Cambodia spins of web of intrigue around the travelers who explore this fascinating country. Take time to get to know the people and their culture and you'll fall under the spell. Be sure not to miss Angor Wat, the country's crown jewel and biggest draw; it's a spectacular examples of the merging of spirituality and symbolism.
In the aftermath of Cambodia's civil war foreign aid groups and governments have poured billions of dollars into the country. Hundreds of nonprofit organizations are working toward a better Cambodia on all fronts: health, environment, safety, women's rights, civil rights, children's rights, economy, education. Many nonprofits run hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies that give a chunk of their earnings to development projects and people in need. It's possible to wine, dine, and shop your way through Cambodia, knowing your money is helping others.
Siem Reap and Angkor Temple Complex
The temples of Angkor constitute one of the world's great ancient sites and Southeast Asia's most impressive archaeological treasure. The massive structures, surrounded by lush tropical forest, are comparable to Central America's Mayan ruins—and far exceed them in size. Angkor Wat is the world's largest religious structure—so large that it's hard to describe its breadth to someone who hasn't seen it. And that's just one temple in a complex of hundreds.
Siem Reap was once a small, provincial town known only for the nearby Angkor ruins. In recent years it has grown tremendously, becoming a tourism hub critical to the Cambodian economy.
It's well worth spinning through the countryside around Siem Reap to get a feel for the way Cambodian farmers and fishermen live. Take a day to tour floating villages, some of the outlying temples, or Kulen Mountain, a sacred place for modern Cambodians, with tremendous views. Naturalists won't be sorry with a trip to see the birdlife at Prek Toal, near Tonle Sap, especially when birds are nesting (November or December). Local guesthouses and tour companies can arrange most trips.
Sihanoukville and Southern Cambodia
The beaches of Sihanoukville are quickly becoming a top Cambodian tourist destination (after Angkor, of course). Much of the country's stunning coastal area remains relatively undiscovered, a natural draw for those who tire of the crowds on neighboring Thai islands. Sihanoukville lies some 230 km (143 mi) southwest of Phnom Penh, a four-hour bus ride from the capital.