Visiting Cambodia is not just about going to new places, it’s about experiencing them. Which is why we’ve put together 5 select experiences that are sure to win a traveller’s heart and interest.
The Magnificent Sunrise At Angkor Wat
Don’t make the mistake of sleeping late on your first day in Siem Reap. Kick off the sheets, fight the last remnants of sleep and step out to explore Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious monument and a UNESCO World Heritage site. You’ll be surprised how many people come out to see the magical sunrise, so make sure you reach the ancient temple complex well in time. Watching the rising sun fill the dark sky with fantastic hues of pinks and oranges is surreal. And seeing the entire scene reflected in the surrounding waters makes for a majestic experience; one that will live on in a traveller’s soul for a long, long time.
Local Foods: Yummy Richness or Yucky Firsts
Whether it’s the fine flavour of Fish Amok, the pleasing freshness of Khmer noodles or the sight of grilled insects, sampling food in Cambodia is an adventure by itself. The locals are quite passionate about their food, and their street food is legendary. Eating it like the locals do, straight off the street stalls, will help you understand why the traditional Khmer cuisine is so special for Cambodians. Sampling versions of the Fish Amok or Khmer Red Curry from both street stalls and upscale restaurants will reveal the variations and local flavours that define the region’s cuisine. If you’re feeling adventurous, try out the exciting (or revolting, depends on how you feel) snacks that include grilled spiders, grasshoppers and other bugs. Apparently, these are high in protein and don’t really taste bad, especially if you have the courage to pop one in your mouth AND actually chew it.
A Chill Down Your Spine At The Killing Fields
Most people don’t know about Cambodia’s dark history. On paper, the horror lasted about four years, but the suffering carried on for many more, continuing long after the dust settled on the road to hell. The famous Killing Fields, where thousands of victims were killed and buried in mass graves, are testament to the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities and the cruelty they brought to this otherwise peaceful land. You have to visit the Killing Fields of Cheoung Ek before you can even begin to understand modern Cambodia.
In 1975, the Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia, and the atrocities began almost immediately. Led by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge moved citizens from Phnom Penh and transferred them to the countryside, where everyone was expected to work for more than 12 excruciating hours a day. There was little food, and disease swept through the country, killing hundreds of thousands. And that wasn’t all. The Khmer Rouge was also responsible for genocide, killing more than 2 million people during their rule, almost a third of Cambodia’s total population. The Killing Fields has now been turned into an educational centre and a shrine, with the bones of the victims’ displayed in a glass building.
The Peacefulness Of A Deserted Island
Koh Rang, the second-largest island of Cambodia, is a beautiful but not-so-popular destination. A 45-minute speedboat ride is all it takes to reach the island, located 25km off the Sihanoukville coast in the Gulf of Thailand. There are paradise beaches, quaint villages, private bungalows and some amazing spots to go snorkelling here. The Cambodian government has plans to turn Koh Rong into the country’s first environmentally planned resort island. But this island is still pretty deserted, with few inhabitants, no roads, cars or traffic, and no electricity for most of the day. Stay here and enjoy the sheer peacefulness of being one with nature.
Surreal Feel Of Walking On Water
If you love water, then this place is for you. Visit Cambodia’s floating villages and meet the locals, who literally live on water, The most common floating villages and popular tourist destinations are Chong Kneas and Kompong Phluk, which are quite close to Siem Reap. However, being popular comes with a disadvantage; these places are usually crowded. So, if you have some extra time and would like an uninterrupted experience of this unique way of life, go to Kompong Khleang. More of a town than a village, this place has managed to retain its authenticity and is still untouched. If you have the resources, choose to stay in the 4-star boutique floating resorts amid virgin forests, rare orchids and fragrant frangipani. Waking up to startling colours and bird call is worth every dollar spent.
Fact File On Cambodia
Location: Cambodia, Asia
Official Language: Khmer
Currency: Cambodian riel
Food & Drinks: Try the Cambodian rice and noodles, accompanied by beer and tarantula cocktail
Time zone: UTC+07:00
Interested in touring Cambodia?
About The Author
Priyanka believes life is an endless collection of new experiences, with a story born every moment. Every time one sets eyes on something new or reviews something with a fresh view, the narrative changes. A marketing & PR professional, she strives to live and share her experiences with food, travel and dance, by penning down her stories, and relive those priceless moments.