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A country located in South-East Asia, Cambodia is small but unique country and has so much to offer. There are many stunning places in South-East Asia that you should visit, and Cambodia should be the one on the top of your traveling bucket list. You may ask why choose this relatively small country over other more developed countries in the South-East Asia. There are thousands of reasons why that you make you interest in visiting Cambodia and here are 10 main reasons why you should visit Cambodia and will surely convince you to visit Cambodia for your next trip.
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Angkor Wat — Siem Reap
The largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat is one of Cambodia’s treasures and archaeological gems. It is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. Angkor Wat attracts millions of tourists every year, and the temple literally make people go wow. When you visit Cambodia, Angkor Wat is must-see site. Angkor Wat was built in the first half of the 12th century in the reign of King Suryavarman II, which dedicated to Hindu religion. Angkor Wat occupies a rectangular area of approximately 208 hectares (500 acres). It was built to the model the universe, tallest tower of Angkor Wat represented Mount Meru. Bas reliefs that were carved on the wall in the temple featuring a lot of legendary stories, which includes the Battle of Kurukshetra, the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, wars between the Khmers and its enemies etc, offer you insights into the extraordinary history of Khmer Empire. Furthermore, there are a lot of sculptures, devatas and statues, which are the symbols of Hinduism.
The central tower of Angkor is 699 feet high, which makes it the perfect spot to admire the sunrise. I recommend you to rise early in order to enjoy the most breath-taking sunrise of your life. Angkor Wat and other temples in Cambodia are one of the main reasons you should visit Cambodia and it is going to give you unforgettable experiences.
Angkor Thom (Bayon) — Siem Reap
Angkor Thom, also known as Bayon, is a part of the Angkor city, which was located in the exact center of the royal city during Angkor era. It is the last capital of the Khmer Empire. Massive stone walls are surrounding the temple and there are four different gates for each direction. A long causeway leading to each entry is flanked by a row of 54 stone figures on each side. Right side of the stone figures represents demons and left side represents gods. The stone figures represent the mythical beings guarding the city of Angkor Thom. Bayon consists of 54 towers, and each tower consists of four faces carved into the sides. I recommend to visit Angkor Thom temple in the morning due to its eastward orientation. However, the temple looks equally good in the late afternoon.
Royal Palace Phnom Penh
There are a lot of historical sites to visit in Cambodia regardless of city or province. Even in Phnom Penh which is a modern city, you can find some historical sites to visit as well. Royal Palace is the official residence of the current king of Cambodia, His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni. It is a 153 years old palace. the inspiration of this design comes from traditional Khmer architecture.
A number of pavilions inside the Royal Palace, such as the Throne Hall, Moonlight Pavilion, Phochani Pavilion and Silver Pagoda give you an insight into Cambodian culture and history. Moreover, you get an opportunity to see different valuable royal jewelry and clothing and other treasury of Cambodia. You can visit the Royal Palace in the daytime to enjoy the beauty of it, and in the evening you can hangout in front of the Royal Palace, enjoy the river breeze and witness the beauty of the Royal Palace with decorated light from the outside.
Just a little bit away from the big cities, you will find nature cover most of the parts of Cambodia. Some ancient temples are hidden in the nature, some waterfalls are hidden in the forest, therefore you need to step out of your comfort zone and be adventurous to explore the beauty of nature in Cambodia. Nature in the Angkorland is also the main reason to visit Cambodia.
Prey Korng Kang — Koh Kong
Prey Korng Kang is the mangrove forest, it is one of the most popular natural attraction sites in South-west province of Cambodia, Koh Kong. This forest in Koh Kong province is one of the most extensive mangrove areas of South-east Asia. The Forest is approximately 7 kilometers from Koh Kong city. You can walk through the mangrove forest or ride a boat. You can visit a traditional fishing village and buy fresh fish when visiting the Prey Korng Kang. While visiting Prey Korng Kang, you get an opportunity to hike as well. At the end of the walking path in the Prey Korng Kang, there is a pedestrian bridge. There, you can climb up the 15 meters high tower to enjoy the magnificent view of the Prey Korng Kang.
Bou Sra Waterfall — Mondolkiri
Bou Sra Waterfall is one of Cambodia’s most impressive falls. It is a triple-drop waterfall, which is located in the eastern of Sen Monorom city, Mondolkiri province. There are three stages of the Bou Sra Waterfall. First stage of the waterfall is 8 to 12 meters high and 15 meters wide. Second stage of Bou Sra is 15 to 20 meters high and 20 meters wide. The third stage of Bou Sra waterfall is hidden in the thick forest and it is the area of dangerous wildlife inhabits. The waterfall is very popular among the locals and tourists for bathing and picnic. Some snacks are available at the falls. You can go cycling and hiking around the Bou Sra waterfall as well, but please be careful since the forest is dense and the road is tough and small and sometimes there is no marked path at all.
