From Ruins to Recovery: The Story of Cambodia
Cambodia is one of Asia’s rapidly growing tourist destinations. The capital city, Phnom Penh, stands tall with French-style buildings that date back to the first half of the century, during the French colonization. The city also boasts of a riverfront boulevard, where several restaurants and bars are located.
Where to Go
In 2007, the number of tourist arrivals in Cambodia reached two million, 20% more than the year before. Here are some of the reasons why tourists are mesmerized with Cambodia:
Phnom Penh: This capital is situated at the meeting point of the Tonlé Sap River and Mekong River. The city has a lot of colonial remnants at the Toul Sleng Museum such as evidence of the genocide during the Khmer Rouge era. There are also several wats like the Wat Phnom and the Silver Pagoda. Another unique place to visit is the Killing Fields where skulls and human remains can be found.
Siem Reap: A few kilometers north of this place lies a very famous temple complex called Angkor. Angkor means “city” or “capital,” while “wat” means “temple.” This temple was dedicated to Vishnu and was later considered sacred by Buddhists.
Sihanoukville: Beaches abound in this place. The best beaches in Cambodia are mainly located at the Gulf of Thailand. Though this area is not very developed, the beaches provide great diving and snorkeling opportunities.
Banlung: This city is the capital of Rattanakiri, a far north-east province of the country. An undiscovered region in Indochina, Banlung houses the Cambodian jungle where some minority groups live and where some elephants roam.
What to Do
You can go on an elephant ride in Mondulkiri or Rattanakiri. Be sure you have a tour guide with you!
You can watch a traditional Cambodian dance called Apsara. You should visit Siam Reap to catch one though you may spot some occasionally in the villages.
You can swim in the volcanic Yak Lom Lake located near the Banlung town in the Rattanakiri province. Here, water is cool and clear. The surrounding forest is also ideal for picnicking.
You can feel like a real treasure hunter by visiting the gem mines. Have a taste of the gold rush through the gem mines located in the Rattanakiri province. The attendant camps and mines may move regularly, depending on their finds.
You can go bird watching at Prek Toal. This tourist spot is a biosphere reserve located on the northwest of the Tonle Sap Lake, which is close to Siam Reap. You can view water birds such as the spot-billed pelicans.
What to Remember
Cambodians do not wear shorts inside temples like the Angkor Wat. Cambodian men only wear shorts if they have sweaty jobs; however, foreigners can at times get away with wearing shorts as they are seen as strange by the locals.
Other things you should not forget to bring are good walking or hiking shoes, sandals, camera, and a whole lot of curiosity. And don’t forget to taste on of their famous cuisine called Mee Katang, which is rated no. 7 on the list of the Top Ten most delicious Southeast Asian breakfast meals.