One Of My Favorite Countries And Hopefully Will Be Yours Too!
Cambodia has held a special place in my soul since I traveled there in the summer of 2006. I was impressed by the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, admired families living on the floating villages and respectfully walked through the killing fields in Phnom Penh. However, what drew my heart close were the people. Their tenacity, willingness to be incredibly open and generous despite their tumultuous past is a great example of how not to let your history define who you are but rather to come out on the other side stronger and more determined. It was through their bright smiles and immense charm that I saw what Cambodia truly was: a country of great heart and optimism that shines its light to all who pass through.
This light is what made me fall in love with Cambodia. My multi-faceted experience connected me to people in a way that I never felt before. It was profoundly moving that it made me examine my place in this world for the first time. The lack of depth and superficiality I had for humanity needed to expand. It was this adventure that changed my travel from being one-dimensional to more layered – embrace differences, approach situations with more compassion, and to be constantly curious and open to the unfamiliar.
I regret not exploring more of the country beyond the tourist hot spots. However what I did experience was incredible and I hope you get the opportunity to visit most of these places.
PLACES TO VISIT IN CAMBODIA
When traveling through Cambodia, I recommend hiring local guides. Learning about the past political instability and the genocide of the late 1970s will richer your experience. As these gruesome and tragic events happened only a short time ago, your guide may be able to recount first hand the suffering the country endured through Pol Pot’s dictatorship.
S-21 Prison and Choeung Ek Killing Fields: A short drive from Phnom Penh is a school used to torture prisoners and one of the Killing Fields where the genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge Regime occurred. This is a sobering experience as you will walk over bone fragments, see a tower of skulls and come face to face with photographs of the victims.
Friends Restaurant: This restaurant provides street kids and at risk youth the opportunity to gain new skills. The food is incredible, the service charming and the prices very reasonable.
Angkor Wat: The reason to come to Siem Riep. The immense grounds house incredible temples so it’s best to hire a tuk-tuk driver. Be ready to explore from dawn to dusk, sweat through your clothes, consume barrels of water and be interrogated by kids trying to sell you trinkets. YOU WILL LOVE IT!
Floating Villages: Watch life unfold as you spend a day boating around homes, restaurants and schools built on stilts on Tonlé Sap Lake. These communities have no electricity and lack clean, fresh water. Witness children playing basketball, families attending church and students studying at school. Be ready to hand over a few dollars to children paddling on small inner tubes to your boats. They sneak up on you!
Relax on the beach, have a cocktail at a beach bar or visit Bamboo Island. In the afternoon support the blind community by treating yourself to a massage at Seeing Hands Massage Center. This town is where I tried a ‘happy’ pizza’. I was only to have a slice and ended up consuming half the pie. My massage had to be rescheduled for the following day as I was tripping out in my room. I have not looked at mushrooms the same way since.