Guest blog by Banana Backpacks
Have you ever dreamed of being Indiana Jones? Thought you would do well on a show like Fear Factor? Or maybe just wanted your own castaway experience on a deserted island? If any of these sound like you, Cambodia may just be your perfect travel match in Southeast Asia! This country is home to the world’s largest temple complex to get lost in, hidden islands and beaches to explore, tarantulas to eat, and an incredible history to discover. The following 10 reasons alone may have you throwing on your travel backpack and booking your next Free & Easy trip with a stop in Cambodia.
1. The famous temples of Angkor Wat
The temples of Angkor Wat are likely the reason you already considered adding Cambodia to your travel bucket list. This massive temple complex is the world’s largest religious monument, spanning across 400 square kilometres. While there is so much to explore here, the famous site of Angkor Wat at sunrise, the faces of Bayon temple, and the intersection of trees and temple at Ta Prohm are the most famous, and with good reason. It’s little wonder that Tomb Raider was filmed at one of these temples. They’re sure to be the stars of your Southeast Asia trip too!
2. The hidden temples of Angkor Wat
While the famous temples mentioned above capture adventurers’ hearts across the globe, Cambodia is also home to hundreds of hidden temples. If you’re that traveler who’s always channeling their inner Indiana Jones, Cambodia is the place to find and explore countless magical ruins from the 12th century. The bonus is that you often get to explore these places in relative solitude if you really hunt for them. Don’t miss two of the best hidden temples, Beng Mealea and Banteay Ampil.
3. The difficult history
No trip to Cambodia is complete without a stop in the capital, Phnom Penh, to look into Cambodia’s difficult past. A visit to S21, the former school turned security prison during the country’s 1970s genocide is a sobering experience. As you walk down the halls you’ll see the thousands of faces who were imprisoned and tortured here during the Khmer Rouge regime. These are just some of the two million people killed during the 4 year-long regime. Just outside of Phnom Penh are the Killing Fields, another dark reminder of Cambodia’s recent tragedy. Both places, though harrowing, are incredibly educational and worthwhile to visit.
4. The quiet island nights
Your days at Cambodia’s island beaches should definitely be extended into nights. With digital detoxes being all the rage in the traveling world these days, you can easily find an escape from wifi signals and the modern world on a number of Cambodia’s smaller islands. Koh Ta Kiev, one of the stops on Free & Easy’s LTC trip may just be the best spot in Southeast Asia for quiet days in the water and starry nights on the beach. For the Cast Away fans out there, you may want to pick up a volleyball before you go, name it Wilson, and stay here awhile.
5. The incredible beaches
When you think of beaches you probably imagine Thailand’s white sand. But Cambodia is home to some of its own white sand beauties – without the same crowds as Thailand. Head down to Sihanoukville in the south of the country to jet off to some of the tranquil surrounding islands. When you arrive, you can sink your toes into lazy days on a number of beautiful beaches.
6. The food for good causes
Cambodia is home to some of the most amazing restaurants in Southeast Asia. Better yet? A lot of them are social enterprises that give back to the local communities they operate in. Called “training restaurants”, these spots offer vocational training in the hospitality industry plus accommodation, meals, and social support to disadvantaged youth from the surrounding areas. The food is amazing at them and you can really feel good about indulging!
7. The food for brave travelers
Alongside its finer dining, Cambodia is also known for a certain insect delicacy – the tarantula. Made famous in the province of Kampong Cham between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, tarantulas can be sampled at a number of places across Cambodia. If you’re feeling adventurous, Cambodia might be worth the trip just to cross this daring activity off your travel bucket list!
8. The ethical circus
Cambodia is also famous for its incredible circus put on by the organization Phare. This amazing spectacle features traditional dance, theatre, live music, and circus arts. Profits from the Phare circus support the education, training and social support programs of the Phare Ponleu Selpak school in the country. Plus it’s a great way to relax and spend a night in Siem Reap after exploring the temples of Angkor Wat!
9. The markets
Cambodia’s markets are otherworldly. It’s easy to get lost in both the tourist-oriented and local markets. Stroll past fresh vegetables, spices, and meats and sample all of the foods you didn’t know existed before. The mangosteens and green mangos with chilli dip are some of Cambodia’s greatest market treats. If you get a chance to do a cooking course here, it’s nice to take a trip to the market and pick out your ingredients for making your very own fish amok.
10. The people
Cambodia has some of the friendliest, most resilient people in Southeast Asia. You’re sure to make a number of local friends, learn a lot about Cambodia’s past and grow as a traveler. It’s also a great chance to support tourism in a country that is still rebuilding itself from a difficult past.