One of the most fascinating countries in Southeast Asia, Cambodia has always been a special place for us – it was James’ favourite place to travel when he was on his first world trip. We recently visited again, and while it has changed significantly, most places are still a wonder to visit.
Phnom Penh, the capital, won’t win any awards for it’s aesthetics but the city is a key marker for the country as it showcases some of the atrocities that happened during Cambodia’s many years of war. Heading to S21, the school converted into a prison for enemies of the state, or spending the day walking through the Killing Fields, will remind you that places like Cambodia have suffered enormously over the years. These are both sobering sites to visit but are a must if you want to understand the culture of the country.
Siem Reap, known for the huge complex of temples around Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. The city is eclectic and modern – boutique hotels offer a high end service at bargain prices, the many high end restaurants offer a mouth-watering array of delicious local meals and it’s got an increasingly hip art scene. You can head to newer galleries, or sip on your signature coffee in a cool new café, or wander around the old markets looking for a trinket or two. The city also hosts a particularly interesting attraction: landmine rat training. We loved our visit to the Apopo center where they train rats to sniff out landmines; critical in a country where over 4 million unexploded ordinance and landmines still exist today. Of course Siem Reap is all about temples, and you can make like Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and wander through a wonderland of ruins and temples.
Lastly, Cambodia’s coastline has become a very fashionable place to go – from the coastal towns of Kampot and Kep to the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem. The latter islands are a little tricky to reach though and need to be accessed through a relatively grotty town, Sihanoukville. It’s a difficult journey but we’ve mapped it out for you here.