Cambodia is a fascinating place, a small country with a rich history. It may seem like backwater country compared to its neighbors Thailand and Vietnam, but what Cambodia lacks in sophisticated urbanity, it certainly makes up for in allure and mystery. The allure of Cambodia will surely make an impression on you, and these are ten things you must do on your visit to the country.
Watch the Sun Rise over Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is the crown jewel of Cambodia, the reason why tourists come to the country in droves. The temple complex was once the beating heart of the great Khmer Empire, an ancient empire whose domain extended through most of Southeast Asia. The sun rising over its iconic corncob towers is an awe-inspiring sight, and many tourists make their way to Angkor in the early hours of the morning just to watch it.
Explore Khmer Ruins
While Angkor Wat is the crown jewel of Cambodia, it is not the only remnant of the Khmer civilization worth visiting. Surrounding Angkor Wat itself is a considerable collection of Khmer ruins, including Angkor Thom, known for the Bayon with the smiling Buddha statues; and Ta Prohm, more popularly known as the Tomb Raider Temple. Battambang also has its share of Khmer ruins, and the Banteay Chhmar temple complex is worth a visit as well.
Stop by the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
The Khmer Rouge era was perhaps the greatest tragedies of Cambodia’s history. In the four years the Khmer Rouge was in power, millions died from massive starvation and genocide. Thousands of these victims lost their lives while incarcerated at the school-turned-prison Tuol Sleng. Now Tuol Sleng stands as a museum and memorial to its former inmates and other victims of the Khmer Rouge.
Eat All You Can at Kampot
Kampot is Cambodia’s foodie haven. The fertile fields of Kampot province are famous for yielding the best fruits in the country, including the pungent durian. The province also produces the best peppercorns in the whole world. Its proximity to the Gulf of Thailand also gives it access to some awesome seafood, so going here for the eats is simply worth it.
Watch a Traditional Apsara Dance Performance
The apsara dance is as ancient as the ruins of Angkor Wat and is actually inspired by the celestial nymphs carved upon them. The dance features women in tight-fighting tunics and elaborate golden headdresses performing intricate steps and hand gestures with grace and deftness. The apsara dance almost disappeared during the Khmer Rouge’s cultural purge, but thanks to the patronage of the Cambodian royal family, it has enjoyed a revival. Now it is a staple in public ceremonies and dance halls, especially in Siem Reap.
Ride a Tuk-Tuk
A tuk-tuk is essentially a chariot pulled by a man driving a motorbike. A ride on a Cambodian tuk-tuk is much more relaxed and affords you a more leisurely way of viewing the scenery you’re driving by. The tuk-tuk is also one of the most convenient ways of commuting in Cambodia, much cheaper than the taxis.
Sail to a Floating Village on Tonle Sap.
The great lake of Tonle Sap has been the lifeblood of Cambodia since the time of the Khmer Empire. Much of Cambodia’s population rely on fishing the Tonle Sap as well as farming lands irrigated by the lake’s waters for livelihood. On Tonle Sap, you’ll find floating villages where the way of life is largely unchanged for hundreds of years. The Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary is also located near the lake.
Watch Irrawaddy Dolphins at Kratie
The playful Irrawaddy dolphins cavorting on the Mekong River are some of the unforgettable sights at Kratie. Tradition holds that they are fishermen’s helpmates in that they drive fish towards the fishermen’s nets. Modern and often dangerous methods of fishing, such as fishing with explosives and using traps, have put the lives of these friendly dolphins in danger.
Hike up the Cardamom Mountains
The Cardamom Mountains, located on the border between Thailand and Cambodia, are said to be among the last untouched ecosystems in Southeast Asia. A large portion of these remote mountains is yet to be explored, but those portions that have been are seen to be pristine and rich with species considered endangered in other areas.
Hit the Beach in Koh Rong
Forget Sihanoukville. If you want beaches that aren’t crowded or noisy, and where you can relax under the sun in peace, go to Koh Rong. You’ll have to live Survivor-style if you do, though, because there’s not a lot of modern convenience on this island. But what it lacks for modern conveniences, it certainly makes up for in wild beauty and lovely diving spots. Experience mystic Cambodia for yourself and start planning your trip today.
There you have it, the 10 best attractions of Cambodia. This country also has a lot more to offer from shopping to best eats, you can read all about them here!