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Published: August 16th 2018
Breathtaking sunsets, untouched beaches, unique people, and a rich history are just a few reasons to visit Cambodia. This Southeast Asian nation offers a dry season from November to May that attracts tourists and visitors from around the world. But what makes Cambodia so appealing and what can you expect if you decide to venture to this mysterious and diverse region? Read on to discover the wonders of Cambodia. Rich History and Architecture
If you are fascinated by a region’s rich history, which is found in its people and its architecture, Cambodia will not disappoint. One of the most well-known historical cities in Cambodia is Angkor, which was the capital of the Khmer empire from the 9th to the 15th century. Here you’ll discover Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious monument in the world. Not only is the structure itself breathtaking, but the entire city of Angkor is nestled deep in the thick jungle of Cambodia. Sadly, the gorgeous architecture isn’t the only visible marks of Cambodia’s history. This Asian nation endured a recent stretch of unfathomable hardships and tragedy. From 1975 to 1979, under the rule of Khmer Rouge
, nearly 2 million Cambodians died by means of torture, execution, starvation, and disease. Memorials to remember massacres can be found throughout the nation. You can even visit the killing fields located outside of Phnom Penh or the former Tuol Sleng prison which has been turned into a museum. But you must prepare yourself, the sites are extremely difficult. Untouched Beaches
If you’re a beach bum, the beaches found in Cambodia are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. No lounge chairs, umbrellas, or tiki bars here. Many of Cambodia’s beaches have been untouched, meaning you’ll find natural rock, plenty of sand, and fewer people than many of Thailand’s other beaches. Right now, the beaches of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem are said to be the most isolated and picturesque beaches in Cambodia. The beach of Siem Reap is located near the Angkor ruins. If you’re interested in backpacking or doing additional sightseeing between dips in the water and sunning on land, check out Sihanoukville. Diverse People
One of the greatest ways to experience a specific region is getting to know its people. The native people of Cambodia are welcoming and hospitable. You’ll be surprised to discover how industrious they are and open-minded about other people and cultures. Most Cambodians practice Buddhism. Perhaps the reason behind Cambodian’s generosity is that they know what it’s like to be poor. In fact, Cambodia is still a rather poor country, even though its poverty rate has decreased significantly in recent years. Your experience wouldn’t be complete without getting to know the people and hearing the stories of their past. Many Cambodians live in floating villages
. One of the best places to see the fruits of their labor and get a peek into the history of the Cambodians is at their many markets. Street Markets
At Cambodia’s many street markets you can shop until you drop. They provide the hustle and bustle of a regular street market with the cultural flair of this Asian nation. Whether you’re looking for produce or meats or prefer clothing and shoes, the Cambodian street markets have it all. Products and materials are displayed on large tables but also hang from the ceiling and line the streets. If you don’t enjoy crowds, you may want to skip this experience. The markets are set-up in extremely close quarters with narrow pathways, lots of people, and minimal wiggle room. Natives roam and work these markets so you’ll see first hand how Cambodian’s live and survive by selling their goods and merchandise. This is one of the best ways to experience Cambodian culture first hand. Food and Culture
Cambodian cuisine is unique and diverse. Aside from the foods you’ll buy and see at the street markets, many restaurants offer native dishes that you have to try! Cambodia is all about rich, comfort foods
but most recipes are designed around certain staples like rice. Rice is often served as a side dish, in stews or with curry. Fish is another protein staple in many Cambodian meals. Fish amok is a popular dish and made using white fish, a steamed banana leaf, and coconut cream. It’s both sweet and savory. Cambodians also enjoy other meats including pork and beef. Curry is a familiar flavor associated with Cambodian recipes but other spices and herbs are used to add flavor to both rice and noodle dishes. Major Cities
If you enjoy a busy city life, there are certain areas in Cambodia that you must see. These include Phnom Penh, Kampot, and Kratie.
Phnom Penh is actually the capital of Cambodia and is building in popularity and diversity. Here you’ll discover not only tradition and locals but also a modern vibe and wealth. There are still some less poor areas of Phnom Penh and plenty of tourists. One thing that makes Phnom Penh different than most other cities is its sparsity. Some of this is due to the massacre discussed earlier but the city is on the uprise. If you’re seeking an oasis among the city life, the Mekong River is also found here, which is both historic and home to several waterfront restaurants.
Kampot is located in southern Cambodia along the Preaek Teuk Chhu River. This city offers historic significance in its many museums, including the Kampot Museum, which was once the Governor’s Mansion, but also a wildlife oasis of Preah Monivong Bokor National Park where you can see breathtaking waterfalls, wildlife, and thick, lush forests.
Kratie is the place to visit if you’re looking for a small city with lots to offer. Located in eastern Cambodia, along the Mekong River, you’ll find architecture, temples, museums, and markets aplenty. The sunsets here are breathtaking and you’ll find French inspiration in much of the architecture. Nature lovers rejoice because Kratie is home to many majestic dolphins which you can experience through boat tours and other dolphin watching experiences.
When you think of places to visit, Cambodia may not instantly come to mind. But it should. You’ll be welcomed by the people, see first-hand the destruction this nation has endured, and experience endless wildlife and architectural beauty.
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