Cambodia is a home to wild elephants who roam freely in the wild and pink dolphins who dominated the Mekong. A stunning tropical paradise with a hidden history of existence, Cambodia is surely a place to explore in the Southeast Asian nation. Incredible ancient temples and immaculate beaches add more beauty to this place and hence calling you to unveil it on your next trip.
A beautiful country in Southeast Asia, Cambodia has its landscape extending to low-lying plains, mountains, the Mekong Delta and Gulf of Thailand coastline. The capital of the country, Phnom Penh, is home to the art deco Central market, the National Museums’s historical and archaeological exhibits, and the gleaming Royal Palace.
The ruins of Angkor Wat, situated in the country’s northwest is a huge stone temple complex constructed during the Khmer Empire. There’s some kind of magic about this beautiful yet astonishing kingdom that casts a spell on anyone who visits the place. The ancient and modern worlds in Cambodia collide to form an authentic adventure.
A Nation of Many Temples
Modern Cambodia is the inheritor state to the majestic Khmer empire, which ruled much of Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam during the Angkorian period. The remnants of this empire can be observed at the famous temples of Angkor, monuments unmatched in scale and splendor in Southeast Asia. The tourists’ first glance of Angkor Wat, the final expression of Khmer genius is exalted and matched only by a few destinations on Earth, such as Petra or Machu Picchu.
Supreme Respect of Monks and the Buddha
The Angkor temples in Cambodia are a religious place which is considered sacred by Buddhists and Hindus. Taking pictures of the architecture and sculptures are allowed, however, one must behave as they otherwise would in a church, mosque or any other sacred space. Make sure to speak quietly, dress in a modest way and avoid touching the ancient stones.
You might get to witness monks at Angkor. Their robes are incredibly picturesque against the stone temples, however, one must ask and take their permission before clicking their picture. Do not stand above a monk as it is considered disrespectful. If you are a woman, never touch a monk or his robes. Keep in mind that some young men and entrepreneurial boys dress as monks here and might take your money in exchange for a bracelet and ‘blessing’.
Cambodia is much more than its temples - its urban scene can amaze you with their sophistication. Chaotic yet charming capital Phnom Penh is a refreshing city earning praise for its magnificent riverside setting, world-class dining-and-wining scene, and cultural renaissance. Another city Siem Reap, with its diverse nightlife and cosmopolitan cafes, is as much a destination as the closeby iconic temples. Similar to Siem Reap is Battambang which attracts the visitors with a thriving contemporary art scene and graceful French architecture.
Two Currencies of Cambodia
The currency of Cambodia is Riel, though you’ll most probably pay in USD. It is kind of frustrating and weird sometimes.
American coins are not used by Cambodia and thus you will receive change for your purchases in reil (1,000 riel = 25 cents). You can use your Riel while buying smaller items such as snacks or soft drinks. In case you wish to exchange money so as to have riel on hand, you can do easily do that at any bank in Cambodia. You might get better rates at the local markets and so shop around. You can easily identify the moneychangers by the glass cases they would be carrying filled with piles of notes.
The Spirit of Cambodia
In spite of possessing the eighth wonder of the world, the real treasure of Cambodia is its people. The Khmers have struggled throughout the years with poverty, bloodshed and political instability. However, they have overcome all this with their smiles intact, thanks to their infectious optimism and unbreakable spirit. No tourist ever leave without affection and admiration for the inhabitants of this mystifying kingdom.
The Adventure of Cambodia
Experience the landscapes of staggering rice paddies and swinging sugar palms and the rhythm of rural life in Cambodia’s countryside. The South Coast is embellished by tropical islands which are lined with the random fishing village. The Cardamom Mountains, which lie Indland, is a part of a wide tropical wilderness and provide a home to evasive wildlife. It is a significant gateway to thriving ecotourism adventures. The majestic Mekong River passes through the country and hosts some of the area’s last remaining freshwater dolphins. The northeast is a world in itself, its mountainous and wild landscapes are home to the country’s tribal minorities and a profusion of natural attractions and wildlife.
Best Things to Experience in Cambodia
Cambodia is lined with a wide array of stunning views, people and amazing experiences that will give you an unforgettable time during your trip of the Kingdom of Wonder.
Sunrise in Angkor Wat
The largest religious monument in the world, the magnificent Angkor Wat is an extravaganza to be witnessed, no matter what the time of day it may be. However, witnessing the sun emerging from behind the iconic temple is a splendid experience in itself. Though, do not expect to have the temple all by yourself, as this tends to be a peak time, when thousands of people huddle to the temple to seize this magical moment in their camera.
A Cruise Ride on the Mekong
If you are one of those who wish to explore rural Cambodia without stressing about packing every other day, then a cruise ride on the Mekong is an ideal experience for you. Just sit back on the deck of a luxury boat and relax in style. Begin your voyage in Siem Reap and cherish sailing across the river soaking in the major highlights as well as some fabulous unfrequented track fishing villages.
