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2 8 Phnom Penh Ss441439348 James Merluzzi 72

Cambodia is perhaps the most beguiling of all the countries of Southeast Asia. Long associated with the brutal Khmer Rouge, the country has risen above its blood-tinted history to finally take its place as one of the region’s pre-eminent tourist destinations.

Home to a truly rich mix of travel experiences from ancient monuments and powdery beaches to remote ethnic minority villages and city life, Cambodia never fails to excite the senses.

Ancient Cambodia produced one of world’s greatest civilizations at Angkor. But Angkor Wat is merely one temple lying at the heart of a thousand others. The capital, Phnom Penh, retains the sort of landscape most travellers dream of: a skyline punctuated by spires, turrets and pinnacles of royal and religious origin rather than by office blocks.

Further south is Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s most popular beach-side town, characterized by long, palm-fringed beaches, comfy deckchairs and gentle, lapping waters. More adventurous souls will be impressed by the outlying islands, which provide the perfect backdrop for snorkelling, diving or fishing trips. Decrepit colonial ruins scattered through a Garden of Eden landscape make Kep the real gem of the south, however. Infinitely more low key than Sihanoukville, the small coastal town, with its blossoming flowers, trees laden with fruit and freshly cooked crab speciality, is truly a slice of paradise.

In stark contrast to the laid-back beaches are the northeastern provinces. Here, tracts of red earth cut through hills, carpeted in jungle and speckled with the thatched huts that are home to a miscellany of minority groups. Elephant rides are the call of the day around Sen Monorom, while those looking for adventure in Ban Lung won’t be disappointed by the waterfalls, boat rides and the stunning, bottle-green waters of Yaek Lom Lake.

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