Preah Monivong National Park — Kampot
There are many national parks in Cambodia. Preah Monivong Park, Virachey National Park, Kep National park and Kirirom National park are some of the well-known national parks in Cambodia. You must at least visit one of the national parks when visiting Cambodia. The most popular national park among all is Preah Monivong Park or known as Bokor National Park, it is located in Bokor Mountain, Kampot province. The park consists of jungles, waterfalls and fresh mountain streams. You can get to the top of Bokor Mountain by a motorbike, and the journey can take around an hour and a half or two hours. Bokor was established by the French as a hill station in 1925. Therefore on the top of the Mount Bokor, you see some French architecture, such as an old casino and a Catholic Church.
There is a waterfall known as Popokvil (swirling clouds) Waterfall, which should be visited during the rainy season. You can take a walk in the thick, green forest, but please be careful to not get lost. Preah Monivong National Park is also home to rare animals such as the Indian elephant and the Asiatic black bear. On the top of the mountain, the stunning view of the ocean and forest from 3,00 feet is something you do not want to miss. The climate at the top of the mountain can be very cool during the morning and the evening, and especially when it gets misty. Accommodation is offered in the form of hotels and tents.
Delicious Traditional Khmer food
When you visit Cambodia, you must try the local cuisine to explore the flavours of Cambodia. The food experience that you get after a visit in Cambodia will forever mark a place in your heart. Every meal serves with rice. There is a wide variety of rice, such as jasmine rice, brown rice and white rice. Cambodian food contains a lot of ingredients like bananas, limes, and lemongrass. Moreover, in order to enhance the flavor of dishes, Cambodians use spices and herbs when cooking.
- Fish Amok is Cambodia’s most famous dish. It is sweet fish curry that has coconut milk, basil, mint, lemongrass and other ingredients. The dish is always presented in a banana leaf bowl. You will find FIsh Amok on menus of every Khmer restaurants all around Cambodia from low-end to high-end restaurants.
- Somlor Korko is a traditional soup dish, which is often considered as one of Cambodia’s national dishes. This dish consists of many Cambodian spices, such as ginger, lemongrass, turmeric and a lot of vegetables, including papaya, banana, eggplant etc.
- Prohok is a fermented fish paste, which is used as a salty flavoring of many Cambodian meals. The smell of Prohok might be unbearable, but you will like Prohok more and more. It is just like eating durians. The smell of it is not so good, but you just can not stop eating it after one bite.
Cambodians are famous for their friendliness. The people of Cambodia are very kind, generous and hospitable.The abundance of warm welcome and smile impress every visitors. Despite the dark period people faced in the 1970s, Cambodians united and emerged stronger as a whole. They tend to greet visitors with a warm hospitality. You can find the gentle nature of Cambodians in every Cambodians, from tuk tuk drivers, tour guides, and even passersby on the street. In the countryside where the pace of life is slower, Cambodians are always ready to help you and make you feel like home.
The Capital city and nightlife
When you visit Cambodia, it is vital to visit the heart of Cambodia. The capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh city is full of contrast, between tradition and modernity. Phnom Penh is a fast-paced city, but it is less busy compared to neighbor’s cities like Bangkok and Hanoi. People in Phnom Penh city keep up with the fast pace of life, but they also know how to slow down and enjoy life as well. Traditional Khmer architecture as well as French colonial architecture enchant the city of Phnom Penh.
There are several places to see in Phnom Penh, including the Royal Palace – the residence of King Norodom Sihanouk, king of Cambodia, Wat Phnom – the iconic symbol of Phnom Penh city, Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, which are in memorable of the darkness of Cambodia in 1970s and National Museum of Phnom Penh – which stores thousands of treasures of Cambodia.
In spite of the fact that Phnom Penh is so peaceful during the day, when the night comes, Phnom Penh becomes so liveable. There are many choices when it comes to enjoying nightlife in Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh’s nightlife has changed over the years with more choices added every year. Many sky bars like Eclipse, Vehaa, Lumiere are available for visitors who want to chill with great cocktails. You can enjoy the night view of Phnom Penh when visiting a skybar. If you want to entertain yourself in more energetic ways, you can go clubbing, Sound club and Epic club are the most famous clubs for locals. Additionally, you can visit Street 136, which is one of Phnom Penh’s hostess bar streets.
The Beautiful Beach
There are four provinces in Cambodia that are located along the ocean, which are Sihanoukville, Kampot, Kep and Koh Kong. Different from most of the beaches in the world, most of Cambodia’s beaches remain untouched and maintain it authenticity. Except that fact that Sihanoukville province has been rapidly developing in the last few years, Kampot, Kep and Koh Kong still maintain its authenticity and offer you the “white sand blue sea”. Beside that, Cambodia does have a lot of remote and untouched islands where you can enjoy the peace, lay your back on the perfectly white sand and relax.
Please be aware of this, you may never want to leave after a visit to one of Cambodia’s islands. Koh Rong, Koh Rong Samloem, Koh Ta kiev, Koh Tonsay are paradise on Earth. Remote islands may have limited WiFi, electricity and water supply, but it is so worth it as you can enjoy breath-taking view, white sand, crystal clear water and peacefulness. Moreover, you get to enjoy a lot of freshly tropical seafood, such as crab, squid, shrimp etc. I highly recommend you to try grilled squid with local fish sauce (Terk Trey Koh Kong), which you can find in small food stalls along the beach.
