Cambodia, whose empire was the largest in Southeast Asia during the 12th century, is home to the famous Angkor Wat. Despite the country’s painful history that involved the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia continues to pull itself together and revive its nation.
About 2 million people from around the globe visit Cambodia each year to see the majestic Angkor architecture. However, the country is more than just its past.
There’s never a bad time to explore Cambodia. But if you want to go there when the weather is at its coolest, traveling from November through February is recommended. Here are 6 reasons to visit Cambodia now.
1. Ancient cities of Angkor
Being the largest religious monument ever built, Angkor Wat is a must-see attraction in Cambodia. But that’s not the only thing Cambodians are proud about.
The whole ancient city of Angkor, which is surrounded by a thick jungle, is what represents the Khmer people’s cultural identity. From the 9th to 15th century, Angkor served as the Khmer empire’s capital.
When you’re there, take a look at Angkor’s finely crafted buildings. They’re so perfectly constructed that Angkor was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. 216 massive stone heads can be found at Angkor Thom while sprawling tree roots are visible on monuments at Ta Prohm.
2. Beautiful beaches to rival the usual suspects
In Southeast Asia, many travelers go to Thailand and the Philippines to unwind. The beaches there are undeniably beautiful. But did you know that Cambodia has wonderful beaches too?
Go to the less-traveled Koh Rong, Koh Rong Samloem, Koh Thmei Beach, or Sokha Beach. Any beach lover will surely appreciate the less-cramped beaches in Cambodia where they can enjoy soft white sand, stunning ocean view, picturesque sunsets, peaceful surroundings, and wonderful snorkeling options.
3. Down-to-earth Cambodians
Cambodia may be a very poor country, but its people are rich at heart. During my visit to the country, I’ve met many kind, generous, and hospitable Cambodians.
I had the opportunity to share insightful conversations with the owner of the hotel where I was staying. The two tuk-tuk Cambodian drivers I met along the way have also helped me when I was facing some troubles during my trip.
I’ve learned that many Cambodian youths (especially in Phnom Penh) are just as curious as everybody else in the world, and like many others, they want to improve their lives and the economy of their country.
When you visit Cambodia, walk along the Phnom Penh riverfront and hang around there to meet friendly locals who’d love to share a story or two.
4. Reminders of a painful, dark past
Once you’ve learned about Cambodia’s painful history, you’ll have a deeper respect for the tenacity Cambodians display as they struggle to heal from this dark past.
Many Cambodians died from starvation, abuse, and execution during the Khmer Rouge — almost two million of them. After the fall of the regime (1975 to 1979), historical sites such as the Killing Fields, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum as well as monuments are conserved in remembering all those who were forcefully taken away from their families, tortured, and left to die. These places will take you back in time.
Be mentally ready when you’re there, as the experience is going to be excruciating to the heart.
5. The pulsating capital city of Phnom Penh
There are many interesting attractions that you can visit in Phnom Penh, such as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Killing Fields, the Royal Palace, and other historical Khmer monuments. The city, which is Cambodia’s capital city, isn’t big after all. Which means you can go anywhere by tuk-tuk for prices less than $4. To enjoy good bargains, shop at the Central and Russian Market.
Before nightfall, take a stroll around the city’s riverfront (which is within walking distance from the city center) where you can catch a glimpse of beautiful sunsets, and meet warm and friendly Cambodians. After that, head off to the nearby restaurants for dinner.
6. Khmer cuisine – from steamed fish to deep-fried tarantulas
Stroll around the streets of Cambodia and you’ll likely come across bizarre snacks such as snakes, tarantulas, and crickets sold almost everywhere. Don’t fret! They’re not the only ones the locals consider as delicacies.
If these snacks are not to your liking, there are plenty of other delicious Khmer dishes you can enjoy. What’s great about them is they’re typically prepared with fresh ingredients.
In Cambodia, street food is dirt cheap. Prices of local dishes are not expensive either. The most famous Khmer food is fish amok which features fresh white fish steamed in a banana leaf with coconut milk. Cambodians also love their legendary Kampot pepper (one of the best peppers in the world) which they use in perfecting their squid and crab dishes.
Have all these 6 reasons convinced you to visit Cambodia? Stay tuned for my next article where I’ll be sharing about fun things you can in Cambodia. Till then, enjoy your travels!