Northwestern Cambodia Travel Guide

While Angkor Wat and Siem Reap draw the lions share of Cambodian tourists, the outer areas of Northwestern Cambodia, which includes some of the former hideouts of the Khmer Rouge, are not yet inundated with visitors. Outside of the Angor area there are many Khmer temples and ruins that are devoid of tourists and ready to be explored at a leisurely pace. Western Cambodia is considered to be the last frontier of Cambodia and the most important agricultural region of the country.

Siem Reap, the home of the Angkor Wat temple complex is by far the top tourist destination. Other popular destinations in include the provinces of Battambang, Oddar Meanchey and Pursat.

Home to roughly 90,000 people, Siem Reap serves as the gateway for exploring Angkor Wat. Regarded as one of the Great Wonders of the World, Angor Wat is one of the world’s most spectacular temple complexes. Angkor was the most important and powerful city and religious center in the Khmer region, serving as its capital for more than 600 years. It’s magnitude and artistic significance is unparalleled.

Along the Thai border is the province of Oddar Meanchey. A strip of casinos and hotels in the border town of Poipet attracts Thais who come across to gamble. There is not much else here to attract visitors. Very much in contrast to the eastern part of Cambodia, this region is flat, consisting of lowlands.

Battambang province also borders Thailand. It is known as the ‘rice bowl of Cambodia’ and is where most of the country’s rice is produced. Agriculture is the biggest contributor to the economy and excellent fruit and vegetables are grown here. Fishing is also important and fresh snakehead fish is a local delicacy. The small border town of Pailin is a good place to buy gems and handicrafts.

South of Battambang is Pursat province. Most visitors pass through Pursat on their way from the south to Battambang or other northern provinces. Agriculture is the main industry here, but Pursat is known for its handicrafts, primarily marble carvings. Pursat is also famous among Cambodians as the location of the tomb of the Khmer hero, Kleang Meung, who died in the battle with the Thais in 1482.

Getting to the western provinces has gotten easier with the growth in tourist traffic to Siem Reap. There are direct flights into Siem Reap from the capital, Phnom Penh, and from Bangkok. Rental cars are available to explore the western part of Cambodia. For those on a shoe-string budget, there are plenty of buses and minivans that ply the roads to the main cities in the west.