You may have doubts when planning a trip to Kamboja or Cambodia, thinking that the place offers nothing interesting. The country is still recovering from the past horror reign of Khmer Rouge so it does have some problems of its own, such as poverty, imbalance infrastructure, and even existing land mine. However, you need to admit that the country is very beautiful and it has its own appeal. Besides the natural beauty, the country is known for its temples and historical sites. Are they worth visiting? Even if you aren’t into history or cultural stuff, the trip to this country can provide a lot of exciting learning and experience.
Although the tourist destinations in Cambodia aren’t many – at least when compared to other destinations in Asia – there are some exciting places to visit. If you are travelling with families and loved ones, and you aren’t really into temple exploration, there are some places that you should visit.
1. Koh Kong Exploration
It is often referred to as the sleepy town because it isn’t crowded or noisy as other big cities in Asia. However, this place is perfect if you like the natural setting and you enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. You can find the Tatai River and the waterfalls there. If you come during the dry season, you can enjoy swimming. If you have never been in a boat ride before, make use of this experience. You can take the ride to the fall and it won’t take you an hour to reach the spot. During your trip, you will pass Tatai Villages. When you reach your destination, you can have a picnic lunch, followed by fall swimming and hydro massage. If you want to add a sportier challenge, you can have the kayaks on your way back.
2. Battambang or Phare Circus
Yes, you can watch a circus performance when coming to Kamboja. After all, your kids will love it! It isn’t a circus but more like a performance and combination of modern circus, theatre, dance, and music. They perform many Cambodian legends and stories. If you come to this circus, you are doing a social work without even realizing it. You contribute to Cambodia modern art rebirth, help NGO Phare Ponleu Selpka School, and help the youth with employment provision.
3. Flight of the Gibbon
If you come to Angkor Park, you will see the only zip line known as the Flight of the Gibbon. It provides a huge fun and entertainment for families. For instance, zip lining across the jungle is super fun and exciting. Not to mention that you can enjoy the impressive view from the high canopy. You can also learn about the interesting and unique fauna and flora, especially for gibbon sighting.
4. Ox Riding
Have you ever experienced the ox riding? If you want to know what it’s like to ride the ox cart, then you should have this experience. Go to Kompheim Village, not far from Siem Reap. It takes only 25 minutes to reach the village. The ox cart ride started from that place. Along the way, you can admire the view and the countryside setting, such as the village, the palm trees, the paddy fields, the villages, and the local people. Do you want to learn to ride the cart? You can try it! If you want to go further and experience the countryside activities, you can take part in planting crops or harvesting them, weaving thatch roofs, or rice planting.
5. Cooking Class
If you really like cooking and you want to try Cambodian recipes so you can bring them back home, then the cooking class will be your best option. There are some tour providers that offer this experience and they can arrange the class. The classes generally teach you how to prepare 2 entrees and 2 main courses. Once you are done, you can have a taste of what you have prepared and cooked. Are you a foodie? If you are, then joining the cooking class is a must.
Adventure and Wildlife Destinations
Besides the family retreats, there are also other explorations to try. If you like adventurous trip and get involved with wildlife exploration, then there are some places to go to.
1. Quad Biking
Quad biking is another fun way to explore Cambodia, especially in the countryside. There are some operators that can arrange this activity. You will have a guide with you while exploring the different terrains of Cambodia. If you want to, you can also watch the sunset over the paddy fields. It is definitely an epic experience. Not to mention that you can still stay fit and healthy if you bike during your holiday.
2. Phnom Tamao Wildlife Park
If you visit the park, you can interact with the animals. It takes around an hour to reach the park from Phnom Penh. This park is basically an animal sanctuary to protect the wildlife. Any animals rescued from abusive owners or poachers will be placed in the park – they have a second chance and a better life. They have a special program, known as Free the Bears. Visitors can take a tour that lasts for a day long. You can also see how the animals are taken care of. If you have a long holiday period, you may take part in the volunteer program lasting for a week.
There are several interesting things to find in Kratie, a small town in Mekong River banks. You can find a marketplace there as well as old and antique French colonial buildings. If you are into historical structures and history, you can come to this place. Moreover, if you are lucky, you can see the Irrawaddy dolphins which are getting rare these days. It is sad that their numbers are decreasing from year to year. Unlike other tourist destinations, the place isn’t crowded or busy, but it is perfect if you are looking for fresh air and a peaceful surrounding.
4. Bokor Hill
This is actually a part of historical pieces of Cambodia. Unfortunately, because of the lack of maintenance and care, the building is abandoned and it turns into a spooky site. Bokor Hill Station is located close to Kampot. In the 1920s, the French built it as a retreat. However, in the 1940s, it was abandoned during the Japanese invasion. Again, it was abandoned for the second time during Khmer Rouge’s reign in 1970. Because of it, the building is now becoming an eerie and spooky feel. You aren’t allowed to visit the place on your own. If you are curious about the place, you need to take part in the hiking tours – usually managed by the local operators.
