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Must sees in Cambodia | The lesser known places

Wwhen you Cambodia calls, you often hear the echo of Angkor Wat, Killing Fields and the Khmer Rouge regime back. All very cool; but the kingdom that is between Laos , Thailand, en Vietnam, has much more to offer than that. Tourism is the fastest growing sector in the Asian country. Figures from the Ministry of Tourism from 2019 showed that the number of tourists had increased by 26% compared to the previous year. So it's getting busier and busier. We have listed 5 must-sees in Cambodia that may not be very popular yet, but that you should definitely not miss.

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1. Battambang

This city is the second largest in Cambodia after Phnom Penh. In the quiet capital you will find many influences from the time when France had colonies. Why was Battbambang so important? trade. The city grew considerably during colonization. No croissants or bottles of wine are sold these days, but you can still find the influence of the French. Cobbled streets, typical architecture and here and there some name plates that the local greengrocer probably can't pronounce.

Also read: Travel route Cambodia in 2, 3 or 4 weeks | All must-sees and travel tips

Battambang, must sees Cambodia
Battambang, must sees Cambodia

There isn't much to do in Battambang itself; it's the environment of this dormitory town that makes it worthwhile. There are beautiful temples such as Wat Dhum Rey Sor, Wat Phephittam and Wat Banan. You can also take a ride on a real 'bamboo train' and there are many rice fields to see (Battambang is the rice province of Cambodia for a reason).

Another cool thing to do is the boat trip from Battambang to Siem Reap. The boat sails down the Sangker River and crosses the Tonlé Sap Lake for the last part. The trip can only be done when the water is high, otherwise the boat will get stuck and the travel time will increase from 5 to 10 hours. During this boat trip you will sail past protected wetlands and see the locals.

Tip:: read our blog with the top 10 backpacking destinations in Asia

2. Koh Rong

Cambodia's third largest island gets its name from the word 'Rong', which means tunnel or cave. Locals, on the other hand, say it is seen as 'the island of shelter'. Located 25km off the coast of Sihanoukville, the island has been catching up to become a major tourist attraction since 2000. In our opinion it has all the potential; white beaches, clear blue water and completely surrounded by palm trees. Let's not forget the daily BBQs with fresh fish!

Koh Rong, must sees Cambodia
Koh Rong, must sees Cambodia

Of the 61 km of coastline, 41 km consists of beach. This is perfect for the construction of all new bungalows, hostels, homestays, restaurants and bars. Nice for the economy, less nice for the special feeling of the island. Once you have arrived on Koh Rong you will be told a number of things: support the locals, clean up your mess and beware of infections. It is and remains an island; with a major injury you have to rent a speedboat for further care and that is expensive.

Cambodia
Cambodia

One of the main reasons that more and more people are traveling to Koh Rong is the special nighttime party of fluorescent plankton. This is also called bioluminescence, and is easy to explain for Jan Alleman by the combination of oxygen in the sea and single-celled organisms. As soon as oxygen is dissolved in seawater (by means of movement in the water - the fluttering of your arms), green flashes of light are created. Set your alarm for 2 a.m., hope there isn't too much light and take the plunge. Play back and forth and before you know it your body is lit up by tiny, living lights.

Koh Rong
Koh Rong

Adventurers can have fun with (spear) fishing and kayaking in High Point Rope Park. A Russian diving instructor, working on Koh Rong, was fed up one day that Koh Rong had so little activity to offer. He teamed up with his son and set up a climbing spectacle. Climb like a monkey over obstacles up to 24 meters high and balance like a circus performer on thin planks. On a safe line, of course. The literal highlight is the end point, where you dangle down with a zip line at the maximum height. This gives you a beautiful picture of the island and its surroundings.

3. Kratie

Conveniently and picturesquely located on the Mekong River; yet Kratie is not such an attraction for tourists. With about 38.000 inhabitants, the capital of the province of the same name is especially popular for its large market (which occupies almost the entire city center) and the starting point for spotting the Irrawin dolphin. The latter is something you should do quickly, as there are only about 65-85 of the somewhat silly looking animals left swimming around. These freshwater dolphins are best seen from the river at Kampi, about 20 km from Kratie. Arriving here you can rent a small boat for a few euros and if you pay attention you can enjoy these rare animals for an hour.

A bicycle repair shop in Kratie, Cambodia
A bicycle repair shop in Kratie, Cambodia

4. Sen Monorom

Sen Monorom is the capital of Mondulkiri Province. In the center of the city are two lakes surrounded by mountains, giving the city the nickname 'the Switzerland of Cambodia'. The surrounding region is dominated by beautiful waterfalls and villages where the ancient people live; this makes it an ideal starting point if you want to rest for a while. But of course there is also more to do.

This area is definitely worth a visit because of the Elephant Valley Project. This project gives mahouts (an individual who rides an elephant) the opportunity to bring overworked or injured elephants to this sanctuary and give them a chance to be 'old-fashioned' elephants again. Stamping around and molesting trees without anyone saying anything. People often fear that the elephants are still being ridden. Coordinator Jack Highwood debunks this: “Many elephants in the Mondulkiri region have been treated very badly. They have been beaten, kicked and had to do things they shouldn't be doing. That's why we've set up this reserve so they can get the relaxation they deserve.”

Asian elephant, Cambodia must sees
Asian elephant, Cambodia must sees

For this reason it is also forbidden to ride an elephant in the Elephant Valley Project. So what do you do? You walk through the reserve with the mahout and observe the elephants in their natural state. You will also receive a lesson in culture and ecology. Impressive, animal-friendly and educational at the same time. A good option to keep in mind if you are against animal cruelty but would still like to spend some time with these impressive animals.

Also read: Thailand | 10 Must Sees

5. Kampot

Kampot was replaced in 1959 by (the nowadays popular beach town) Sihanoukville as a major port. As a result, many people moved with them. Due to the French architecture and the fact that the town only has 48.000 inhabitants, there is a wonderful, down-to-earth vibe here. Kampot is the base for scooters roadtrips to the Dâmrei Mountains. Mount Bokor is particularly popular, known for a casino that has been extinct for years, where you can still enter. You can also take a day trip to a privately managed zoo and there are caves and waterfalls nearby.

Bokor casino cambodia

Before the war, Kampot was mainly known for its famous black pepper, which can still be found all over Cambodia. In the thirteenth century, the Chinese already knew that the Kampot province is extremely suitable for growing pepper berries due to its climate and soil types.

A peasant woman in the fields of Cambodia, near Kampot
A peasant woman in the fields of Cambodia, near Kampot

So what do you taste with that black pepper? A blend of blossom, eucalyptus and peppermint. Red pepper gives you an experience of blossom, anise and nuts and white pepper is dominated by citrus fruits. What are you eating this with? White fish, fresh vegetables and red meat. Good town to visit for all foodies.

Finally,

Besides this alternative list of must-sees in Cambodia, do you have any other great tips for fellow world travelers? Or are you looking for a good provider for an unforgettable trip? Then see our favorite Asia experts below.

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