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What to do in Cambodia

Temple ruins visits

Classical picture of Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor, Cambodia

Temples are part of the ancient culture and history of Cambodia, which is why a Cambodian trip is never complete without visiting a single temple. Angkor Wat is of course the most visited temple, but there are a lot more that are worth seeing. In fact, what Cambodia lacks in modern infrastructures it makes up for its thousands of temples.

The temples have been a witness to the many wars and revolutions, so what are left standing are mostly ruins. Yet, the temple ruins hold a grandiosely archaic beauty. The wall carvings are well-preserved and exquisitely beautiful, while the architecture of each temple is impressive.

When you visit Cambodian temple ruins, especially in remote areas, expect to see plants and trees strangling some of the structures and huge piles of rocks lying in the vicinity. This kind of spectacle reminds how far the Cambodian history has gone. If you are adventurous, you can climb the steep flight of steps in some of the temple ruins. Be ready, though; the stairs are usually nausea-inducing for their steepness.

But whichever temple ruin you decide to visit, whether it’s the national symbol Angkor Wat or the remote Banteay Chhmar, you won’t be disappointed by the temple’s picturesque beauty. So have your camera always ready to document an ancient architectural remnant.

Genocide commemoration site visit

Cambodia’s tragic past has piqued the interest of travelers, making the genocide commemoration sites among the most visited tourist destinations. In these sites, you will find heart-ripping reminders of the bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge.

Visit the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek outside Phnom Penh. Serving as the extermination camp during the Khmer Rouge regime, this memorial has over 8,000 human skulls contained behind glass panels, seemingly reminding tourists of the horrors of the genocide. The skulls, which are arranged by age and sex, are only a small percentage of the total number of genocide victims from 1975 to 1979. Recovered from mass graves, the skulls never fail to envelop visitors with utter sadness.

In Phnom Penh is Tuol Sleng Museum. It was once the Tuol Svay Prey High School and was turned into a prison during the reign of the rebellious group. The 17,000 people exterminated in the Killing Fields came from this prison, and several other prisoners were tortured and killed in Tuol Sleng. Pictures of genocide victims cover the entire walls, while torture weapons and human skulls are safely preserved. The place is more serene now than it was decades ago, but the sight of the genocide remnants can weigh down any heart.

Disturbing they are, but the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Museum will show you how tragic the years 1975 to 1979 are to the Cambodians.

Elephant ride

Nothing compares to the sense of adventure and excitement that an elephant ride gives. Elephant ride was originally for Khmer kings but is now offered as a tourist activity.

Mondulkiri and Rattanakiri Provinces are famous for elephant rides, although several Cambodian tourist destinations also offer this kind of adventure. Depending on the place, the elephant will tour you around a travel destination or will transport you from one place to another. Elephant rides are usually arranged by hotels and guesthouses, while in some tourist destinations, like the Angkor Temple Complex, elephants are a mode of transportation.

An elephant ride is an experience of a lifetime, so be sure to savor every moment you are atop the elephant’s wrinkly back as you allow your eyes to wander through the beautiful scenery around you.

For a nice elephant ride, make sure to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes.


SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA – FEBRUARY 6, 2018: Famous Pub street view in the city centre at beautiful daylight

Cambodian nightlife is in itself an attraction. The night is long and lively, thanks to the numerous bars and restaurants scattered in the busy, tourist-frequented spots. Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville particularly have active night scenes.

In Phnom Penh, you can visit any of the restaurants and bars that not only serve different cuisines but provide great views as well. Live bands are also featured in some establishments, belting out rock ‘n roll, pop, and blues. Just a caveat: Walking in poorly lit Phnom Penh streets attracts muggers. Be safe and ride a taxi or a moto (motorcycle taxi) when going out or heading back to your hotel.

Siem Reap has an equally vibrant nightlife. It is a place where you can find a nice mix of pubs, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants that are open till morning, serving locals and tourists alike. People who spent the whole day visiting temples head to any of the nightspots to relax and let their hair down.

When the sun sets, Sihanoukville turns from a dreamy beach spot into a busy nightlife destination. You can spend the night in any of the bars in the beach town. Most of the bars are owned and run by expats. While you’re here, you might as well visit one or all four town casinos. Sihanoukville, after all, is known for its happy casino nights.

Souvenir shopping

Thai elephant souvenir close-up. Thailand souvenir markets, Bangkok

Much like a box of keepsakes, Cambodia is a country that offers different kinds of souvenirs. The country is literally teeming with keepsakes for sale,sale; you could hardly decide which ones to get. If you want a Buddhism-inspired souvenir, get your hands on some religious carvings. If you are into silverware, consider buying intricately made silver bowls of different shapes. And if you are in love with scarves, purchase krama, the colorful patterned headscarf worn in entire Cambodia.

Markets and souvenir shops are all over Cambodia, but Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville have the most vibrant shopping scenes.