As far as luck goes, Cambodia has had a shortage of it for the past couple of centuries. After the mighty Khmer empire fell to invaders, the French took control of the country in the 19th century only to have civil war issue in the terrible reign of Khmer Rouge that left deep scars in the country. While Cambodia is a county that is still culturally on the mend, its past has not had its toll on its unspeakable natural beauty. With white sand beaches and untainted, unexplored jungle, Cambodia remains a country for the adventurer.
Mondulkiri is one of Cambodia's most wild and sparsely populated regions. Dotted with rolling hills, jungles, waterfalls and valleys, Mondulkiri is particularly renowned for its abundance of wildlife. Some of Cambodia's most endangered species live within these wilds including leopards, water buffalo and elephants. What few people that do call Mondulkiri home belong to the Bunong minority group. These people still value their ancient traditions including the hunting and gathering of their own food. This region is perfect for those that seek to view some of Cambodia's most traditional villages as well as seek a chance to view an elephant in its native habitat. The cool climate and stunning scenery also make it a must for avid hikers.
Kratie is a small town that sits on the crossroads between the land routes to northeastern Cambodia and southern Laos. Nestled along the banks of the Mekong River, Kratie is a place of somewhat decaying colonial grandeur. Dominated by a central marketplace, visitors who move further into the city will be treated to old French colonial buildings and beyond that, endless nature. Although famous as the home of the Mekong's best sunsets, most visitors to Kratie come for a rare glimpse at the freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins that live in ever-diminishing numbers in the Mekong River. It is estimated that there are only 60 to 80 of these dolphins left in the entire world, so many visitors are not lucky enough to spot them.
Tonle Sap Lake
As the largest freshwater lake in Cambodia, Tonle Sap Lake is not only an attraction for visitors, but critical to the way of life for most Cambodians in the area. The lake is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site primarily due to its unique flora and fauna. However, visitors expecting a series of cuddly creatures to live here will be sorely out of luck. The waters of Tonle Sap protect giant catfish ranging up to 300 kg, crocodiles and hundreds of species of turtles. The biggest draw for visitors is to catch a boat out to the lake's iconic floating villages that move around with the rise and fall of the waters.
Ream National Park
Located 20 kilometres north of the legendary beaches and resorts of Sihanoukville, Ream National Park protects hundreds of kilometres of natural beauty. Within it's boundaries, visitors can explore two islands, mangrove forests, tumbling waterfalls and an abundance of coral reefs off the shore. With more than 200 native bird species that call the park home, including endangered species like the white-bellied sea eagle and the Brahminy kite, this is the perfect destination for animal lovers. Like many of Cambodia's best natural attractions, Ream National Park faces constant threats from developers.
While Cambodia can seem like a country made up of waterfalls, there are none grander than Popokvil. Located in Bokor National Park, the Popokvil Waterfall tumbles down from above in two tiers that grow larger and more ferocious when fueled by the rainy season. While the surrounding rainforest has been slightly marred by the construction of a huge casino on the hill summit, the area still manages to hold onto its natural beauty. The waterfall takes its name from a Khmer expression that means 'swirling clouds', which is considered a reference to the ever-present mist that surrounds the falls.
Virachey National Park
Virachey National Park is a place that is so wild and undisturbed that it has not even been completely explored yet. Some parts of the park can be difficult to access, but it remains one of the few untainted places in Cambodia. Exploring the park can be difficult to arrange, but the park rangers do frequently lead tours through the explored areas. One of the biggest highlights is to visit the set that was used for Colonel Kurtz's jungle camp in Apocalypse Now, which stands as one of the few times Virachey has been touched by outsiders.
Koh Rong is easily one of the most beautiful islands nestled within the Gulf of Thailand. Its white sands and turquoise waters can easily go toe-to-toe with the natural beauty of neighbouring Thailand's legendary islands. In the evening, lucky visitors might be able to catch a glimpse of the haunting illumination of bio-luminescent plankton in the water while the island's interior jungles are flush with wildlife of their own. While visitors can spend days trekking the jungles and exploring the waters, the most popular activity for any visitor is to sit back and relax on the beach.
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