Your Cambodia Travel Guide! Looking for paradise, culture or just a good party? Cambodia is the place to be. Situated between Thailand on the West, Laos on the North and Vietnam on the East it is practically given that you will make a stop here if you are backpacking through South East Asia. Nonetheless, the country could offer enough to just make it a vacation on its own. Whilst Cambodia was not my favorite county in South East Asia, I would not have wanted to miss out on it…. seeing the temples of Angkor Wat was something that had been on my bucket list for a while now and definitely was one of the highlights of my South East Asia trip.
Phnom Penh – Many of the backpackers I crossed paths with in South East Asia told me they hated Phnom Penh, that the city was dirty and you should leave as soon as possible. But I actually found myself liking this city… in my opinion it had a great atmosphere, so make sure to give this city a chance. Even if you find yourself not liking the city I can recommend staying here for a couple of days to learn about Cambodia’s history and the Red Khmer.
Siem Reap – Famous for it’s accessibility to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is a must stop when visiting Cambodia. Hang around for a couple of days to see the temples of Angkor Wat, go shopping at one of the night markets or enjoy the party life in the city centre. For some travelers Siem Reap might be the only reason or perhaps even the only stop in Cambodia, and whilst it is a worthy stop, other places in Cambodia (as mentioned below) are worth visiting!
Kampot – Leave the hustling and bustling of Phnom Penh and visit the peaceful and quiet Kampot, close to the shores of Cambodia. While there ain’t a whole lot to do in the place, you can easily relax here for a couple of days and enjoy the amazing ribs of the Rusty Keyhole. Besides that, Kampot is a great base for scootering around and visiting nearby national parks such as the Bokor National Park or visiting the fishers town of Kep. I can definitely recommend staying in the Mad Monkey Hostel offering nice dorms and a pool to relax at.
Koh Rong – Ready to leave the main land for some island life? Koh Rong is definitely one you can’t miss out on! With the hostels located directly on the beach you can’t wish for more… live the island life and just relax here for a couple of days before going to the busy main land again. Take a day tour that includes snorkeling (watch the sea urchins), fishing and bbqing on the beach, and perhaps even see the phosphorescent plankton light up during a night swim. Not remote enough? Close to Koh Rong you can find Koh Rong Samloen, your one way stop to bounty beaches!
Awe at Angkor Wat: Get up early to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, don’t expect to be alone though, there will probably be another couple of thousands tourists there to do the same. Make sure to get a tuktuk driver for the day who will bring you from temple to temple! Some people start the tour backwards to avoid the crowd, this might be a smart idea since you will have some temples to yourself. We left Angkor Wat early to be ahead of the crowd at the other temples and had the possibility to enjoy most of the temples without the hundreds of tourists there. Note: you are visiting temples so be sure to dress modestly.
Learn About the Khmer Rouge: Visit the Killing Fields and the S-21 jail to learn more about the civil war period from 1975-1979 when Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge Party ruled the country. Pol Pot and his supporters forced the people out of the city into the rural areas to work on the land. Money, private property and religion were banished; even traditional medicine were banished. Everyone who was educated or seemed educated (wearing classes) was tortured or even killed, between 1 and 2 million have approximately died during these 4 years. Learning about this murderous regime will give you a better understanding about modern Cambodia in my opinion.
Eat Crab in Kep: Along the beautiful coast of Cambodia you can find the small fishers town of Kep, known by many travelers for the amazing crab. Take a scooter from Kampot and enjoy this deliciously fresh cooked crab or some prawns or fish from the BBQ. The crab and prawns were definitely one of the best I head in my 4 months in South East Asia! Combine this with a nice scooter adventure through the area and enjoy nature, it is definitely worth it (may it be a bumpy ride).
If there is one hostel chain I would happily stay at, it would be the Mad Monkey Hostel. Mad Monkey Hostels can be found in Philippines, Cambodia, and soon Thailand, and there is a reason for their growing popularity. I stayed with Mad Monkey in three major cities in Cambodia: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Kampot. Mad Monkey hostel staff is helpful, beds are comfortable and the hostels had a great atmosphere! Maybe the best of all, the hostels all three have a pool, help with booking bustickets and tours, and a build in bar for a party after relaxing all day.
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