The country of Cambodia has gone through so much war and heartbreak but now it is one of the most popular tourist hotspots in Asia. Cambodia, or Campuchia as the locals call it, is famous for Angkor Wat, Pol Pot and Angelina Jolie adopting what seems like all of her children from there, but this beautiful country has so much to offer beyond these things.
What to do:
The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda – Cambodia is a Kingdom and therefore has Royals. Even though their living quarters are closed to the public, you can roam the grounds of the palace and see the extravagant buildings covered with gold and engravings.
Wat Phnom – Right in the middle of a round-about and at the top of a hill is a temple to visit. The temple is not very noteworthy however if you want to meet some locals, the park surrounding is a great place to walk around/relax in. Just watch out for the monkeys.
S21/Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – When you see the lovely and smiling people of Cambodia you would never think they had gone through a history (and this is recent 1970s history) like when the Khmer Rogue regime were in power. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a place of memories, reflection and tears for so many. It was an ex-high school turned secret prison/execution centre of more than 20,000 people and is now a site of original buildings full of photographs, cells and bed frames.
Choeung Ek Memorial/The Killing Fields – An eery place that is a bit of a drive out of town. This is also part of the Khmer Rogue history. It was an execution centre and had mass graves. Today you can walk around the fields and remember the people who lost their lives. Some of the mass graves have still not been excavated. There is also a main monument that stands tall in the middle of the field as a memorial.
FCC at sunset – Head to the Foreign Correspondents Club (where travellers, journalists and aid workers have gathered and swapped tales for years) just before the sun starts to set, get a cocktail and watch the sun set over the Tonle Sap River.
Friends or Romdeng Restaurant – Both are training restaurants for young Cambodian adults. The restaurant serves delicious food and drink all cooked and served by trainees who have been taken off the street and are now learning a new skill. Friends is very popular (especially lunch time) but Romdeng is great for a fancy dinner.
What to do:
Temples – The town of Siem Reap was built up around the ancient temples so it tends to be the most popular thing to do in the area. We recommend getting the three day temple pass in order to experience (and have time) to see some of the best on offer. Below are some of our favourites.
Angkor Wat – The most famous of them all. Best at sunrise (enter through the eastern gate instead of the main and go behind the temple and around to the front to the pond). The sandstone buildings have magificant carvings throughout them as well as small shrines. A great temple to start your experience.
Bayon Temple – The temple of the smiling Buddhas. This temple is a great one to explore. The faces of Buddha heads on each stupa make you feel very serene.
Photo by Kip Wheeler
Terrace of the Elephants and the terrance of the Leper King – A long skinny temple with larger carvings of animals.
Banteay Srei – The most intricate and detailed temple of them all. It is a smaller temple but absolutely spectacular and very well preserved.
Photos by Dave Hardy
Ta Phrom – The “Tomb Raider” temple, famous now from the movie. This temple is best for exploring just as the sun starts to set as the reflections and light given off through the trees is fantastic.
Tonle Sap Lake – One of the largest lakes in the South East Asian region, it has multiple floating villages living on it. As they are floating they move with the rainy season and the flow of water in the lake. About 45 minutes drive on a yuk tuk, hire a boat when you get out there to go exploring through the village. It is a once in a lifetime eye opener.
Photo by Kip Wheeler
Old Market – In the centre of town you will find the old market filled with lots of goodies. One of the most popular things to buy here is silver!
Night Market – In the evenings, the night market has all you could ever want from a market however the twist with this night market is it has been planned with the tourist in mind and the area is very clean and comfortable for doing all your shopping needs. Prices can be a little bit higher though.
Pub Street – Full of restaurants and bars this is the place to come for food. There is an array of plenty. One of our favourites is Khmer Kitchen.
Blue Pumpkin – Great for coffee, snacks, ice cream and lunch. Go up stairs to the air-conditioning!