To most people the Kingdom of Cambodia means the world famous Angkor temple complex, but Cambodia is so much more than temples, as our Director of Sales, Ian Woods, found out on his last visit there. We asked Ian for a few tips, and here’s what he had to say:
What advice would you give to someone visiting Cambodia?
If you planned to come to Cambodia just for a few days then think again. Visiting the Angkor temples is a must, of course, but don’t stop there. Venture further afield and you can discover a whole different world of deserted beaches, offshore islands, national parks and wild jungle.
Where can you go to avoid the crowds?
About 3 to 4 hours drive from Phnom Penh lies Kampot, a sleepy riverside town. My favourite hotel is the very inexpensive Natural Bungalows; the rooms are basic but are authentic to their surroundings. The incredibly helpful staff arranged a boat to take me along the river past fishing boats and tiny villages. Then in the evening I relaxed on the wooden deck of the open air restaurant built over the river, sipping an ice cold Angkor beer and watching the sun set behind the Elephant Mountains.
Where would you recommend for a romantic holiday?
I would say Nataya Coral Bay and Resort on Coral Beach, about 6km out of Kampot. It’s a little off the beaten track and is the perfect place for taking romantic walks along the long, white-sand beach. There is a stunning infinity pool, but you can’t beat swimming in the sea off the end of the 300m-long pier. The rooms are beautifully furnished and some even come with outdoor showers, all adding to the romantic experience. If you can drag yourself away from the resort, venture out into the countryside and immerse yourself in the local life among rice paddies, traditional stilted houses and water buffalo.
In your opinion, what is the best kept secret in Cambodia?
Undoubtedly, the beach resort of Kep – once the favourite resort of Cambodia’s elite and home to beautiful villas, until the serenity was smashed by decades of Cambodian fighting. Knai Bang Chatt Hotel was one such beachside villa that has been lovingly renovated into a luxury 11-room, high-end resort boasting stunning minimalist architecture. The restaurant is a former fisherman’s house with a pier that serves western and Khmer food. As for breakfast – fresh bread, pastries, tropical fruit and strong coffee along with amazing seaviews – the perfect way to start a day.
What else can you do there?
The surrounding area is fascinating. Rabbit Island offers a back to basics beach experience where you can lie in a hammock sipping fresh coconut juice. I also took a Jeep tour up the ragged road to the tragically beautiful ruins of Bokor Hill Station with its ghost town containing relics of a 1930’s resort. Then in the evening try the Crab Market, a collection of rickety but clean beachfront sheds that serve freshly caught steamed crab, the best I’ve ever tasted.