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Friday, February 18, 2011

Cambodia: Uncrowded Jewel of Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia has always been a popular destination for adventure-seeking travelers who want to experience something a little out of the ordinary. Tourists have streamed to countries like Thailand or Vietnam. But this year, make Cambodia your spot for exploration in a relatively uncrowded world.

What's There

Cambodia boasts much of the same lush scenery as other Southeast Asian countries. Coastal areas are home to beautiful beaches that aren't as touristy. Verdant rainforests spread over the landscape. The Cardamom Mountains are considered a natural resource, with ample wildlife habitat. The Mekong River is an impressive scenic wonder that begins in China and cuts through Cambodia.

For history-conscious wanderers, Angkor Wat is a must-see. It was built in the 12th century. The ancient site of Angkor was built by the Khmer civilization. More than 100 impressive stone temples survive and are a testament to human ingenuity and imagination.

Many people recommend that visitors take time to experience the countryside of Cambodia. Seemingly endless rice paddies are cultivated by the people. Visiting the rural areas rather than sticking to the urban centers such as Phnom Penh can be a way to connect with the rich and vibrant country.

Why Visit Now

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its citizens struggle to survive amidst extreme poverty and depression. It is one of the contrasts of this beautiful country. Among such lush scenery and historical importance is a struggling country. However, tourism is beginning to boom in Cambodia. After decades of war, Cambodians are welcoming tourists. It is a boost to the country's economy. Eco-tourism is getting some play, as various people attempt to preserve the country's resources.

Currently, the United States dollar is equal to more than 4000 riels. Thus, Americans can expect a fairly good exchange rate (though it is less than many European countries). In addition, dollars are widely accepted. In fact, visa fees must be paid in U.S. dollars. This makes it convenient for American travelers.

High-end hotels in Cambodia offer very competitive rates. I saw recommended 3-star hotels for as low as $29 a night. Resorts and spas could be obtained for less than $100 a night. Flights run expensive, expect to pay over $1000 for flights from the West Coast to Phnom Penh.

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