It’s the early 12th century and Khmer workers carry at least 5 million tons of sandstone over 25 miles to the site of Angkor Wat. Not only that, Cambodia’s national monument is then built with precise angles, perfect symmetry, exquisite bas relief and towering 20 metre high domes, the epicentre of a city roughly the size of Berlin. Quite an achievement and a visit here is on many a bucket list. Come for the Temples at Angkor certainly, but leave having lived a hundred other unforgettable experiences.
Don’t let the perception of low season fool you. Many are put off by the wet months May to September, but this is actually a great time to visit. The rains come for usually only a couple of hours in the late afternoon, bringing a lushness to jungles, washing the temples clean, and dealing with the dust and heat of the earlier part of the year. You’ll find cheaper accommodation, transport and tours, plus bargaining in the markets is easier too!
Colonial buildings, golden palaces, the Mekong waterfront, rooftop bar scene and great people watching, Phnom Penh is full of surprises. When the afternoon showers do come, you’ll never be short of another wat, museum or cocktail lounge to help pass the time. Don’t miss the stunning silver pagoda in the magnificent Royal Palace complex, where the floor is covered in 5,000 glittering silver tiles each weighing over a kilo. Less appealing, but no less worthwhile is a visit to pay your respects at Tuol Sleng and The Killing Fields, sites of Khmer Rouge atrocities of the 1970s.
Temples of Angkor
Low season is a great time to visit the amazing ruins without the peak crowds. Admire the sheer size of the structures, the intricate bas relief, expressions on the huge stone faces. The ruins stretch over more than 154 square miles and new sites are being discovered all the time. Don’t underestimate the size of Angkor visiting only a few of the most famous temples. Instead take your time and you’ll be delighted to find yourself the only one at some of the more obscure corners. One of our favourites, off the main circuits is The River of a Thousand Lingas with its carvings of Hindu mythology and historical and spiritual significance.
South Coast Islands
Lying on the western edge of the Gulf of Thailand, the Khmer coastline is beautiful with unspoilt beaches of white sand and warm clear seas. Stay a while in your perfect hideaway after your Cambodian adventures. Watch the sunrise from your hammock, eat fresh fruits and barbecued fish, dive, sail or indulge in luxury spa treatments. A range of accommodation is available from beach huts through good mid-range options to stunning exclusive resorts, all offering good off-peak rates. Those after a rustic experience should check out Koh Rong Samloem. At the other end of the scale Alila Villas on Koh Russey and Six Senses Koh Krabey are easily accessible year-round due to their close proximity to mainland and have been designed with an eye on sustainability using local natural products and sensitivity to the local environment.