Cambodia is a country that has come out of the shadows in recent years and is now one of the must visit places in South East Asia. Boasting everything from busy cities to coastal resorts, Cambodia is home to some truly stunning landscapes, an incredibly diverse culture and breathtaking archaeological sites. A holiday to Cambodia is one like no other and will certainly be one of the best experiences of your life!
Located in central South East Asia, Cambodia borders Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Much of the landscape is dominated by the massive Tonle Sap freshwater lake and the mighty Mekong River, with floodplains and rice paddy fields as far as the eye can see once you leave the urban centres. There are also mountainous areas and jungles a plenty, so if you’re looking to get out into the countryside, there’s a huge range of places to go and things to see.
Cambodia is a tropical country just like most others in the region and experiences frequent monsoons. With a temperature range of about 20 degrees to 40 degrees, you won’t go cold in a hurry. The rainy season in Cambodia runs from May to October and is marked by lower temperatures but much higher humidity. On the flip side, the dry season is from November to April and blisteringly high temperatures are common.
Once kept in the dark by Thailand, Cambodia has become a tourist honey pot in its own right. Much favoured by backpackers and people on gap years or career breaks as part of the South East Asia ‘circuit’, it has something for everyone. The capital Phnom Penh is certainly where most of the action happens, but Siem Reap is the best place for tourists.
Comparatively smaller and more laid back than Phnom Penh, it has the perfect blend of tourist functions and everyday Khmer activities which means even the most unadventurous people can still have a good time. If you’re looking for exotic beaches, Sihanoukville is the place to go, while cities like Kampot or Battambang offer something different to the tourist centres. It’s really up to you how much you want to experience during your holiday as Cambodia has it all.
In terms of culture, Cambodia is as varied as it comes. With influences from India, Laos, Thailand and even France, everything from the cuisine to art, dance and even architecture is diverse and unique at the same time. Famous aspects of note include Apsara dancing, Cambodian boxing, Buddhist pagodas, Tuk Tuks and dragon boat racing on the Tonle Sap Lake. Khmer cuisine is beautiful and relies heavily on fish, rice and spices; the national dish is the Amok curry, while Lok Lak is also a delicious alternative. You’ll certainly see and experience things you never even knew existed, as the country never ceases to surprise.
You can’t go to Cambodia without taking in some of its history. Without doubt the most popular tourist attractions are the temples at Angkor, just outside Siem Reap. The most famous of these is Angkor Wat, but Ta Phrom and Bayon are also a must. Popularised by the Tomb Raider films, the temples are as impressive in real life as they are on the silver screen. The brutal Khmer Rouge regime is also a significant part of Cambodia’s history and there are many museums dedicated to telling the story of this tragic time. From the Killing Fields to the Tuol Sleng (S-21) prison, to really understand the country, you should really check out its past.
Cheap is a word which certainly describes the country and you can certainly get a lot for very little money. It’s possible to eat out every night, stay in top quality hotels and live like royalty for a month on less than $1000. Of course there are a huge number of hostels and cheaper hotels for people looking to save money. You can even pay to use the facilities of luxury hotels such as gyms, spas, swimming pools or restaurants on daily rates which are more than reasonable. Basically Cambodia caters for all sorts of holiday makers, so everyone can have a good time.
Travelling around in Cambodia is a lot of fun, but can be tiring if you’re going a long way due to a lack of good road infrastructure- it’s a ‘3rd world’ country after all. While cars are a luxury for the locals, there are taxis and minibuses available, but the most popular mode of transport is the Tuk Tuk- a motorbike with a trailer attached. Quick and cheap, you’ll find yourself using them more often than not. Of course walking is also possible, but you may want to avoid it after dark, especially if you’re not in the main tourist destinations. Taking a ferry journey on the Tonle Sap is also an option during the rainy season when the lake is full.
There are no direct flights to Cambodia from the UK, so you’ll have to stop over in places like Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok and then go Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Total journey times can range from 13 hours to 21 hours depending on where you fly to; it really is a long haul, but is totally worth the wait!
If you’re looking for a holiday that’ll broaden your horizons and amaze you in every way possible, go to Cambodia. From beautiful scenery to incredible diverse culture and historical sites that’ll blow your mind, it’s a must visit destination. Whether you’re going there as part of the SE Asia circuit or taking time out to explore the country properly, you’ll have the best time of your life in Cambodia!