Traverse the Cardamom Mountains
Staying with nature in the center of the tropical jungle is a unique as well as amazing experience to cherish. As the largest remaining rainforest in Southeast Asia, the Cardamom Mountains are home to endangered and rare flora and fauna which makes every visit here a truly special one.
Try Some Heavenly Seafood in Kep
Situated on the south coast of the country, Kep is a famous escape for people which is slowly becoming prominent as an amazing place for all the foodies out there. This quaint colonial town has some of Southeast Asia’s best crab dishes, eaten in adorable tiny restaurants over the water. Coupling this stunning seaside produce with some of the most amazing pepper in the world from the neighboring town of Kampot makes for a splendid culinary experience. At just a five minutes’ walk from the restaurants is the luxury Knai Bang Chatt, where staying for at least two nights is worth it. An ideal place to relax by the sea, explore the local pepper plantations and enjoy your fill of seafood.
Witness Phnom Penh From Above
There is something truly magical about watching a city glittering below. Thanks to Rosewood Phnom Penh, the gorgeous city of Phnom Penh can be viewed from sky high. Sitting on the 37th floor of the 39-storey Vattanac Capital Tower, the five-star hotel Sora skybar offers unmatched panoramic views across the beautiful capital as well as beyond. Guests can watch the sunset as well as Phnom Penh lighting up just before their eyes. Truly marvelous!
Experience Staying on a Private Island
The gorgeous private island of Song Saa offers its visitors with one of the most amazing luxury experiences in Asia. Whether you choose to stay in private jungle villas or in one of the beautiful overwater bungalows, staying experience at Song Saa is going to be something that will stay with you for the entire lifetime. This extraordinary retreat takes five star service to just another level with an attentive staff and handwritten suggestions for meals. Make sure to witness sunrise at Song Saa as it is going to be one of the most splendid things you can ever imagine.
A Search of Endangered Dolphins
The unbelievably rare Irrawaddy dolphins are quite shy and one do not get SeaWorld backflips, however, witnessing these adorable animals on a rare protected section of the Mekong River is an exceptional experience. Usually found in pods of about six dolphins, these evasive creatures are quite difficult to photograph, but that only adds to their glamour. Just put down your camera and enjoy the time on the river.
Learn About The Dark History of Cambodia
If you are someone who enjoys history and culture, Cambodia tour is going to be incomplete without spending some quality time admiring their history under the Khmer Rouge. Visiting the Killing Fields and S21 is definitely not a light-hearted day of sightseeing, but it opens your eyes to the agony the country went through and puts everything you witness in Cambodia into perspective. You’ll have all the appreciation for the smiling faces you get to see throughout Cambodia.
Similar to the rest of Southeast Asia, Cambodia’s climate is dominated by monsoons known as tropical wet and dry because of the precisely marked seasonal differences.
The Best Time to Visit Cambodia:
In Cambodia, the dry season starts in October and continues till April, while the wet season runs from May to September, with heavy rainfall usually between August and September. The average temperature ranges from 24°C in the colder months of October, November and December to the hottest time of the year at 35°C from March until June.
Overview of Cambodia’s Weather
Blessed with one of Asia’s easiest weather systems, Cambodia has two discrete weather seasons. Though one can plan Cambodia trip all year round. Because of the uniform latitude and altitude throughout the country, Cambodia, in general, is subject to the same weather patterns.
There are two discrete seasons - wet from May to late September and dry from October to late April. There are temperature variations within each season. The final few dry months lead up to the wet season, i.e. March and April and the early months of the wet season, i.e. May and June being the hottest months of the year with temperatures rising up to 35°C. While the humidity is at its peak during March and April, the coolest months of the year happen to be between October and December. Though this is cool for Cambodia but is far from chilly with average temperatures around 24°C-26°C.
The Dry Season of Cambodia
The dry season of Cambodia lasts from October till April or early May, when the dry north-east monsoon arise, marked by hot wind blowing across the entire Cambodia. While the months from November to January are cool, the weather by April is blazing. This makes people prefer early morning and late afternoon Angkor Temple tours, with a few hours relax by the hotel pool at lunchtime. Unsurprisingly, this is the season when the tourist numbers in Cambodia peak, thanks to the hot weather. In remote parts such as the northeast regions of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri, the conditions of roads are at their best and because of this, the journey times are shorter. During this season, Sihanoukville and Kep on the south coast are famous as they rejoice in the bright sunshine and sea conditions happen to be quite favourable.
The Wet Season of Cambodia
The wet season of Cambodia comes of the southwest monsoon and lasts from May till October, carrying with it about 75% of the country’s annual rainfall. Across Cambodia, daytime temperatures average between 25°C and 27°C throughout much of the rainy season.
