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Abandoned Pepsi factory
When the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975, things went wrong very fast. Those who could escape did that, leaving whatever behind, and the Pepsi bottling plant in Battambang is such a leftover. One day the Khmer people were enjoying a cold Pepsi, and the next day everything was banned. The national bank was blown up and the elite was killed in a foolish attempt to make Cambodia a self-supplying Maoist state. Today the Pepsi plant with its faded logo still stands with piles of old bottles inside. You might have to ask the caretaker to open the otherwise locked building. Why the building hasn't been sold off is a mystery to us, but in the meantime it is possible to visit a Pepsi bottling plant which has not made Pepsi for more than 35 years.
9km from the Vietnamese border
Angkaul Beach is so new on the travel map that neither locals nor travellers have figured it out yet. It is still just a sleepy fisher village among coconut palms and a beautiful natural coast line only broken by more coconut palms. The beach isn't particularly mind blowing, just a narrow strip of sand mixed with grass, sea weed and garbage from the ocean, but it is pretty idyllic and tranquil with locals drying starfishes in the sun and cheeky kids playing in the water. There is no official accommodation yet but one entrepreneur lady has put up the first beach cafe consisting of a few hammocks and a menu offering coconuts and sea food.
Ta Prohm temple, Angkor
Carved on a pillar on the inside of the wall at the ancient Angkor temple Ta Prohm (built in the late 12th century), this strange animal stands out. Most schoolkids will recognise this as a stegosaurus, a dinosaur that has gone extinct a long time ago even by Angkor standards. There have been many speculations about it, and beside the biblical creation explanation and doubts about the carving's authenticity, the going belief is that it's a Sumatran rhinoceros depicted against jungle leaves (sorry to spoil the mystery). When done with the crypto-zoology, take a glance at the temple. Ta Prohm is famous as the Jungle Temple since the early restorations left its untouched with it walls crumpled by huge serpent-like roots of the towering silk cotton trees.
7 km from Siem Reap
Once covered by the jungle and rarely visited, the temple area of Angkor is now part of the beaten track in Southeast Asia, but for a good reason. These magnificent temples were once the centre of the mighty Khmer kingdom (ninth century to the fifteenth century A.D.) and the main temple Angkor Wat is considered the world's largest religious complex. Remember to read up on Hindu mythology to get a chance to understand its outstanding bas-reliefs or just be impressed by the grand scale. Split your explore time equally between the big ones; Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon (picture) and the minor ones; Preah Khan, Neak Pean, and Preah Ko, which lack in scale but win in tranquillity. If your time permits, add some sites that are a drive out of the way, like Banteay Srei, Kbal Spean and Beng Mealea.
A bamboo train, also called a norry in Khmer, is a bamboo platform with two sets of detachable wheels and a lawn mower engine. Bamboo trains were used by the local people for bringing their goods to and from the market in Battambang, but these days it is mostly tourists who are taking an expensive joy ride through the jungle. There is only one track, so when two trains meet the one with the least passengers is offloaded, pulled apart and taken off the rails so the other train can pass. The procedure can sound like a lot of hassle but can be done in seconds, which is probably also necessary in the case of a real train coming, which was at some point running on the same line. We are not quite sure if the 20 odd minutes roller coaster ride classify as a "classic train journey" but train buffs should definitely try this unique Cambodian train experience.
25 km northeast of Angkor Wat
Banteay Srei is a rather small temple compared to Angkor Wat and Bayon, but what a fine one it is. All the surfaces are elaborately decorated with some of the finest carvings from the Angkorian times. The name Banteay Srei means "citadel of women", probably referring to its small size and fine details. It was built in the 10th-century (about 200 years before Angkor Wat), not by one of the Angkor kings but by a counsellor to the king. It was dedicated to the Hindu god of Shiva, which also characterizes the carvings.
Luckily, Banteay Srei lies quite far from the main temple group, so even with all its splendor, it sees less tourists and can even be deserted at times, which only adds to its appeal.
Though Battambang is Cambodia's second largest city, it isn't big in any way. It is nicely located along Sangker river and very easy going. Beside the well-stocked central market (think fruit bonanza), Battambang doesn't boast many sights inside town but there are many just a tuk-tuk drive away, including serene Angkor-period temples, the Killing Caves from the Khmer Rouge period, and rural villages. The town and countryside are littered with pagodas where the monks usually are eager to practice their few English phrases. Battambang is just one of those places, like Kampot, where you easily end up spending more time than planned.
Preah Ang Thom, Phnom Kulen
On top of Phnom Kulen sits Preah Ang Thom, a 16th century Buddhist monastery famous for its giant reclining Buddha, one of Cambodiaâ€™s largest. The Buddha is carved into the top of the huge sandstone boulder upon which the temple is built. The view from up there is equally magnificent.
Bokor Hill Station
Bokor mountain in Preah Monivong National Park
To escape the tropical heat of the low land, the French built an elaborated hill retreat in 1921 at the top of Bokor mountain, deep in the Cambodian jungle. At 1062 m, the weather here is chilly with clouds rolling in, probably giving the French colonists a flavour of their Alps. The hill station consisted of a catholic church, post office, and the flashy Grand Bokor Palace Hotel & Casino with a ball hall and gambling rooms. The hill station was first abandoned in 1940 and later in 1972 when the Khmer Rouge took power of the area. During the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, the Khmer Rouge withdraw to the jungle and kept Bokor Hill Station as a stronghold, which was still under Khmer Rouge control until the 1990s. Today you can join a tour to visit the ghost town. The company of Sokimex (yes, same company who owns all the gas stations and the entrance to Angkor Wat) has magically gained a 99-years-lease of Bokor Mountain and is now building another 5-stars resort and casino.
Crater lake of Yeak Lom
4km outside Ban Lung
Boeng Yeak Lom is a pristine volcanic crater lake created some 700.000 years ago. It is a popular picnic spot for locals, and a refreshing dip into the clear, warm water can be done from one of the wooden platforms along its shore. The lake has a perfect round shape and though the information sign boosts its size to about 800 m in diameter and 50 m deep, it seems smaller. The crater rim is just a lush hill, and not an actual volcanic cone as some might expect. Boeng Yeak Lom is a refreshing sight in an otherwise dusty region.