Stacks of smiles, children screaming ‘hello’ as they follow you down the street, and overwhelmingly warm hospitality are all part of your experience in Cambodia and something that you will sorely miss on your departure.
Life is lived out on the streets in Cambodia, from the street vendors flogging their wares to Cambodians chilling on the sidewalks in front of their homes and kids playing. No matter where you look, there is a colourful feast for the eyes.
People-watching is a popular pastime with many, made even more enjoyable in Cambodia by the zany sights that abound the country. From a family of six crammed onto a motorbike and vehicles weighed down with crazy loads to amusing T-shirt slogans, there’s always something entertaining to see in the country.
The countryside – especially during monsoon season when the paddies are a lush green, and the country comes to life – is the jewel of Cambodia. Think sprawling rice fields studded with palm trees, grazing cattle, gently rolling hills, dramatic skylines and dusty tracks snaking through villages.
Not only will you be craving the lip-smacking delicious tastes of Khmer food, which is available on seemingly every street corner throughout the Kingdom, but you will also miss the vast variety of options available in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh – from Indian, Korean, Japanese, American and Australian to Russian, Nepalese and Ethiopian.
Cambodia has a rich culture, which forms a major part of Khmer national pride. From the temples of Angkor to Apsara dancing, traditional theatre, silk weaving and national dress, there is evidence in every corner of the country.
Dusk is a prime time of the day when the sun starts to disappear and the temperature drops. Thankfully for visitors, there is a whole host of bars and restaurants that hold happy hours during this time, and this makes watching the sky transform into a palette of colour with a cocktail in hand the perfect way to spend the golden hour.
Kicking back and relaxing to the soothing sound of turquoise waters crashing on powder white sands on one of Cambodia’s many almost-deserted tropical islands is no doubt something that travellers will miss. While Koh Rong attracts the crowds, the likes of Koh Rong Samloem, Koh Ta Kiev, Koh Thmei and Koh Totang are significantly less crowded and developed.
Cambodia’s natural offerings are quickly dwindling, thanks to illegal logging, poaching, land-grabbing and rapid development. However, there are still plenty of spots to catch wildlife in its natural habitat, from the Cardamom Mountains to remote Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri.
As well as boasting a rich culture, Cambodia is a country with a fascinating and long history. And visitors don’t have to look far to immerse themselves in it, from the ancient temples and religious structures that dot the country, including the glorious Angkor Wat – HQ of the almighty Khmer Empire – to the historic hill tribes and ethnic groups.
If haggling is your thing, then you’ll miss the time spent wrangling a good deal at the many markets across Cambodia. Stall holders enjoy bartering with potential punters, and there’s nothing more satisfying than walking away with a better deal.
Buddhism is the ruling religion in Cambodia, and the sounds of monks chanting often drift through the air. The country’s spiritual side has given way to a host of meditation and yoga retreats, where a cool sense of calm is waiting to wash over you.
While prices in the Kingdom are undoubtedly on the rise, finding a spot to enjoy a 50-cent beer during happy hour remains an easy task. And even if you don’t, then the usual fee of $1 still sits way below the crazy prices for booze back in the West.