The early months of the wet season, i.e. from May to July remain quite hot with irregular rainfall generally in the form of short downpours. The rain becomes more constant in the latter months, i.e. late July to September and at times, tends to be heavy, particularly in rural and coastal regions.
Particularly, Angkor Wat is spectacular in the wet season, with moats overflowing with water and a critical drop in tourist numbers.
Best Places to Stay During Cambodia Tour
Blending contemporary undertones with old-world charm, Cambodia is a beautiful country which is rich in both history as well as culture. It is a symbol of resilience and raw beauty. Ancient ruins, gulf coast beaches and mountain ranges are a few reasons to explore this amazing kingdom. The stunning Temples of Angkor are one of the most important archaeological sites. The notable architecture of capital city of Phnom Penh is worth a visit. The Royal Palace is home to the splendid Silver Pagoda. The National Museum of Cambodia features an amazing collection of art.
The country offers its tourists with a wide range of accommodation, including a wide range of hotels, guest houses and apartments.
The accommodations in Cambodia is one of the most inexpensive in the entire Southeast Asia. One can easily get dorm beds for around $3, while the price for double beds range from anything between $10-15.
The places in the major cities of Phnom Penh and Siemp Reap are quite good, offering one a wide range of good options. On reaching the coast, one can get high end hotels as well as very basic places.
Rice is the staple grain, as in other Southeast Asian countries. The cuisine of Cambodia contains tropical fruits, soups and noodles. Key ingredients are kaffir lime, lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, curry, tamarind, ginger, oyster sauce, coconut milk and black pepper. French influence on Cambodian cuisine includes the Cambodian red curry with toasted baguette bread. The toasted baguette pieces are dipped in the curry and eaten. Cambodian red curry is also eaten with rice and rice vermicelli noodles. Probably the most popular dine out dish, kuy teav, is a pork broth rice noodle soup with fried garlic, scallions, green onions that may also contain various toppings such as beef balls, shrimp, pork liver or lettuce. Kampot pepper is reputed to be the best in the world and accompanies crab at the Kep crab shacks and squid in the restaurants on the Ou Trojak Jet river. The cuisine is relatively unknown to the world compared to that of its neighbors Thailand and Vietnam.
To enter Cambodia, you’ll need a Visa. You can do that before you go or sort it out when you arrive, which costs $30US per person for a tourist Visa and takes around 5-10 minutes to get sorted. If you do plan to get your Visa on arrival, make sure you have a spare passport photo with you, they’ll need it to issue your Visa. Some countries in ASEAN do not need a visa.
This is a very real danger, so pay close attention! Do not get around town with all your valuables in your backpack, hanging off ya shoulder like ya back in high-school. Any valuables you cannot afford to lose, like a passport, need to be kept in the safe at your hotel. When you go out, put your backpack on and do up any straps you can around your middle. Make sure your zips are secure. In crowded places, put your backpack to the front of your body. There are a lot of instances where, even in the back of a Tuk Tuk, a local thug runs up and rips your bag off you, jumps on the back of a scooter and is off before you can react.
As compared to other parts of Southeast Asia, general health is more of a concern in Cambodia due to lack of international standard medical facilities, poor sanitation and a widespread presence of tropical diseases. Once you reach into rural areas, you are very much on your own, though most provincial capitals these days do possess a reasonable clinic.
Cambodia these days is pretty safe for travelers. However, in major festivals such as Chaul Chnam Khmer or Pchum Ben, there is a noticeable increase in the number of robberies, especially in Phnom Penh. So, it is important to be more watchful at these times. Safeguard your smartphone and other valuable items carefully and don’t take them out with you unnecessarily.
Given the number of guns in the country, there is less armed theft than one can expect in Cambodia. However, hold-ups and drive-by theft are still a potential danger in Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. There is no need to be scared, just be cautious. Riding or walking alone late at night should be avoided, especially in rural areas.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the culture of Cambodia including Theravada Buddhism, French Colonialism, Hinduism, Angkorian culture as well as modern globalization. Before your Cambodia trip, learning a little about the local culture of the country will not only help you to avoid unintentionally caused offence, but will also get you in the good books of your hosts.
A unique aspect of Cambodian clothing, krama scarf is worn by rural Cambodians. It is a way of traditional Cambodian greeting or to show respect to others.
In Cambodian culture, Monks are highly valued and respected. It is crucial that you treat them with the same amount of respect. Women, especially need to be careful around Monks. Make sure to neither touch them or sit too close to them. Moreover, one must always take permission prior to taking a photo of a Monk.
Cambodians pay high attention to keeping their house clean and it is common to remove shoes prior to entering someone’s home. Pointing your feet towards other people is considered rude.
Respect local dress codes while in Cambodia, especially at religious sites. Although some monks will be too polite to enforce anything, covering the upper legs and upper arms is appropriate. Before entering a temple, always remove your shoes, any hat or head covering. Nude sunbathing is deemed completely inappropriate.
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