From compelling “royalty” to contemporary chic – from its somber temples to its throbbing vitality of life that is its people – Cambodia remains an indefatigable tourists’ delight. A place widely endorsed for its temples can surprise visitors with its unmistakable urban charm as well. Food, ecotourism activities and a chance to get up close with the real asset of this country – i.e. its people—as a tourist, you know that when you have stepped in this Southeast Asian country you have a treasure trove of “experiences” to unfold! And, as they say – when you are traveling spend not on the things but the experiences. If your travel goals are governed by similar sensibilities then set out for Cambodia right away!
Often touted as an enigmatic kingdom, Cambodia’s unrivaled charm is often attributed to its people. If you are planning a trip there, do know for a fact that besides its edifices, architecture, upcountry adventures and urban vibes—you will “take back its people with you” as well. Still grappling with a history of poverty, bloodshed and political instability, the Cambodians have the sweetest smiles and the warmest gestures to offer you. Leaving Cambodia, you will just not be able to deny your affection for its people. Documented below is our sincere effort towards unraveling the Southeast Asian gem in all its glory—and- of course - in its vulnerability as far as its immense “emotional” possibilities are concerned.
Do make sure you are going through the post in a bid to be duly guided regarding the experiences you can expect there.
Alternately known as the Kingdom of Cambodia or Kampuchea, Cambodia is a country which is located right on the southern part of the Indo-China Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Spanning an area of more than 180,000 square kilometers, Cambodia is surrounded by leading Asian nations like Vietnam (east), Thailand (northwest), Gulf of Thailand (southwest) and Laos (northeast). Phnom Penh serves as its capital. It is also the largest city in the country doubling up as its cultural, economic and political center.
In a country with a population of 15 million, Theravada Buddhism emerges as the dominant religion practiced by 95% of the people residing here. The Chinese, Vietnamese and Chams make for the country’s minority groups.
The country has an eventful history shaping its current political and economic milieu as well. As a constitutional monarchy, it is headed by Norodom Sihamoni- the monarch. The Royal Throne Council is in charge of appointing the monarch. The head of the government is the Prime Minister. The beginning of the Khmer Empire can be traced back to 802 AD when Jayavarman II declared himself as the king and took it upon himself to unite the warring Khmer princes under the name Kambuja. The Khmer Empire actually went on to reign for more than 600 years.
For a long period of time, Cambodia was ruled by neighbors as a vassal state and it was only in the year 1953 that the country gained independence. Cambodia, notably, has been one of the victims of the Vietnam War (yes the impact reached here as well). The US kept on bombing the country for a prolonged period from 1969 to 1973.
Attractions & activities
Cambodia is largely about its temples. Often dubbed as the Empire of Temples – the country is actually a confounding but enjoyable amalgam of temples and remnants of the mighty Khmer empire. Angkor Wat – the leading point of interest in Cambodia—is a thumping statement of the architectural supremacy so infallibly associated with the aforementioned empire.
Beng Mealea, on the other hand, serves as the overgrown remnant of an ancient temple. Tonle Sap is a must visit since it offers you access to diverse attractions like fishing, lakes, rivers and of course temples. The traces of Indianized rule are best borne by the Preah Vihear Temple. It is described by travelers as a well-preserved Hindu Temple. The National Museum of Cambodia offers you the glimpse the ancient Khmer art.
For substantial upcountry adventures, do make sure that you are exploring Cambodia’s rural scene without fail. What’s in store for you? A mesmerizing mix of rice and sugar fields! The Cardamom Mountains – lying inland—make for an unmistakable part of tropical wasteland – serving as the home to the country’s precious wildlife.
When you are in the country, you know that there is virtually no dearth of attractions to explore. Beyond its rural setting and temples, make sure you are not missing out on the urban vibes that the country has in the offing for you. To get that unmistakable taste, make sure you’re actually taking a well-rounded tour of Phnom Penh itself. From its priceless riverside settings, a vibrant dining scene to its uber-chic cafes and pulsating nightlife – the capital has everything for mass tourism to flourish.
Food & culture
A heady mix of diverse gastronomic delights, vibrant cultures and highly refined art and architecture—expect your exploits in Cambodia to be nothing short of “phenomenal”.
Cambodian cuisine as is expected is much like what is served in its neighboring countries like Thailand and Indonesia. Some of the leading dishes served in Cambodia include.
a very interesting preparation fried in banana leaves and served with steamed rice and fresh green vegetables
one of the most popular among them being Mee Kola
it is an authentic Cambodian herb and spice based paste
Notably fermented sauces and spices are an integral part of the Cambodian dishes. Khmer dishes are particularly known to distinguish between ingredients based on paste and pickle. Mam is the general term designated for fermented ingredients derived from all aquatic animals.
