For the truly adventurous, Cambodia is a beautiful country with a terrible history. If you’re planning on taking a trip here, it’s a good idea to hire a tour guide or have an itinerary so you know how to get around and where to go. Then you’ll see some spectacular things.
Some history for a moment: from 802 AD until the mid-15th century, Cambodia was ruled by a succession of kings. When Angkor fell to Ayutthaya, it was ruled as a vassal state. Then in the 1863 it became a protectorate of France which helped the country grow in land area and Cambodia gained independence in 1953. The US bombed Cambodia during the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1973, and in 1970 there was a coup and the deposed king gave his support to the Khmer Rouge. They took Phnom Penh and carried out the Cambodian Genocide from 1975-1979 until they were ousted in the Cambodian-Vietnamese War, which lasted until 1991. After the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, a United Nations mission governed Cambodia from 1991 to 1992, and then they withdrew. In 1997, there was a coup in which the Cambodian People’s Party took over and remain in power.
Things to do in Cambodia:
-The Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Center where people can learn about landmines and the continuing threat in the Cambodia and the world. They also provide care and education for at-risk children on the property.
-The Angkor National Museum which covers the Golden Era of the Khmer Kingdom.
-The Psah Chas market which features souvenirs and street food.
-The Made in Cambodia Market where all products are made in Cambodia.
– Phsar Leu which is the biggest market meant for locals.
-Artisans Angkor where you can watch artisans work.
-New Hope Restaurant which has great food, is a trade school for former sex workers, an elementary school for at-risk kids, and a local free medical clinic. You can take a tour and meet the kids too.
– The Floating Villages on Tonle Sap Lake. Take food or school supplies for the kids who will rush you in hopes that you will give them something. This is a very poor part of Cambodia but something to see for a realistic view of the country.
-The Banteay Srei temple which is notable for its intricate carvings on rose pink sandstone.
– Drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap or vice versa. You’ll see rice paddies, ox-driven carts, and old French colonial towns.
-The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which was originally a high school, turned into a torture center, and now a museum for people to learn the history of the Khmer Rouge.
-The Killing Fields which is full of mass graves from the Khmer Rouge era.
-And the Royal Palace where the kings of Cambodia have lived since the 1860s and the Silver Pagoda which is located on the property.
-Wat Phnom which is the highest temple in the city of Phnom Penh
But the temples are why most people come to Cambodia.
Near the town of Siem Reap, Angkor is a temple complex with several temples located there including Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm as well as several others that you can visit. Make sure you go early because it gets very crowded, but seeing the sun rise is stunning. It was built between mid-12th century and the late 16th century. Over that time, it went from a king’s state temple to Vishnu, capital city, and Hindu center of worship to Buddhist center of worship which is has stayed to today. In the 20th century, work was started restoring it and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. Researchers are still finding buildings and pieces that were previously undiscovered. The monkeys are a force to be reckoned with though, they will grab stuff right out of your hands!
While you’re in Cambodia, make sure you try the rice wine (maybe not too much if you’re pregnant), sticky rice from the roadside snack stands, and the Cambodian Red Curry. If you’re really adventurous, try the fried spiders.
Have you ever traveled to Cambodia? Let us know how it was in the comments!