Mysterious ruins of ancient temples, traditions that hint at surprising connections to other major civilizations and the unbreakable spirit that still keeps the people going strong despite adversities – all of these come to mind when you think of Cambodia.
Steeped in tradition and mysticism yet modern and progressive, the Kingdom’s capital city Phnom Penh has rightfully made its place as a visit-worthy spot for travelers who would typically head straight to Angkor. That’s not all these Southeast Asian destination offers. Battambang, Cambodia’s second-largest city, is yet1 another good place to visit with its unique French architecture and tranquil riverside establishments. The gateway to the ancient temple cities, Siem Reap, is a popular addition to sight-seeing itineraries and so is Kampot if you are looking for beach-side spots.
There is much to do and see in Cambodia and a good way to cover it all is to do your research before you start on your vacation.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Cambodian society is that individuals are always secondary to the groups they belong to. That is, the people traditionally put their family, their society and their country ahead of their own needs.
For foreigners in Cambodia, etiquette is a very critical aspect of brushing up on before heading out here. Causing offense to others inadvertently or deliberately can cause serious problems and it is very important to avoid embarrassing or criticizing others, especially in public. On the other hand, complimenting someone in public on their hospitality is a simple way to add to their honor and show them respect or appreciation.
Culture of Cambodia
Although Khmers dominate the ethnic groups in Cambodia, Vietnamese and Chinese do make their home here too albeit in much smaller numbers. In terms of religion, you will find a predominance of Buddhism here. The language used is modern Khmer although you might find quite a few French words peppering any conversation, a remnant of the years of French colonial ruling. Thankfully, English is spoken and understood by many, particularly in the locations where tourists tend to throng. French and Mandarin are also spoken, although primarily by the older generation of Cambodians.
Despite its unfortunate association with the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia is, today, one of the most tranquil vacation spots you might ever see. The beguiling Angkor is a fixture on every holiday maker’s itinerary and with good reason. The massive religious complex with the Angkor Wat temple still standing guard over the ruins is truly an awe inspiring sight. Don’t rush your visit because the magical beauty of the intricately designed Banteay Sreri or the magnificent faces of the Bayon will surely make you lose track of time.
On the subject of food, one of the places that truly deserve a shout out is the New Hope restaurant in Siem Reap. The surprising and heartening fact is that this is a trade school where former sex workers learn life skills. There is also a school for at-risk kids here. The food is delicious and you come away knowing that you have helped encourage a good cause!
If out-of- the-ordinary cuisine is what you are looking for, then maybe you would enjoy some spiders or a couple of tarantulas? At Eat a Spider, these are the special dishes you should expect to find. Does that make your stomach turn? Well, Cambodia is famous for its mangoes and bananas too so help your stomach settle down with these delicious fruits.
Activities in Cambodia
With its spectacular beaches, Cambodia has much to offer for those who just want to unwind during their holidays. But if relaxing is getting to be a bore, then you can always get some fantastic shopping done and top it all off with some rocking night time partying. On the subject of shopping, Cambodia is the perfect place to buy silk, ethnic / artistic pieces and silver work. Expect to find Buddha themes predominant in the art pieces. If regular shopping is what you need to do, then the Russian market is a good stop. Souvenirs, western clothing, handicrafts, fake ‘antiquities’ and knick-knacks of all kinds - this market has it all. The Psar Thmei or Central Market is a good place to go to if you want to avoid the sun during your shopping spree.
Essentials to Cambodia
Rainy season in Cambodia is from May to October and it is best to avoid this time for a visit to this location because getting around with flooded roads can be a huge challenge here. November and January are the most ideal vacation times here as the weather is quite cool and pleasant.
You can get your visa when you land in the Kingdom either at Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. However, for entry from certain points, visitors need to have a visa ready. Online visa processing is possible and you can also get further information about these requirements from the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Cambodia located in their country.