Pursat Preah Vihear
Rising above a sheer cliff-face on the edge of the Thai border, the ancient Hindu temple of Pursat Preah Vihear lies open to the heavens. Less well-travelled than the iconic spires of Angkor Wat, this 11th century citadel is the perfect way to connect with Cambodia’s ancient heritage in serenity and stillness as you make your slow ascent up the ancient stone stairways that were once trod by the god-kings of the mighty Khmer Empire.
Tuol Sleng and Killing Fields
Although the devastation of the Khmer Rouge years seems a distant memory in cosmopolitan Phnom Penh, the legacy of years of civil war and genocide endure in the memory of many Cambodians. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek on the outskirts of Phnom Penh make for grim viewing, but any visitor to the Kingdom hoping to understand one of the 20th century’s greatest tragedies would be remiss if they left Cambodia without seeing them.
The awe-inspiring towers of this most sacred of the Khmer Empire’s many marvels must be seen to be believed. At dawn, when the grey skies shimmer with silver light, the lotus-shaped spires of this holy city are staggering in their scope, a testament to an empire that once stretched across the whole of Indochina. Visitors can spend all day wandering the winding shrines of this complex, with Hindu sculptures and vast bas-reliefs depicting the greatest battles of myth and memory offering an unforgettable insight into this lost civilisation.
At night, Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace blazes with golden light. From the river, the dazzling golden tiles of the Moonlight Pavillion – once host to the sumptuous parties of the legendary playboy Prince Norodom Sihanouk – cast a warm glow across the lawns that stretch out before it. Visitors to this splendid site are advised to arrive early to beat the crowds that throng within its walls. For a glimpse of the glorious treasures of the royal family, the Silver Pagoda houses a wondrous array of regal memorabilia ranging from ancient swords to jewel-encrusted snuff boxes.
Barely one hour’s ferry ride from the ever-evolving coastal city of Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s tropical islands are an eminently accessible slice of paradise on earth. Whether you’re taking in the sound and splendour of Koh Rong’s night life or swimming through vast schools of fluorescent plankton off the shores of one of the Kingdom’s many islets, Cambodia’s coast offers travellers an enchanting way to relax after long weeks of sightseeing across Southeast Asia.