While most western visitors to Cambodia keep to the well-trodden path between the capital of Phnom Penh and the Angkor Wat World Heritage Site at Siem Reap, Cambodia’s southern coastline, though much shorter than the coasts of neighbors Thailand and Vietnam, offers many striking experiences and local flavor.
Small but happening, the town of Kampot is a great base of operations. Rent a moto and head toward Vietnam to the beach resort of Kep and sample some eats at its famous crab market before taking a hike through Kep National Park. Or court lady luck at the peculiar Ha Tien Vegas Resort, which lies in the no-man’s land between the borders of Cambodia and Vietnam.
For scenery or a slice of Cambodian life, take a day trip to hike to the top of one of many limestone vistas, like the one pictured above, which at one time was home to a massive cement plant. Hop a boat up the Kampot River (actually an estuary) or head downstream out into the gulf. If you want to get the muscles working, local guides can offer no shortage of scenic jungle hikes, or rent a bicycle and try to tackle the road up the Bokor plateau.
If southeastern Cambodia is a little too sleepy for your tastes, head west to the beach milieu of Sihanoukville, which, depending on where you go in town, features some of the country’s most striking grime and glamor.
A number of buses run from Phnom Penh daily to Kampot, Kep and Sihanoukville. The trip to Kampot and Kep tends to be much more pleasant than the high traffic highway to Sihanoukville. Either way, a minibus will typically get you to your destination faster and more comfortably than one of the big buses for just a few dollars more.