12 Reasons to Travel to Cambodia
It took some years for Cambodia to recover from the terrible days of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. In recent years, all the countries of South East Asia have seen an increase in the number of tourists visiting to experience an exotic location. The present figure of 4 million annual visitors has steadily grown and there are several reasons why the tourist industry is confident that the growth will continue. If you are thinking about booking your next holiday, here are some reasons to travel to Cambodia.
• Asia is full of iconic sites and landmarks. Everyone has a personal favourite and lots of travellers will pick the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor ahead of any other. It is a vast complex with Angkor Wat the highlight. However, there is much more to see including some ruins that have become overgrown with lush vegetation. Ta Prohm for example has vegetation protruding through its walls and windows. It certainly helps to have a guide because the complex is busy. If it is possible, you should be there at sunset to get a most amazing photograph.
• Siem Reap is the closest city to Angkor and there is sufficient in the city to justify spending some time there. The highlights include Wat Praeh Prom Rath built in the 16th Century and containing a reclining Buddha, Wat Kesararam with its lovely murals and ceiling and the Angkor National Museum.
• One of the natural highlights of Cambodia that certainly merits some time is Tonle Sap, the largest lake in Indochina. When it comes to reasons to travel to Cambodia, this Lake helps to build the case. At the end of the monsoon season, the Lake covers around 15,000 square kilometres with a depth of about 8 metres. It shrinks dramatically in the months that the weather is primarily dry. You can cruise on the Lake and even do some fishing. The locals are fishermen as well as farmers, living in small villages with the houses built above the waterline on stilts. With a guide that speaks English, you can make yourself understood by the locals and enjoy observing their daily lives.
• Festivals are a very important part of Cambodian life. The people live by the lunar calendar so the dates vary slightly each year from the Gregorian calendar. There are several important festivals with New Year which often falls towards the end of January into the mid-point of February amongst the most important. A successful harvest is essential to the lives of ordinary people and when it comes it is a reason to celebrate. The Ploughing Ceremony follows the harvest, a ceremony that takes place before the rains arrive when the crops are sown once again.
• If you are interested in history, the memories of The Khmer Rouge are presented in the Phnom Penh museum that was once the prison in which many people were tortured and killed. The ‘’Killing Fields’’ themselves with skulls a permanent reminder of the evil of Pol Pot are just outside Phnom Penh.
• You will enjoy Battambang which is situated on the Sangker River fairly close to Siem Reap. It is considered as the best preserved of the towns from the colonial era. It is certainly worth exploring either on a bike or foot. Locally, there is a bird sanctuary as well as ancient Cambodian temples.
• Cambodian cuisine is one of the reasons to travel to Cambodia. While there are some things that you may way to avoid, the local fresh produce helps to create some lovely dishes. You might even like to take a cookery lesson and impress friends and family once you return home after your holiday. You can expect to have rice in most meals with soups and noodles. One of Cambodia’s most famous meals is known as Amok, fish baked with chillies, lemongrass and coconut.
• Cambodia does not have an extensive coastline like its neighbour Vietnam but there is the opportunity to enjoy the warm waters off the coast. The main resort is an artificial creation. Sihanoukville has developed into a popular resort for locals and tourists. Bamboo Island is another alternative; it is just offshore and as well as getting a suntan, you can swim, snorkel and scuba dive.
• One of Cambodia’s attractions is the amount of unspoilt environment that still exists. Hikers and trekkers should head for Ratanakiri, a province made for exploration. A location featuring in the film ‘’Apocalypse Now’’ it has a national park with plenty of fauna in an environment of streams, waterfalls as well as an impressive crater lake.
• The Mekong River flows through Cambodia and if you visit the town of Kratie you can take a cruise and perhaps see the freshwater dolphins in its waters.
• The Dangkrek Mountains close to the Thailand border is another region for trekkers. The Prasat Preah Vihear Temple which took years to build predates the Angkor Complex. It was dedicated to the Hindu God, Shiva and has recently become a UNESCO World Heritage site, more reasons to travel to Cambodia.
• Kampot Province is in the south of Cambodia. The town of the same name has a population of 40,000 and is famous for its salt and pepper production. You will get the chance to taste durian which certainly tastes better than it smells. There is an old French Hill Station in the National Park and close by there are more temples that were built before Angkor.
These 12 Reasons to Travel to Cambodia will hopefully persuade you to think seriously about visiting the Country. Parts of its infrastructure still need development but that should not spoil your enjoyment of Cambodia. In the monsoon, it can make it difficult to reach some of the remote areas however. It is a naturally hospitable country with the smiles on the faces of the locals belying their sometimes difficult lives. They know how to celebrate at the slightest excuse and if there is a festival while you are there, you will see that for yourselves.