The bluest of waters, the whitest of sands coupled with the friendliest locals who prepare the most delicious food. Cambodia should be high up on your list of places to visit this year, in fact it should be at the top. Most people who visit Asia will gravitate towards Thailand, however Cambodia, its lesser explored little sister has so much to offer.
THE TEMPLE OF ALL TEMPLES. Ankor Wat at sunrise is everything you could wish for from a temple visit. Everyone grabs breakfast on the way and sits out on the grass in front watching it come alive as the sun rises from behind it. The lesser known temple Ta Prohm is also worth a visit. The backdrop to Angelina Jolie’s film Tomb Raider is a stunning structure which has been eaten alive by huge tree roots and lightly dusted with green moss.
THE ISLANDS off the south of Cambodia are simply the gift that keeps on giving. Koh Rong being a favourite is 10% inhabited with the other 90% made up of white deserted beaches and amazon like forest. There’s no transport on the island so once you hop off the boat you’ll be strolling down the beach picking out which seafront bungalow you want to stay in. The night life is full of hippie bands strumming to the sunset, if you’re looking for complete peace head to the island next door Koh Rong Samloem.
THE PEOPLE of Cambodia are the kindest and friendliest humans you’ll meet. Despite being rocked by Pol Pots brutal regime less than 40 years ago, they are constantly smiling and always looking to have a chat. On a recent trip I found that they love fruit, especially Mangosteens, so if you’re looking to thank your driver or give some kids a treat, stock up on some local fruit.
THE BAMBOO TRAIN is about 20 minutes in a tuk tuk from the little town of Battambang and is one of the worlds truly unique rail journeys. Two metal dumbbell looking tools are placed on the track and then a wooden crate like structure about 2 meters long is placed on top. The driver cranks up the engine and you fly through the Cambodian country side at 30km an hour.
FRESH FRUIT smoothie carts line the roads of Cambodia. From Watermelon and Pineapple to the lesser known Dragon Fruit and Durian, these local food carts are an absolute saviour in the heat. At only $1 a pop, the fresh fruit is mixed with ice and sometimes honey or sweet milk and you’ll have a shake to go within about 2 minutes.
NEW YEAR for many people is an expensive let down but for the Cambodians, it’s the best day of the year. It spans over 4 days with the main event being a huge talcum powder and water fight. Yes, that’s right talcum powder. Around 9pm huge bottles of the stuff begins to appear and the street fight begins. Celebrated around the 13th of April when the harvesting season finishes, its something everyone should experience at least once.
HISTORY lovers and mere travellers will be amazed, shocked and sickened by what has happened only 40 years ago. A visit to the Killing Fields close to Phnom Penh and the S21 Genocide Jail is harrowing, but a must. Pol Pots the former dictator killed over 3 million Cambodians and today we see the effects of a lost generation and their children growing up without parents.
THE FOOD will make you never want to leave. Amok is the traditional coconut curry full of flavour and the freshest of vegetables which is served all over the country. The town of Kep is famous for its Crab markets where they catch and cook them right in front of you. Lastly, Kampot pepper is world renowned, visit the peppercorn fields and hand pick some to take home.