is wonderfully well preserved and many of its carvings are three-dimensional.
Banteay Srei means ‘Citadel of the Women’, and it is said that it must have been built by a woman, as the elaborate carvings are supposedly too fine for the hand of a man.
Banteay Srei is one of the few temples around Angkor to be commissioned not by a king but by a brahman, who may have been a tutor to Jayavarman V. The temple is square and has entrances at the east and west, with the east approached by a causeway. Of interest are the lavishly decorated libraries and the three central towers, which are decorated with male and female divinities and beautiful filigree relief work.
Banteay Srei was the first major temple restoration undertaken by the EFEO in 1930 using the anastylosis method. The project, as evidenced today, was a major success and soon led to other larger projects such as the restoration of Bayon. Banteay Srei is also the first to have been given a full makeover in terms of facilities, with a large car park, a designated dining and shopping area, clear visitor information and a state-of-the-art exhibition on the history of the temple and its restoration. There is also a small baray (reservoir) behind the temple where local boat trips (US$7 per boat) are possible through the lotus pond.
8. Angko Wat Temple:
The traveller's first glimpse of Angkor Wat, the ultimate expression of Khmer genius, is matched by only a few select spots on earth. Built by Suryavarman II (r 1112–52) and surrounded by a vast moat, the temple is one of the most inspired monuments ever conceived by the human mind.
Angkor Wat is the heart and soul of Cambodia: it is the national symbol, the epicentre of Khmer civilisation and a source of fierce national pride. It was never abandoned to the elements and has been in virtually continuous use since it was built.
Simply unique, it is a stunning blend of spirituality and symmetry, an enduring example of humanity’s devotion to its gods. Relish the very first approach, as that spine-tickling moment when you emerge on the inner causeway will rarely be felt again. It is the best-preserved temple at Angkor, and repeat visits are rewarded with previously unnoticed details.