1. Angkor Wat Temple
You will always remember your first glimpse of Angkor Wat. It is simply staggering, matched by very few other spots on the planet. Angkor Wat is, according to its builders, heaven on earth, being the earthly representation of Mt Meru, home to ancient Hindu Gods. Relish your first steps towards the temple. It's a spine-tingling moment as you emerge onto the inner causeway; a moment of awe, one which will rarely be felt again. Angkor Wat is one of the best preserved temples in the archeological park and still in use today by the local Khmers. Thought to be the world's largest religious building, it is certainly the mother of all temples and, quite simply, unique.
2. Tonle Sap Lake
Being the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia, Tonle Sap dominates the map of Cambodia and is well worth a visit. The chide attraction are the many stilted villages that dot the lakeshore. An afternoon visit to the lake makes a refreshing break from the temple laden area around the quaint town of Siem Reap. Similar to the floating villages of Halong Bay in Vietnam, the main source of income for the inhabitants is fishing, but tourism is slowly beginning to provide an alternative source of income for the locals with new improvements in schools and clinics. For the hardy, you can stay overnight on the lake, but in rather rustic accommodation! Twitchers are also attracted to the lake, with Prek Toal Biosphere Reserve nearby, home to numerous species of water birds.
Battambang is an ode to French Imperial colonialism lying in the heart of rural rice producing Cambodia. The city is a little gem that you will love, which is odd as there is really not that much to do in the city itself! Most of the excitement lies outside, focusing on the infamous Bamboo Railway, which shuttles everything from rice, livestock and people down a short narrow track. The short train ride on a small wooden bench is a true life in your hands, stomach churning journey as you crash through dense jungle undergrowth, whizz over rickety bridges and scuttle past green paddy fields. In town, the incredibly well preserved colonial architecture, the riverside setting and the laid-back cafes all make Battambang one of the coolest cities in Indochina. Cheery locals create the perfect blend of urban modernity and small-town friendliness.
A few days in Cambodia's premier coastal town, after the rigours of temple viewing, will leave you relaxed and ready to brave the world again. The town has some of the best beaches in the country with warm turquoise waters lapping white sandy beaches. If this is not chilled enough for you, then spend some a few days on Bamboo Island. A leisurely boat ride will bring you to a near deserted island with just a couple of small resorts, a few restaurants and a handful of bars. For those looking for more nightlife, Sihanoukville has a few Las Vegas style casinos to get the adrenaline pumping, with high rollers flying in from all corners of Asia to play against the house.
5. Tuol Sleng and Cheong Ek
Cambodia's tragic past can be viewed in the sombre surroundings of the Killing Fields of Cheong Ek and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The Cambodians have done an incredible job in coming to terms and learning from their recent horrific past and the memorials are a testament to this. Between 1975 and 1978 about 17,000 men, women and children were executed and buried here in mass graves. Both sites should be visited with a guide, who can tell stories by those who survived the Khmer Rouge. At Tuol Sleng you can meet and hear stories from one of the few survivors from this detention centre. It's a sombre, heart wrenching tour but one you have to experience to fully understand Cambodia.