Rich History and Culture
Kingdom of Cambodia holds a strong and fascinating history. Angkor era, it was when Cambodia was known as Khmer Empire still remains the main national pride of Cambodians. Cambodia has more than 2,000 years of history, which makes Cambodia as one of the oldest countries in South-East Asia as well as the world. Cambodia also has a recent painful history, which happened in the 1970s. Two million people died from starvation, execution and disease during the Khmer Rouge regime. Even though the recent past of Cambodia is so heart-breaking, however, currently Cambodia is recovering and developing to be better than ever meanwhile carrying the pride of the great history of Cambodia.
As an old country, Cambodia is a country rich in culture and customs. The richness of Khmer culture is one of the factors that captures visitors’ hearts. Apsara dancing is a classic Cambodian ballet and one of the most famous traditional Khmer dance. Apsara refers beautiful female creatures from heaven in Hindu mythology. It is also an icon of Cambodian’s culture. Apsara dance is so calming and gentle, but also empowers and shows strength of women at the same time. You can get to witness one of the most beautiful ballets in the world by visiting Sovannaphum Theatre in Phnom Penh. In addition, traditional Khmer music and ceremonies will offer a great insight into the culture of Cambodia. Aside from this, 97% Cambodians are following Theravada Buddhism, monks are respected. Therefore, you should familiarize yourself when visiting Cambodia.
Located in a tropical area, Cambodia’s weather does not change much throughout the year. Cambodia has two distinct seasons, and you almost can travel in Cambodia all year round. Rainy season in Cambodia is from May to September. In this season, you can travel in the remote areas in Cambodia, such as Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri, where you can enjoy greenery landscapes. Or you can visit the temples since the weather is not too hot and it is cloudy most of the time. Dry season is from November to April. From November to February, the weather is so pleasant since it is not too hot and not much rain. It is windy and cooler, which makes it as a high season for locals to travel.
Therefore, if you want to visit Cambodia between November and February, better book accommodation in advance. Nevertheless, during March, April and May, it is so hot in Cambodia that it can reach up to 40 degree celsius, but it is a good time to visit remote islands in the country.
Affordable cost of travel
Even if the pricing in Cambodia has gone up in the last few years, but it is still a budget destination. You can choose to stay in luxurious hotels, dine in fancy restaurants for your pleasant due to the fact that international hotels and restaurants have been mushrooming in Cambodia. However, if you have limited budget, Cambodia offers affordable cost of travel for you. Accomodation in Cambodia can be as low as 3 USD per night, it is just that you will not have air conditioning or hot water.
Food is also affordable in Cambodia. You can find affordable authentic Khmer cuisine in local restaurants that would not cost you more than 10 USD for a standard meal. Moreover, you can try local food in the local markets or street food, which are relatively cheap. Western food can be found easily and the price is pretty acceptable. Furthermore, transportation is not a problem for travellers anymore. Now you can use ride hailing apps to book your trip, which is only 30 to 50 cents for 1 kilometer ride for tuktuk. The cost of travelling in big cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is a little bit higher than in the provinces, but it is affordable. Therefore, visiting Cambodia is not going to break your bank account.
Despite all the reasons that you should visit Cambodia above, it is another reason which is visiting Cambodia for investment. Cambodia is a developing country, the growing rate and GDP of Cambodia are improving real fast. Visiting Cambodia might give you an idea to invest in the country since it is so easy for investment and there are not many competitors in most of the industries yet. Moreover, the cost of workforce is relatively cheap compared to the neighboring countries. Hence, you might get to enjoy your holiday in Cambodia, and maybe visiting Cambodia might give you a golden investment opportunity.
Cambodia is a small developing country. It might not be as modern as its neighboring countries, and visiting Cambodia might not offer you a luxurious trip like any other places. However, The country is so rich in complex history and natural beauty. If you love history, the 2,000 years old history of Cambodia will amaze you. If you love nature, beaches and islands, Cambodia is obviously the one. Additionally, the people of Kingdom Cambodia are so friendly and warm welcome as well. The authenticity of Cambodia is more than unique to amaze you. Apart from that, Cambodia has so much more to offer you. You have to experience it yourself to truly understand about Cambodia and you will surely fall in love Cambodia after a visit. Visiting Cambodia is surely not going to disappoint you.
Tips when visiting Cambodia
- Cambodians accept USD as well, but it is still better to have some Khmer Riel in your pocket.
- Cambodia is pretty safe in general, but you still need to be aware of scams, bag snatching and pick-pocketing.
- When visiting temples, pagodas, or any other historical sites in Cambodia1, you should cover your knees and shoulders, which is a sign of respect to the sites.
- Cambodia is usually so hot and humid, so you should pack accordingly. Sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with high SPF are the must-have items.