After many years cut off from the rest of the world, Cambodia has today opened its doors to travellers. This is certainly lucky for visitors, who are treated to a stunning country with a fascinating history and warm, friendly people.
Like most travellers, I first landed in Siem Reap. This is one of Cambodia’s largest cities, and perhaps the most famous given its proximity to the beautiful Angkor Wat. Just one of many ancient temples in the area, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, and was built in the 12th Century during the Angkor Empire.
The site is absolutely beautiful, and the fact that it is still a significant religious site for many Cambodians, including monks with their flowing orange robes, makes it even more moving. Nearby, other temples including the Bayon with its many stone faces, and overgrown Ta Prohm (of Tomb Raider fame) are also well worth visiting. If you get a chance, though, some of the temples further afield can be even more fun as they are far less crowded – Ta Nei and Banteay Samre are two of my favourites.
Given how popular Siem Reap has become with tourists, there are now many other attractions as well. Aside from some great restaurants and market shopping, there is also a moving landmine museum, as well as many artisans selling beautiful, genuine products. Scenteurs D’Angkor is a particular treat, with its luxurious beauty products!
Moving away from Siem Reap, the next stop for many travellers is the capital, Phnom Penh. This is a busy, polluted city where you need to be careful crossing the road! Nonetheless, it has some great restaurants and shopping. In addition, this is the place to learn about Cambodia’s somber history, at the Genocide Museum, Tuol Sleng (or S-21), or at the Killing Fields. Both pay their respects to the tragic Khmer Rouge era where millions of Cambodians lost their lives, and are extremely moving sites.
Another popular area with tourists is Sihanoukville, a beachside town with a very relaxed feel. Sihanoukville, or ‘Snooky’ to some, has a very different vibe than the rest of Cambodia, and caters mostly to backpackers and diving enthusiasts.
Other destinations in Cambodia are yet to be discovered by the tourist crowds, but that is what makes them so enticing! From eating seafood in laidback Kep, to hiking in remote and mountainous Mondulkiri or spotting Irawaddy dolphins in Kratie, there are so many places in Cambodia just waiting to become your secret getaway!