Travel Tips to Cambodia, also known as Kampuchea/ Khmer, officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochinese Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is 181,035 square kilometers (69,898 square miles) in area, bordered by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. Phnom Penh is the nation’s capital and largest city. Cambodia has a population of over 15 million. Buddhism is enshrined in the constitution as the official state religion, and is practiced by more than 97% of the population
I flew to Phnom Penh in 2010 with my wife to visit Angkor Wat, one of most visited place in Asia. Cambodia is consider one of the cheaper country to travel like Thailand. You can stay here 2 weeks and its same like you go spend in Europe for a week. Food and accommodation is cheap, even entrance fee for places.
Once touch down we get a bike taxi (tuk-tuk), is the most popular transportation here. Is actually a bike that pull a two wheel cart behind, you can sit up to 4 behind. Their fares are relatively cheap. We book one guy for 3 days, from morning to evening, he would bring us around to visit many places and temples, wait for us, like our driver. Service us until evening so we didn’t walk much in this vacation. During my time, I can book their service at $15 (Rm60) for a whole day. You can experience it by watching a minute video below here.
Angkor Wat is famous throughout the world, consider as one of 7 Wonders of the world, many tourist come to Cambodia with main purpose to see this. Angkor Wat have brought in billions of foreign income to the locals year after year, virtually support Cambodia tourism economy for centuries and many many more years to come.
The motor taxi rider suggest us to watch Angkor Wat sunrise. He also act as a tourist guide as he knows all the places well, been doing this almost everyday so he just send us here and there but mostly (Wat) temples. Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure (temple complex) in the world by land area, measuring 162.6 hectares (401+3⁄4 acres). At the center of the temple stands a quincunx of four towers surrounding a central spire that rises to a height of 65 m (213 ft) above the ground. The temple has three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. It lies within an outer wall 3.6 kilometers (2+1⁄4 miles) long and a moat more than five kilometers (three miles) long, It was so big that I took two days to visit, I bought a 3 days Angkor Pass (Angkor Archaeological Park ticket)at that time 2010 was $50 which also entitles you to some other monuments in the Siem Reap area, like Phnom Krom, Bayon, Wat Athvea, Kbal Spean, Beng Meala and the Roluos Group.
Other Temples attraction
Phnom Krom is home to majestic Angkorian temple built in the 9th century. Located at a 140 meter hilltop, some 12 km from Siem Reap, here is also a good spot for sunset view from a pagoda there. The temple has 3 towers each dedicated to a Hindu god. southern tower is dedicated to Brahma, center tower to Shiva and northern to Vishnu.
Bayon is in the heart of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, built as a dedication to Buddha by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. The Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment after a long period of meditation beneath a banyan tree. The religious significance of the banyan tree and the many banyan trees growing around the site made it an appropriate name. However, the local Khmer workers who worked on the restoration of the temple mispronounced the name as “Bayon” instead of “Banyan” and thus the name.
Prasat Wat Athvea is located about 6km outside of Siem Reap, therefore, it’s often missed out by most tourists and visitors to Siem Reap. Erected in same time as Angkor Wat in the 12th century, it’s a very peaceful place to visit.
Kbal Spean is an ancient Angkorian site located in Banteay Srei district, Siem Reap. Its name after a natural sandstone rock bridge over the Kbal Spean River. Highlights of this site is their stone cravings in the river bed of yonis and lingas, as tributes to the Hindu god, Shiva. Thus, this place is often referred to as the Valley of a 1000 Lingas or the River of a Thousand Lingas.
Beng Meala (means “lotus pond) is an unrestored jungle temple with its walls and towers burst apart with trees. Beng Mealea gives a good opportunity to experience an Angkor temple as it would have been for hundreds of years, overtaken by jungle, Located about 70km from Siem Reap, you can either book private taxi or tuk-tuk (cheaper option)
Roluos Group a group of 4 Angkor monuments named Bakong, Preah Ko, Lolei and Monty situated 12 km from Siem Reap in a small town named Roluos. They are the last remains of Hariharalaya, the 2nd capital of the Angkor-era Khmer empire.
Visit Crocodile Farm
There are at least 300 crocodiles of various sizes and age at the farm here in Siem Reap as Crocodile Farm is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Siem Reap. One of the crocodile farm is located on the road to Tonle Sap Lake. You will have to pay a fee of US$ 1 for admission of foreigners and 1,000 riel for Cambodians. You can buy stuffed crocs on the premises and other croc product like wallet, belt, shoes or view the crocodile nests in the farm. At a glance the nests look like a pile of dirt but after 75 days of incubation, some little crocs cracks open the egg and snap their teeth for the very first time. If you wanna catch the hatching moments, be here in the morning and if you are lucky, you can even hold one in your hand. One healthy female crocodile can yield up to 40 eggs a year
The admission ticket printed “Help preserve wild animals,” for entrance into the Crocodile Farm. but the crocodiles are more likely to be preserved by a Thai handbag, shoe, wallet or belt maker than an ecologically minded zoo operator. There is also a Crocodile Restaurant beside where diners are advised to order the reptile is for lunch menu. A tour to the Crocodile Farm is a must if you happen to visit Siem Reap for business or leisure. To the animal lovers or If you have any concern about animal welfare or empathy with animals then you will not want to visit here.
Water Festival (Bon Om Touk)
This Water Festival held annually over three days period in November all over Cambodia, with the biggest celebrations along the Tonle Sap River in front of Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. The Water Festival was first celebrated in the 12th century, around the time of Angkorian King Jayavarman VII.
