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Northwestern Cambodia

North-western Cambodia is a region of Cambodia and includes the provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap and the part of Stoeng Treng to the west of the Mekong. The region is served by Siem Reap – Angkor International Airport.

Absolute highlight in Northwestern Cambodia is of course the Angkor Wat, one of the world’s great monuments and Cambodia’s biggest draw.

Other sights include the city of Siem Reap, Banteay Chhmar a quiet and remote temple complex with it’s own baray, Koh Ker – the former capital north of Angkor, Preah Vihear – a disputed cliff-hanging temple in the far north bordering Thailand and the
Tonle Sap Lake – the largest freshwater lake in South-east Asia.

The region’s north is lined by the Dangrek Mountains which form a natural barrier with Thailand. To the south is very flat and fertile land which leads towards the great Tonle Sap Lake.

Control of much of this area has often passed between the various regional powers. It is now part of Cambodia thanks to the French, whose sabre rattling forced the Siamese into relinquishing it (along with Battambang) in 1907. The region had been Siamese since 1867, thanks again to the French who gave it (and Battambang) to Siam in exchange for unobstructed French control over the remainder of Cambodia. Before then, a nominally independent Cambodia existed as a vassel state of Siam and Vietnam.

Siem Reap is by far the largest city, Sisophon and Poipet are small towns and Anlong Veng just feels like a large village.

Much of north-western Cambodia is characterized by poverty. Siem Reap province is one of the poorest in the country, despite its valuable temples. Infrastructure construction has been booming, though only since around 2008; this makes many older reported journey times and maps hopeless outdated. Outside the towns, car batteries provide expensive electricity to village homes.

For now, development means only the blazing of asphalt trails through remote areas. The growth of businesses and expanded tourism will surely follow, so make sure to explore off the tourist trail and get a genuine insight into Cambodia’s beautiful struggle.

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