Gaining in strength from ninth century, the Khmer Empire became the most important realm in Southeast Asia during the twelfth century encompassing what is now modern day Cambodia and Laos. The legacy of this great civilisation remains today with a vast collection of temples at the empire’s capital, Angkor, north of Cambodia’s current capital, Phnom Penh. Centuries later, Cambodia became a protectorate of France from 1863 until 1953 and Laos was also protected by France between 1893 and 1954. Today both countries exert a feeling of calm with locals openly welcoming visitors to their special countries.
Cambodia has a tropical climate with generally warm weather year round. The mercury peaks in April with an average of 35 degrees. The coolest months are between October and December where the air temperature hovers around 30 degrees. October is the wettest month with January being the driest month. Luang Prabang in Laos is cooler than Cambodia with June being the hottest month at 20 degrees.
The Cambodians celebrate their history during the Angkor Festival held from November to December with poetry, music and dance. The water festival features boat racing on the Mekong River and Tonle Sap in Phnom Penh. In January the Laotians celebrate Khoun Khao to honour the harvest.
There are no direct flights from Australia to Phnom Penh. All airlines fly via a third city and generally take around 10 hours in travelling time. Airlines that fly from Australia include:
For flights to Laos, Singapore Airlines flies to Vientiane via Singapore and Bangkok.
There are six border crossing points between Cambodia and Thailand, and eight border crossings between Laos and Thailand. You can also cross the border between Vietnam and Cambodia, and between Laos and Cambodia. Between Laos and Vietnam there are six border crossings.
Phnom Penh, Vientiane and Siem Reap, the service town for Angkor, all feature luxury accommodation options to make your visit to the region comfortable. With stunning French colonial architecture, consider the Settha Palace Hotel in Vientiane, Raffles Le Royal an elegant choice in Phnom Penh or the Sokha Angkor Resort sitting proudly in Siem Reap.
To find out more about the range of holiday accommodation available with Travel Associates call 1800 017 849 or enquire online.
Sights to See
The number one attraction in Cambodia is the ruins of Angkor, with the centrepiece being the mesmerising Angkor Wat. At its height, the Khmer Empire stretched across much of modern day Thailand, Laos and Cambodia and their capital reflects this glory. The intricate artistry, the astonishing engineering accomplishment and overall placement of the temples create an impressive traveller experience. Highlight structures include Bayon, Baphuon and Banteay Srey.
Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh offers fascinating attractions including the Royal Palace, which boasts stunning pagodas and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The National Museum of Cambodia contains many artefacts from Angkor and Wat Phnom. Stroll along the river for a pleasant way to end a day’s sightseeing.
In Vientiane, the capital of Laos, make sure you check out the Victory Gate or Patuxai and the numerous temples around the city including Wat Si Saket, Haw Pha Kaew and Pha That Luang. The picturesque town Luang Prabang, north of the capital, is fast becoming a must visit destination for its serenity, tranquillity and the opportunity to experience a slice of authentic Laotian life. When in the region, consider visiting the Pak Ou Caves.
Don't leave home without...
Sunscreen and insect repellent are available but are generally more expensive than bringing these from Australia.
Extra fully-charged camera batteries are a good idea when you’re exploring the ancient ruins of Angkor.
When eating food with chopsticks, never stick the utensils vertically into a bowl of rice. According to local customs they resemble incense sticks associated with the death. Also don’t use the chopsticks to move bowls or plates; they’re purely for delivering food from the bowl to your mouth.
Temples remain sacred to the locals throughout the region. Show your respect by dressing modestly when visiting the temples.
Things to be careful of…
Unexploded landmines, remnants of the Vietnam War, remain on the Laotian/Vietnamese and Cambodian/Vietnamese border. Never venture away from paved roads.
Stay on the side of caution and don’t discuss politics or the government with the locals.
Stick to bottled water