Best outdoor activities in Cambodia


Best outdoor activities in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country of contrasts where the ancient world meets modernity. As a successor state to the Khmer empire, which ruled much of what is now Laos, Thailand and Vietnam during the Angkorian period, Cambodia inherited grandiose temples, like the magnificent monuments of Angkor, which are unparalleled in Southeast Asia. Angkor Wat stands as one of the most exquisite sites in the world, accentuating Khmer genius.
But Cambodia's appeal goes beyond its temples. There's a sublime mystique to the Southeast Asian country's urban areas. While capital Phnom Penh boasts a dazzling riverside setting, top-class dining, and cultural scene, Siem Reap is renown for its cosmopolitan cafes and colourful nightlife.
When you've experienced the urban delights, it's time to explore all that Cambodia's countryside has to offer, among rice paddies and sugar palms. While the South Coast boasts tropical islands, inland you'll come across the Cardamom Mountains, which constitutes part of a massive tropical wilderness. Northeast lie wild mountainous seas where you'll find some of Cambodia's ethnic minorities and a rich wildlife.
Although Cambodia is booming with top-class outdoor activities, here are some you wouldn't want to miss out on:
Elephant Valley Project
A pioneering project in Mondulkiri, this is a 1600-hectare sanctuary that welcomes overworked or injured elephants in the area. Given its popularity, you need to book ahead for either a half or a whole day.
The project encourages mahouts to bring their elephants by paying them a competitive working wage. Then the elephants are retired to the forest or ecotourism. Mahouts are allowed to continue working with their elephants, feeding and looking after them, while the elephants can spend their days scouring the forest for food or playing by river, spraying mud on one another. You won't be able to ride an elephant here, but instead you'll be able to observe them in their natural habitat.
Virachey National Park
Stretching for 3325 sq km east to Vietnam, north to Laos and west to Stung Treng Province, this park is one of the largest protected areas in Cambodia. With a program aimed at involving and benefitting local minority communities, Virachey boasts one of the best ecotourism schemes in Cambodia, with a focus on small-scale culture, nature and adventure trekking.
Thanks to this thoroughly organised programme, all treks into the park must be arranged through the Virachey National Park Eco-Tourism Information Centre in Ban Lung. There is a large range of treks to choose from, varying from one to eight days, and they are offered in English. The most popular of them all consists of an eight-day, seven-night Phnom Veal Thom Wilderness Trek, which is priced at US$236-413 depending on the number of trekkers. The package includes transport by motorcycle cab ride to the trailhead, park admission, food, guides, porters, hammocks and boat transport.
Phnom Chhnork: Cave in Kampot (photo)
Located a short walk from Wat Ang Sdok, you'll come across Phnom Chhnork, a Hindu cave temple in Kampot Province, southern Cambodia. From the bottom of Phnom Chhnork, you climb up a 203-step staircase that leads you up to the hillside and down into a cavern magnificently shaped like a Gothic cathedral. The ephemeral appearance of the cavern is not limited to its exterior but it continues on the inside with a stalactite elephant, and a second elephant outlined on the flat cliff face to the right.
The main chamber houses a 7th-century brick structure dedicated to Shiva. Despite being created in the olden days during the Funan era, the temple is still in great condition.


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