8 Amazing Experiences to Have in Cambodia
I recently had the pleasure of travelling to Cambodia with Intrepid, with the opportunity to learn more about the country, see some of its top sights and experience the local culture. Here are some of my top highlights from the trip.
Genocide Museum, Cambodia - Image: Shahen Suriyabandara
Genocide Museum, CambodiaImage: Shahen Suriyabandara
Genocide Museum & Killing Fields
I have to admit, visiting the Genocide Museum and Killing Fields made for a pretty heavy start to our itinerary. Having said that, it seemed fitting that this was where the trip begun, in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the history of this beautiful country. Being in the original rooms of the prisoners with the blood-stained floors was particularly uncomfortable. At the end of the tour you get to meet the only two living survivors from the total of seven, which is really rewarding.
Over at the Killing Fields, you can still see evidence of bones and clothing from areas that have not been excavated. If you are brave enough to head into the monument, you can see skulls and bones with cut marks, holes and fractures alongside the weapons used for this carnage. Both of these places possessed an eerie feeling and definitely affected the emotions of the group so be prepared.
Cyclo tour - Image: Shahen Suriyabandara
Cyclo tourImage: Shahen Suriyabandara
A Cyclo is a mode of transport whereby you sit on the front and someone else peddles the three-wheeled bike. I was wrong to assume this would be a short ride. In fact, we were probably on the ride for at least 30 minutes (if not more), with a break by the Statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk where we experienced the busy town alongside traffic and joggers while the sun set. It was as if someone had switched the light off as we witnessed the nightlife take hold. The rapid pace at which the sun sets over here is truly remarkable.
Eating crickets in Cambodia - Image: Karen Whale
Eating crickets in CambodiaImage: Karen Whale
Believe it or not, this was truly a key highlight from my Cambodian adventure. I always said to myself if I were ever to go to Cambodia, I would try Tarantulas. Which I did. But I tried a whole load more including: crickets, silkworm, frog’s legs, crocodile, rat and Cobra Venom Rice Wine (My ‘7 Weird and Wonderful Things I Ate in Cambodia’ food blog can be read here if you fancy an in-depth read.) Although ‘why’ is probably the question I get asked the most when it comes to eating creepy crawlies, I have to admit, most of these actually tasted rather delicious. What’s more, the food in Cambodia is extremely distinctive and influenced by its culture and history, so trying these weird and wonderful foods only adds to the experience.
Cambodian homestay - Image: Shahen Suriyabandara
Cambodian homestayImage: Shahen Suriyabandara
Beginning with a bike ride to the temples within the village, we peddled our way across rice fields to watch the sunset in the distant horizon. Not before enjoying a freshly cut green coconut though. As well as having the privilege of enjoying a home cooked dinner and breakfast from the host and his family, we got to sit with the host and understand how us being there helped the community. One of the more strange experiences was the shared accommodation, where 11 of us slept in the same room inside our own mosquito nets. Although it was a little odd at first, it bonded us well as a group for the rest of the trip. This is a great example of the ways in which Intrepid integrates with, and supports local communities, which you can read more about here.
Cambodian night markets - Image: Shahen Suriyabandara
Cambodian night marketsImage: Shahen Suriyabandara
Night Markets of Cambodia
While the day markets are great, the night markets are a whole new kettle of fish. The city literally comes to life with neon signs and LED lights. Although you can often find the same items at the day markets, the night markets have an altogether different vibe, which prepares you for the nightlife of Cambodia. When walking through the markets of Phnom Penh, you are subconsciously drawn to the music and will no doubt eventually end up at the buzzing Pub Street where great music and restaurants await.
Rehash Trash - Image: Shahen Suriyabandara
Rehash TrashImage: Shahen Suriyabandara
A social enterprise supported by Intrepid, roadside plastic waste bags are collected by local women who then wash them by hand and transform them into beautiful fashion and homewares. What is really impressive (apart from how admirable the cause is, as these women would pretty much be out of work without this scheme) is the level of intricacy, the speed in which these women make these items and the range of beautiful masterpieces created by rubbish that is left for granted. You can read more about this in detail here.
Temples - Image: Shahen Suriyabandara
TemplesImage: Shahen Suriyabandara
It’s safe to assume most of us have heard of and seen photographs of the sunrise behind the mammoth Angkor Wat. I certainly had before I went to Cambodia and let me tell you this, the pictures do no justice to the actual experience of witnessing it. The five pillars slowly appear as the inky black burns away, with the golden sun illuminating the sky – a true sight to behold. We also had the privilege of walking inside the remains of Ta Prohm Temple which is featured in Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider movie, as well as walking inside the maze of a temple that is Bayon Temple. This was a favourite of mine and in my opinion, is totally underrated.
Floating Village - Image: Shahen Suriyabandara
Floating VillageImage: Shahen Suriyabandara
If I said I went to a place where villagers had a lake in their front and back garden, what would you say? In Cambodia, there is a floating village on the Tonle Sap Lake where a local community lives and works. Don’t be fooled by its appearance though, this is not a village under rainwater. We travelled through canals passing schools and houses where families lived, before going to the floating market of Cambodia where we witnessed the locals selling their produce. We were lucky to have a local woman with an incredible voice who happened to be on the lead rowing boat. Her echoing, rhythmic singing voice travelled through the waters and echoed back from the trees we were paddling through, making for an atmospheric boat trip.
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