Cambodian culture is largely governed by its religion. You can well imagine that with the Khmers at the helm of things for so many years, they did end up shaping its culture in a major way. Everything starting from the country’s art and architecture to its cultural inclinations – bears strong instances of the Khmer influences. Do look for them on the Cambodian houses, temples or even the basic courtyards.
Quite interestingly the unrushed rhythm of Cambodian life is best exemplified by its dances and music. There was a time when classical dance forms of Cambodia that were mainly restricted to the courts of the royal palaces. With the passage of time – however – they started attaining global significance.
Cost & living expenses
What about the pocket-pinch? What is the kind of money that you should keep aside for a trip to Cambodia? If you are traveling often then it’s quite clear that you have your separate travel budget – may be separate savings for the same. As you sit down to calculate your expenses in this regard, we look forward to helping you in your attempts.
Documented below is the average cost of a comprehensive Cambodia trip. If you are looking at budget travel then opt for low-cost accommodation. Let us tell you that if you are planning your tour properly, then you have a substantial avenue to save. It’s not too expensive and you will definitely have your chances to save a few bucks here and there. While it is impossible to state exact costs since they are subject to periodic fluctuation – a look at the average will tell you that a trip to Cambodia will not really break your bank.
If you are opting for really low-cost travel plan, you can well go about spending only around $12 a day with the exception of Angkor Wat. For those with mid-level budget plans, be prepared to shell out something around $15 to $30 per day on an average. With this plan, you can expect to indulge in a lot of activities that of course include drinking as well.
As in 2017, 1 US dollar is equal to 4000 Riel or KHR. Most of the hotels in Cambodia deal mostly into dollars. A medium range accommodation option will cost you something around $15 on an average. If you are looking for a double fan room for two then you can expect to spend something around $4 to $5. Double air-conditioned rooms cost you something around $8.
Motorcycle tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis and buses are the primary modes of transport available there. Do expect to shell out a dollar for a 1km ride on motorcycle taxis. A 7-hour journey (approx) can cost you something around $10. Tuk-tuk rides are reasonable as well. Keep 5 to 6 US dollars aside for food every day. The pocket pinch will definitely vary with the number of dishes you are taking. You can avail both street and restaurant food there.
Best time and seasons to visit
If you are planning a visit to Cambodia soon, then we would definitely ask you to schedule it sometime during November to March. May to October is the time when you can actually escape the vagaries that come with peak seasons. No crowds. No need to struggle when it comes to finding affordable accommodation.
As far as the seasons are concerned—irrespective of which part of Cambodia you are traveling to—expect the seasons to be divided largely between “wet” and “dry”. The temperatures remain something around 20 degree Celsius all the year round making the country generally warm --- temperatures do not really plummet below 20 degree Celsius.
There are so many travelers out there who commit the mistake of not acquainting themselves with the seasonal influence of the place they are visiting. Do not commit this mistake. The climate of the place should actually be integral to your research. It is so important on your end to ensure that you are not dismissing it as an inconsequential inclusion.
What are the things that you should not miss out on when you are actually in Cambodia? Make sure your dream vacation is not ruined by your lack of research. A visit to Angkor Wat is a must. We have already provided you a heads-up of the other temples above.
Besides the ones already mentioned above, you should go on to explore places like Choeung Ek, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Independence Monument and Banteay Srei. Cheuk Ek takes you back to the gory history of the Khmer rule. The highly publicized killings of the Khmer Rouge actually took place in these fields.
The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh remains one of the most revered landmarks of Cambodia and you will actually understand why it’s so once you step foot on it. Standing tall as an enduring manifestation of supreme architectural refinement, the Royal Palace has gone on to the floor every visitor with equal aplomb.
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a museum which belonged to the Khmer rouge prison. Wat Phnom remains the hilltop Buddhist temple complex with substantial historical significance.
Besides exploring the aforementioned attractions, make sure you are actually leaving no stone unturned to participate in Cambodia’s active night-life and rural exploits like fishing. The rice and sugar fields – we can assure you – are as alluring as the classy urban vibes general by the capital city.
With all its temples, Cambodia generally reminds you of Thailand and Laos. When it comes to the rice or paddy fields, do not be surprised if you are immediately transported to the Ubud village in Bali – known for similar beauteous scenes.
Cambodia wrapped in all its scenic beauty and historic struggles serve as a wondrous escape for tourists. Make sure that you are keeping this write-up as your go-to research document while you are planning a trip to Cambodia. Hopefully, the points mentioned here will eventually help you make an informed decision about significant nuances like food, accommodation and intercity transport.
Consult other such informative resources to be duly acquainted with other important nuances before stepping out. Cambodia does offer you a lot in terms of scenic beauty, history and adventure. Do not rule this out from your bucket list. You will miss out on a significant part of Asia if you are actually doing so!