The Kingdom of Cambodia is a land of smiles, where the simplicity and love of the people make you feel at home. It shares its international borders with Thailand and Laos on the west and north and Vietnam on the east and south east.
Once the citadel of the magnificent Khmer empire of Angkor whose distinguished temples continue to charm thousands of visitors from all over the world, Cambodia has a lovely platter to offer. From tasty street food to Khmer culture to exploring mysterious jungles and sandy beaches, or better still, watching the Irrawaddy dolphins in the mighty stretch of Mekong, you will be spoilt for choice.
Temples and floating villages
Start your journey at Sien Reap and visit the Angkor Thom where its stone monuments will leave you awestruck. There is the secluded forest temple of Ta Nei that you can discover here. You can also book yourself on a private boat trip around the Tonle Sap Lake, the richest freshwater fishing ground in the world. The floating villages in the Tonle Sap bring you closer to the locals whose primary occupation is fishing. There are three main floating villages around Siem Reap: the Chong Kneas, KompongPhluk and the KompongKhleang.
The famous Angkor Wat is the most spectacular around sunrise and you have to start early to explore the temple when it is at its quietest.
Killing Fieldsand night markets
Your next big stop would be Phnom Penh, where a visit to the Killing Fields of ChoeunkEk will reveal the horrors of the Khmer Rouge that detained and tortured hundreds of thousands of men, women and children between 1975 and 1978. But Phonm Penh has more reasons to visit than its share of gory history. Its streets are colourful, its food full of flavor and you can hop on to cyclo, the traditional method of transportation and discover the city. The vibrant night markets are also a great attraction in Cambodia and you will find in these markets the best Khmer food, fish spas and some great deals on shopping.
Sipping the tarantula wine
It is not what you think; you are not drinking tarantula juice, when you hear ‘tarantula wine’. The liquor is nothing but homemade rice wine but the jar is filled with a handful of tarantulas. This spider-infused drink is worth a try. Any of the locals will be happy to pour you a shot and as you sip, you can actually see the crawly creatures floating in the dark beverage!
A bike ride through scenic Kampong Chem
A true idyllic afternoon in Cambodia will be a bike ride beside the mighty Mekong; you can either take the ferry or ride through the bamboo bridge provided it has endured the high tide to reach Kampong Chem. And you can ride through the quaint village with happy smiling faces of children greeting you on the roads. If you want, you can just stop for a while to enjoy the view of the lovely banana farm as the slightly scented wind caress your tired nerves.
A foodie’s journey
Cambodia is known for its unique dishes; even a fried tarantula is a delicacy. But nothing else compares to the tiny joint of DamnakMaes in Siem Reap. The typical Khmer BBQ platter will consist of many unusual local delicacies like barbecued beehive and crocodile. And if you think, this is too much for your platter; you can just drop in any of the local markets and sample the fried insects!
An art lover’s paradise
Some of the most beautiful pieces representing Khmer art are on display in the national museums of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. They are simply stunning and too good to miss! As you chart your way through Cambodia, these two museums have to be included in your itinerary.
There’s a lot to do in Cambodia for a week. Its natural beauty, easy way of life and great history make for great travel stories. Book yourself a holiday here and there will be plenty to write home about.