Speak to any traveler who has been to Cambodia, and I will guarantee you if it is not their favorite South East Asian country, it will be very near the top of there list.
Friendly and far from being a tourist trap, Cambodia is a perfect place for any traveler, from first timers to the experienced. I love Cambodia. I visited the country on my first solo backpacking trip and immediately fell in love with primary culture and ease of the country.
Here are seven reasons why I love Cambodia and you will too
1. It is easy to get too
You can cross the border from Thailand by land or plane. I flew as the flight from Phuket to Siem Reap was surprisingly similar to the cost of making the journey by bus or train and a fraction of the time. It is a visa on arrival so have a passport photo and USD20 with you (There is a cash machine at the airport).
2. The weather is perfect
Just like Thailand November to February is the peak time to visit Cambodia. The monsoons are over, and the temperatures are at their lowest 27-32 degrees Celsius (any hotter is too hot, trust me).
3. There is so much to do
Just outside Siem Reap, this is without a doubt the highlight of this country and source of immense national pride. I am not going to lie; I am not huge temple fan, I like to have a look around but get bored after a while. He thought of getting up at 4 am to see the sunrise and then look around a temple was not my first choice of morning activity, but I could not come all the way to Cambodia and not do this. I am glad I did, they are incredible. Not just Angkor Wat itself but the many other temples. The movie, Lara Croft Tomb Raider, was filmed at Ta Prohm (The jungle temple famous for the trees growing through the architecture) and Bayon. Famous for the multiple stone faces built into the temple. Angkor Wat is the most touristy part of the country but not overwhelmingly so.
The Genocide Museum and the killing fields
Capital Phnom Penh a good place to learn about the horrific genocide that took place in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 in which one and a half to three million people were killed. This is very educational but be prepared to cry and leaving with a lot to think about.
Markets and floating villages
Kompong Khleang is home to about 1800 families, about 6000 people altogether. Stilt houses as far as the eye can see. Including schools, clinics, and everything the community needs. The village moves along the river to Tonlé Sap Lake during the dry season.
If you have the money the Cambodian Military will let you loose on some of their weapons including machine guns to rocket launchers.
Relaxing on beautiful beaches
To find the best beaches in Cambodia head on down to Sihanoukville and its islands, Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloen (I love these places). Cambodia has some of the most amazing beaches I have seen.
4. Epic nightlife
The nightlife in Phnom Penh, Siam Reap, and Sihanoukville are fantastic. Beers can be as cheap as $0.25! Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville is a backpacker’s party paradise. Along with the famous Pub Street in Siam Reap. You will lose your flip-flops, and you will feel awful the next day, but the parties are amazing!
5. The Cambodian people
The Cambodian people are so friendly and welcoming. Unlike tourist weary Thailand, these people are genuinely interested in the visitors to their country. Practically every day a young Khmer boy or girl comes to sit and talk to me, to practice their English ask about where I was from. We had amazing conversations about One Direction and Nicki Minaj. The 10-year-olds definitely had the same taste in music as me! They thought I was cool. YAY.
Poverty and the scars and landmines left behind from the 1970’s creates enormous hardship for these people, but they shine through with hope, kindness and humility. It truly is awesome!
6. It is cheap and easy to get around
Food is cheap. Alcohol is cheap. Accommodation is cheap. Massages are cheap. The markets are cheap. It makes Thailand feel expensive.
Buses are cheap. I did an overnight bus from Siam Reap to Sihanoukville for 10USD. Beware though; the buses rarely leave before they are full. Our 8 pm departure did not leave until 11 pm!
You can get around on foot in the towns, but Tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis are everywhere if you need them.
7. Cambodia is still Cambodia.
The best this about Cambodia is that it has not been ruined but visitors or westernization, however the feel you are in a third-world country is slowly fading with the number of tourists, especially Americans.
They even use the US Dollar as the main currency in Cambodia. It is dispensed by all the ATMs (be sure to call them ATMs, no one will understand you if you are sure English like me and call them ‘cash machines’).
So there you have it. Easy, cheap, friendly, and fun. Now you have no excuse not to go and fall in love with Cambodia!
About the Author
In December 2013, 31 year old Brit Sally quit her job as a sales and marketing manager to go off and explore the world. She loves animals, parties getting a good deal or bargain. She writes about her cheap adventures around the world on her blog sallyaroundtheworld.
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