Want to feel like a traveller rather than just a tourist on a pre-packaged trail? Not too old to have a taste for adventure? If so then Cambodia might just be the adventure that you’re looking for. If you crave creeper drenched temples where you can wander at will then Ankor Wat will exceed your wildest imaginings. The largest temple complex in the world rises out of jungle like a delirious dream; covered in ornate carving the scale and sophistication of this stupendous monument is awe inspiring. So vast is the site that even a three day pass will only enable you to see a fraction of this jungle marvel, but this need not be an exhausting experience, hire and inexpensive tuk-tuk and your guide will transport you from temple to temple at a delightful leisurely pace. Siem Riep is the closest town from which to visit the temples and is a lively and colourful introduction to Cambodia with its vibrant markets and varied cuisine, there’s even crocodile on the menu if that takes your fancy. If you’re keen to dedicate at least a week to visiting the temples, there are a number of short term lets available from HomeAway which serve as a comfortable base from which to explore the area.
The Legacy of Pol Pot
No traveller to Cambodia can fail to be aware that this is a country still recovering from the horrors of the Killing Fields, events which took place less than forty years ago. A visit to the sites of the atrocities is a challenging experience but an essential one in order to understand the Cambodia of the twenty first century; it’s the difference between being a tourist and encountering a culture as a traveller. Phom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, an intoxicating experience in its own right, is the ideal base for visiting sites made infamous by the Kymer Rouge.
Goodbye Pol Pot – Hello Pepper Pot
There was a time when no self- respecting Paris restaurant would dream of being without Kampot pepper and a trip to the delightful riverside town of Kampot, with its French colonial architecture, will help you understand why. After the bustle of Phom Penh there’s no better place to relax, dawdle the tree lined streets, rouse the English bookshop with its surprisingly eclectic choice of volumes or take a cruise down the down the wide lazy river and watch the fishermen at work. Above the town stands the ruins of a French fort, covered in surreal orange lichen and well worth a visit.
Soft shell crabs on Rabbit Island
On the southern coast of Cambodia lies the sleepy town of Kep where you can watch the local women wade waist deep into the waves to collect the soft shell crabs which are a local delicacy. It’s also the jumping off point for Rabbit Island, just a few miles off shore and a rare opportunity to experience tropical paradise unmarred by tourism.
It’s easier than you think
Cambodia is vast, magnificent and challenging. It is a poor country, slowly rebuilding itself but its people are friendly and as a travel experience it is richly rewarding. The most obvious way of getting to Cambodia is to fly direct to Phom Penh, a cheaper option is to fly to Bangkok and travel overland to Siem Reap, an interesting but arduous journey. Internal flights are limited to travel between Phom Penh and Siem Reap but long distance coaches are frequent and well organised. Go on, have yourself an adventure.