Temples are parts of religious life in Cambodia. There are tons of places to visit if you come to this country. You can learn about their religious aspect as well as cultural influences. So, which temples to visit?
1. Angkor Wat
Who hasn’t heard about Angkor Wat before? This City Temple is a major tourist destination in Cambodia. It is the biggest temple dated back to the 12th century. King Suryavarman II built the temple focusing on beauty and composition. The construction is similar to the traditional temple mountain. In Hinduism, Mount Meru is home for gods and that’s the construction is all about.
2. Silver Pagoda
This place is located in Phnom Penh in the compound of Royal Palace. It is home for many beautiful and indigenous national treasures, like the jewelled god Buddha statues. You can also see the baccarat crystal 17th small Buddha or known as Cambodian Emerald Buddha. There is also the gold life-sized Maitreya Buddha that is adorned with 9,584 diamonds. The courtyard of Silver Pagoda is also interesting. The inside wall is adorned with detailed and colourful Ramayana myth murals, painted by 40 Khmer artists. The time of creation was taking place between 1903 – 1904.
3. Preah Vihear
This Khmer temple is located on Thailand and Cambodia border. It is located on top of Dângrêk Mountain cliff so the view from above is pretty spectacular. The place is unique because you can find some temples built by different kings from the 11th and 12th century. The temple was dedicated to Shiva, one of the Hindu gods. Another interesting thing about the temple is the fact that it has been a dispute subject between Thailand and Cambodia because of the location.
4. Banteay Srei
This temple is actually still a part of the Angkor complex. However, because it is located 25 kilometres away (northeast bound) from the main temple group, it is often considered a separate site. What’s unique is that it was built from red sandstone, which makes the temple unique. Another different thing about the temple is the fact that it was built by Yajnyavahara, a counsellor of King Rajendravarman. Other temples were constructed by kings but not this one.
People always bring home souvenirs whenever they are travelling. They bring home accessories, souvenirs, and items from their trip. There are some shopping options that will provide great fun and pleasure shopping experience.
1. Siem Reap Old Market or Psar Chas
As the oldest market in the city, this market basically has everything. It sells shoes, clothes, Khmer silks, fish and meats, local produce, and also souvenirs. If you are looking for inexpensive items to bring home, this place will be your best bet. This is also a great place to try authentic and signature Cambodian food. A word of advice, though. Avoid buying claimed Angkor old stones because the airport custom will take a hold of it. What’s the use of spending money on things you won’t be able to bring home?
It may not look like your regular shopping mall or even a traditional market, but Battambang is the right place to buy intricate but beautiful wood carvings, Cambodian marble sculptures, and many more. If you want to find sapphires, rubies, and other types of gemstones without spending a fortune, this is also the right place. Just be careful and make sure to do your research before buying anything. The best way to reach the place is with the VIP bus. You should be able to find the route, price, and information at the bus station.
Transportation in Cambodia
Reaching Cambodia is getting easier because more and more access has been available. From the air, for instance, there are 3 airports in Cambodia that receive international flights. You can come to Cambodia (or leave Cambodia) through Sihanoukville International Airport, Siem Reap International Airport, and Phnom Penh International Airport.
The bus is the most affordable way of travelling in Cambodia. Most of the buses have complete facilities (WiFi, video TV, AC, etc) and they are quite comfy and convenient. You can use buses to travel between towns, especially between Phnom Penh and other towns. There are 2 different types of buses in Cambodia: VIP and local. The local or city buses are for short distances while VIP buses are for far destinations. If you travel at nights, it is called night or sleep bus.
There are other types of luxurious and exclusive buses. Giant Ibis Transport, for instance, is the luxury bus that has more facilities although the fare is a bit higher than the regular ones. Another one is Mekong Express Limo Bus that covers Cambodian destinations as well as the cross border service to Vietnam.
What if you want to travel between towns or areas in Kamboja? There are some options to take:
- Trains. Modern train service has just started recently. For now, the route is between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. They are also affordable, like the buses, but they don’t frequently run.
- Tuk-tuk. It is the most popular option for travelling. Not only it is affordable, but you can also hire them the whole day long. If you have a good negotiation skill, use it to haggle with the drivers. Make sure to agree on the rate before taking one.
- Boats. If you want to enjoy sightseeing while enjoying the water and the breeze, the boats can be alternative transportation. There are also some luxury cruises for tourists at Mekong River
- Motodup. This is even a cheaper option for the tuk-tuk. It is basically a motorcycle taxi (it is small) that is perfect for short exploration and journey in towns. Just like tuk-tuk, you need to negotiate about the rate too.
There you go, some of the possible spots for different activities while in Cambodia. The country may not overly busy or crowded, but if you are looking for a peaceful place to contemplate, Kamboja or Cambodia will be the right place.