Their Water Festival (Bon Om Touk) is celebrated yearly between 18th-20th November. In Phnom Penh people gather for big boat races, illuminated floats, a moon salutation and eating of special rice made with banana or coconut juice, The Water Festival was celebrated by the King’s Navy to kick off the Cambodian fishing season – the fluvial festivities are meant to keep the river divinities happy, ensuring a bountiful harvest of rice and fish for the year to come. It also marks the end of the monsoon season. The festival is celebrated in every province, but many Cambodians make a trip from the provinces to the capital city, Phnom Penh and spend at least two day enjoying the festivities.
In the year 2010 Water Festival, a sad tragedy happened, a human stampede broke out when a recently built bridge, The bridge crosses from the mainland over the Bassac River to Diamond Island, where a concert was held Monday night to conclude the Water Festival. The crush is thought to have started at around 10pm, on the final day of the Water festival, which is estimated to attract around 4 million population each year to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. People were stuck on the bridge, they could not move, so they pushed others into the water, I was lucky as I didn’t went to see at the evening, I wanted to go but my wife objected, other wise I could have perish in this human stampede. I was in the hotel watching the breaking news on tv. Survivors spoke of being caught up in hellish scenes with people trampling over each other in their desperation to escape a crush which Cambodian authorities said had claimed the lives of at least 378 people. After the dead, the dying and the injured had been removed, the hundreds of abandoned shoes that littered Diamond Island’s north bridge still served as a grim reminder of the chaos that had last night turned one of the most joyful events in the Cambodian calendar to tragedy.
Buffet Dinner with Apsara(Cultural) Dance
One of their highlight buffet dinner (only $12) here are beside eat and drink as much as you can, (except alcohol) you get to enjoy their cultural dance performance (Apsara Dance). Their Angkor beer cost just $1 for a big bottle (see above photo) so if you are a beer drinker, don’t miss this golden opportunity. It may cost a bit more nowadays but I believe is still cheap. There are quite a few restaurants which have this buffet dinner with show, just ask your tuk-tuk rider and they take you there.
If you are tired visiting of Wat and temple, you can head on to unwind at their vibrant beach resort which are popular with both local and foreign tourists. There are several beaches in Kompong Som Province, Sihanoukville like Sokha Beach and Independence Beach boast luxury hotels. For the backpackers, Ochheuteal Beach and the Serendipity Beach area are the most popular sandy strips.
If you looking for an island vacation, Koh Rong Samloem (accessible from Sihanoukville), is one of the most beautiful island, with dozen of beach hut resorts that welcome you. You can enjoy your relaxing hammock-time here with scuba diving activities as well
Tonlé Sap Lake is Cambodia largest freshwater lake and most important waterway with 170 floating villages resides here that depend on fishing for their livelihood. Their houses, shops, churches, schools, and temples of these villages are built on rustic buoy foundations of lashed together barrels and bamboo, and all transport is by boat. I visited their school where their pupils take boat to school and donated some stationeries and books. One of the most interesting is the village of Kompong Luong, near the town of Pursat on Tonlé Sap
Kampot here is a quiet laid-back town with oodles of old-world ambience. For travelers who opt out of the busy tourist area and wanted to live in a villagers easygoing pace lifestyle. If you want to do some visiting nearby, head to the old French summer getaway of Bokor Hill Station, with its abandoned church and eerie, empty shell of a once-grand hotel, is just an easy day trip from here, also they are limestone caves of Phnom Chhnork and Phnom Sorsia, both with old temples inside.
Kratie here is the major destination for travelers to watch their endangered Irrawaddy dolphins on the Mekong river. Tourist that came here have indirectly help to protect this dwindling numbers by offering an alternative economy to fishing, so much of the fisherman turn become tour operators and the dolphins have enough fish to eat
Battambang is another place to relax with tranquil rural countryside scenery, tiny villages, and acres of paddy rice fields. There are 3 old temples here namely Phnom Sampeau, Phnom Banan and Wat Ek Phnom which you can visit all 3 within a day. Another popular activities here is Bamboo carriage rail track where the carriage made from wood and bamboo travel between Battambang and village of O Srav.
Fish amok (steamed coconut fish in banana leaves) a national dish consists of fish, coconut milk and curry paste which is steamed.
Samlor machu trey (sweet and sour soup with fish) is a soup that’s popular in many households as it has a lovely taste. Ingredients include fish, garlic, lemongrass, celery, tamarind juice, bean sprouts, pineapple and seasoning with sugar, fish sauce, and salt.
Twa ko (Cambodian sausage) made in either beef or pork with various spices usually barbecued, grilled or pan-fried style
Char kroeung sach ko (stir-fried lemongrass beef) Kroeung is a lemongrass paste made from lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal. Beef is fry in oil and garlic until tender and add veggies like red peppers and onion
Bai sach chrouk (grilled pork and rice) Pork is marinated in coconut milk or garlic and then put on slow grill, served with rice and chicken soup, a simple and yummy dish
Nom banh chok (Khmer noodles) is their breakfast consists of rice noodles topped with green fish gravy and lots of fresh vegetables including cucumbers, green beans, mint leaves, banana blossom and bean sprouts.
Cambodia is open for all international travellers, however, it’s expensive and complicated to travel there. Since 30th March 2020, all eVisas and visas on arrival were suspended. Visitors must arrange a visa in advance, have a negative COVID test within 72 hours of departure and quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. You must also pay a $2000 deposit* (see costs of travel below) in service charges to the Cambodian government to pay for potential COVID-19 medical facilities.
Before you enter Cambodia, you will need to:
Arrange a visa in advance. (Since 30th March 2020, eVisas and visas on arrival into Cambodia have been suspended indefinitely.)
Have a medical certificate within 72 hours of the date of travel stating that you do not have COVID-19. The certificate must be from a respected health centre or hospital and should be officially stamped and signed by a qualified medical professional to certify the result.
Purchase travel insurance that has a minimum of $50,000 US for medical cover (must include COVID-19).