According to H.E. Dr. Thong Khon, Minister of the Ministry of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the amazing “Kingdom of Wonder” is heavily banking on the ever-growing capital Phnom Penh with the competitive slogan “Clean City, Clean Resort, Good Service and Best Hospitality.”
Actually, Phnom Penh has its gateway international airport some 9km west of the city center. Arriving passengers, who mostly fly in directly from China, are usually quite quickly processed through immigration, where is a functioning visa-on-arrival service. Taxi rides will cost around 10 dollars into the city and there is no need to pay in local currency. Other international airports in the country are in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, so that Cambodia was already welcoming now more than 7 million tourist arrivals in 2019 with more to come in 2020.
Located at the banks of the Tonle Sap and the Mekong River, sending its huge delta region into Viet Nam, Phnom Penh is booming day by day and boasts a myriad of attractions such as its riverfront Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda, the remarkable Independence Monument, where stands within a park the King Norodom Sihanouk Statue, the important National Museum built in classical Khmer architecture, Wat Phnom as the significant spiritual center of the city and the newly opened Safari World Phnom Penh. There are also some outlying attractions such as Koh Dach, the silk island, Udong Mountain, featuring the old royal residence from the 17th to19th centuries, Kampong Luong, the Khmer silversmith village and Phnom Tamao Zoo & Wildlife Rescue Centre. The Angkorian era Ta Phrom Temple is a convenient 30km southward excursion from Phnom Penh and is situated close to the large Tonle Bati Lake, where not far away within Kandal Province Phnom Penh’s second international airport will be built soon.
For tourists, who will not go to the most prominent sites of Siem Reap Angkor in the north and to the seaside port city of Sihanoukville in the south, there are enough modern shopping places in Phnom Penh to spend the time such as the Russian Market (Phsar Toul Tom Pong), the centrally located Central Market (Phsar Thmey), the Sorya Center, the new Aeon Mall, City Mall and Sovanna Shopping Center. In the evenings, the riverside along Sisowath Quay offers some enjoyable riverside cruises along the Mekong River, some even with dinner included. Restaurants and beer bars abound. For accommodation, there are the impressive complexes of Naga World 1 and 2, which are connected by a subterranean walkway, and other luxury hotels such as the Cambodiana, Himawari, Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Rosewood Phnom Penh, and Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel among others.
What is to do in the upcoming surge of more and more tourists to visit the country, Cambodia has to diversify its myriad of tourism products and plans to develop new destinations. That is why there are plans to include the cities of Battambang, Kratie and Kampot as new UNESCO World Heritage Sites and it has to be seen when this will be happen.
With Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap in 1992, Preah Vihear Temple at the Thai-Cambodian border in 2008 and Sambor Prei Kuk in Kampong Thom in 2017, it will be a high boon for Cambodia to support the proclamation of Battambang, Kratie and Kampot in the near future by UNESCO.
Kampot is an old former French colonial town, which has a lot of buildings to preserve. It is the capital of a charming province commonly visited as an entrance to the Bokor National Park, the beaches of Kep, waterfalls, caves and some other attractions of Southern Cambodia. The big market in the middle of the city, which has an old station at the southern railway line, is very interesting to explore and where you get the best quality of seafood and pepper. A new port will be built outside the town to connect to the island of Phu Quoc in Viet Nam and to Thailand further in the west.
Kratie is a small former colonial town, which is located along the mighty Mekong River in the northeastern part of Cambodia. It is the capital of a relatively remote province with one of the best places to visit for observing the rare Mekong River dolphins. The best spot to watch the dolphins is at Kampi village, 15km north from downtown. Another attraction is the 100-pillar pagoda at Sambor district, a one hour drive away on the way to Stung Treng and to the Lao border. The ancient pagoda no longer exits, but there is now a reconstructed modern temple, which is a popular pilgrimage center. Kratie is also popular for bird watching.
Battambang, located at the northern railway line, is one of the kingdom’s most populated cities and is set on fertile alluvial soil west of the Tonle Sap Lake in the northwestern part of Cambodia. The province is well-known as the rice bowl of the country, and fish as well as valuable minerals abound. The central market is the center of trade and commerce surrounded by many colonial houses, which give Battambang its characteristic charm. Places of interest in the city include 11th century Baset Temple, Wat Ek and Prasat Banan. Also in the province is Phnom Sampov, which is famous for its breathtaking panoramic sceneries, natural wells and a Buddhist sanctuary.
Furthermore, Cambodia with its 15 million inhabitants will be never short of additional attractions to discover and has a great potential with its fresh and delicious food and Khmer cuisine to be one of the last paradises on earth. The best time to travel will be during the water festival in October/November and the New Year time during April.
Written by : Reinhard Hohler