7 reasons you need to visit Cambodia right now

With ancient temples, beautiful beaches and vibrant cities, it’s easy to see why Cambodia’s becoming a must-visit destination. Here’s why you should go this year…

Team Wanderlust
02 September 2022

Cambodia is shaping up to be Southeast Asia’s most exciting destination, and it’s easy to see why – it’s got everything from ancient temples to beautiful beaches and modern, vibrant cities. Here are seven reasons to visit this year. And should you need even more incentive, read to the bottom to find out how Flight Centre and G Adventures can make your experience even more exciting…

1: The archaeological sites

It’s worth the early morning start to see Angkor Wat at sunrise (Shutterstock)

You don’t need a PhD in ancient civilisations to be wowed by Cambodia’s archaeological treasures. Siem Reap’s Angkor Wat — the sprawling temple complex dating back to the 12th century — draws the biggest crowds. We recommend rising early to enjoy the most spectacular sunrise of your life, before checking out other nearby sites, such as Angkor Thom, a lesser-known ancient walled city, and Ta Prohm, which doubled as a backdrop for the first Tomb Raider films. A great place to gain an insight into Cambodia’s archaeological gems is Siem Reap’s Angkor National Museum.

2: The people

A smiling Cambodian woman (Shutterstock)

The Cambodian genocide came to an end just 40 years ago, so it’s no surprise that Cambodians are incredibly proud of their country’s recovery – and keener than ever to show the wider world that it’s very much open for business. Never pass up an opportunity to mingle with locals, whether it’s by booking a dinner at one of Siem Reap’s many NGO-funded training restaurants (for example, New Hope Cambodia – a vocational training restaurant), or with a visit to one of the country’s social enterprises. One of the best is Phare, a Siem Reap-based circus and social enterprise set up to offer local youth training and employment.

3: The food

Fish amok is a delicious curried fish, and one of Cambodia’s favourite dishes (Shutterstock)

Given Cambodia’s close proximity to Thailand and Vietnam, it’s easy to see why Cambodia’s mouth-watering cuisine shares certain traits. This includes spiciness – although in Cambodia, chilli is usually served on the side, rather than being mixed into dishes. However, you’ll also find dishes which are unique to Cambodia. Generally, food contains less coconut milk and sugar than Thai cuisine, with ingredients like bananas, limes, lemongrass and shallots used to add flavour. Herbs – rather than spices – are often used to liven up dishes. Pork and chicken are the most popular meats, although seafood – especially crab and squid – is popular in coastal areas. Typical Cambodian dishes to look out for include the delicious fish amok (curried fish), bok svay (green mango salad served with dried fish) and samlor karkoo (soup made with vegetables and green fruit – usually jackfruit, banana and papaya).

4: The cocktails

Phnom Penh’s riverside is a perfect spot for a cocktail at sunset (Shutterstock)

Believe it or not, Phnom Penh is emerging as one of Southeast Asia’s most exciting nightlife destinations, thanks to its affordable riverside cafés and innovative bars, such as the tuk-tuk bars you’ll spot in the Bassac Lane area. But our favourite spot for a sundowner has to be the legendary Foreign Correspondents’ Club. This riverside watering hole opened in the early 1990s — a popular hangout for journalists documenting the country’s post-war recovery. It has retained its Art Deco appearance, and foreign correspondents are still entitled to a discount. It’s an essential stop-off for anyone visiting the city, despite the fact that the vast majority of customers are writing postcards, not newspaper articles.

5: The history

Skull Pagoda at Choeung Ek, also known as ‘the killing fields’ (Shutterstock)

Cambodia is a vibrant success story, albeit shaped by some of the 20th century’s darkest days – the Cambodian genocide, which occurred between 1975 and 1979, when the country was ravaged by the Khmer Rouge. A tour with a local guide is a fantastic way to gain an insight into this past, especially with an NGO-supported tour guide. We highly recommend Choeung Ek, otherwise known as ‘the killing fields’. This sprawling memorial, best explored on a day trip from Phnom Penh, was an execution site during the Khmer Rouge’s reign. Equally harrowing – but essential for anyone keen to understand more about the country’s history – is a visit Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sleng prison, where thousands of Cambodians were imprisoned and killed.

6: The landscape

The banks of Tonlé Sap lake are home to three million people (Shutterstock)

Cambodia’s landscape is beautifully diverse. Although it’s most famous for its temples, it’s also got some of Asia’s most breathtaking beaches, along with a substantial chunk of the Mekong River – the longest river in Southeast Asia. And then there’s Tonlé Sap lake, near Siem Reap. Its banks are home to three million people, many of whom live in floating villages. No visit to the area is complete without a tour of the lake. These excursions usually include visits to Tonlé Sap’s fish farms, followed by opportunities to meet locals and find out more about their life on the water. We’ve also got a soft spot for Cambodia’s towns and cities, which include the bustling, steamy heat of Phnom Penh and colourful Kratié in the east. This historic town is famous for its French colonial buildings and wide, tree-lined boulevards.

7: The neighbours

Halong Bay in Vietnam, which borders Cambodia (Shutterstock)

Cambodia makes the ideal base for an overland exploration of its neighbours – namely Laos, Thailand and Vietnam – and it’s easy to combine all four destinations on a single trip. Many itineraries visit the capital cities of three Southeast Asian countries — Bangkok, followed by the beautiful Vietnamese capital of Hanoi and Cambodia’s riverside capital, Phnom Penh. This is also a good way to experience the colourful chaos of a border crossing, when you drive across the border from Vietnam into Cambodia, or into Thailand. Flights will link you too, but nothing beats the excitement of driving overland into a new country.

Why book with Flight Centre? 

Flight Centre makes holidays easy. Instead of having to coordinate booking your flights, your tour with G Adventures, the travel insurance and all the extra bits too, Flight Centre provides an end-to-end service so that everything is done for you with a simple phone call. Its Experts do all of the hard work, so you just tell them your dates and the places you want to see, and they’ll do the rest — it couldn’t be easier.

For a trip that combines all of the above activities and more, try one of the following three itineraries run by G Adventures — experts in small group travel — and bookable through Flight Centre.

For a tour that takes in the vibrancy of Bangkok, the wonders of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and the best of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, try G Adventures’ Indochina Encompassed trip.

If you want to experience an 18-day whirlwind of great food, spellbinding temples, night markets and bike rides, check out Discover Southeast Asia.

To experience real local culture through homestays, traditional restaurants and locally-guided tours, try Cambodia & Laos Adventure.

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