Let me just say, Cambodia is the only country I’ve been to where I’ve used my entire 30 day visa, and it’s the first place I learnt the benefits of slow travel. Yep, taking it slow is the way forward friends, and not just because that pesky sun requires you to sit down every two minutes.
Which reminds me, if you’re thinking of going to Cambodia, please do yourself a huge favour and don’t go in May. It’s the hottest time of year and I literally MELTED. As a matter of fact, I almost fainted in the middle of a market on a particularly fiery day.
As you imagine it was highly embarrassing, but nothing that a few sips of cold Diet Coke couldn’t solve. Oh, and those market ladies who kindly fanned me.
Anyway, aside from all the sweating and fainting, I managed to fit quite a lot of activities in during those 30 days, and I left feeling like I’d really got to know the country and its history.
There’s so much to see and do and experience in Cambodia, but here are a few things to put at the top of your list.
Visit Angkor Wat
I know, Captain Obvious over here. This goes without saying.
When I visited I had an early 4.30am start, but it was worth it to see the sunrise. Tickets cost around $20 for the day and I spent about $20 on top of that for the tuk tuk rides, tour guide and snacks. I would 100% recommend getting a guide as they tell you a lot of interesting info, plus they know the best bits.
Secondly, take a shit load of water and snacks if you can. There’s a lot of walking involved and not a lot of places to stop and buy stuff.
Wine and dine on Pub Street, Siem Reap
Ah, Pub Street. As you can probably tell, there’s quite a few drinking establishments in this area, and if you’re looking for a 50 cent beer then this is the place to go.
Places like Angkor What Bar, Temple Bar, Yellow Sub and Top Banana Bar (not far from Pub Street) are always busy and great for backpackers.
There’s also loads of AMAZING restaurants and cafes around Pub Street, which completely surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it, but it turns out that Cambodia is quite the place for food perverts like myself.
In Siem Reap I managed to find halloumi, avocado, red wine and even a decent gin and tonic. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.
I also had one of the best Italian meals of my life here at a place called Il Forno, so if you’re craving some decent red wine and cheese (a rarity in Southeast Asia) make sure you don’t miss it. I also loved the Sister Srey cafe for brunch, and for my daily tea fix.
Chill out at a countryside retreat
Ten days of my month long stay in Cambodia were spent at a beautiful countryside Yoga & Meditation Retreat called Hariharalaya.
Located in the in the sleepy Siem Reap countryside, it’s perfect if you feel like switching off (there’s no wifi) and stepping away from the madness of the city for a bit. I stayed in a little bamboo dorm hut with about 4 others, but you can get private rooms if you fancy.
Apart from daily yoga and meditation classes, I spent most of my time reading in hammocks, getting massages, eating home-cooked vegan food, doing workshops and chatting to other travellers.
We also had outdoor movie nights, went biking around the local village to find the famous coconut ice cream and had a dip in the new pool.
Honestly, the atmosphere there was so chilled out and friendly I’d recommend it to anyone, especially solo backpackers.
Switch off on Koh Rong
Koh Rong is the ultimate desert island getaway. Only two hours from Sihanoukville by boat, there’s no wifi, no ATMs and only 4 hours of electricity per day, so you’ve got no choice but to drink cocktails and work on your tan.
I know, such a hard life.
You’ll probably stay in beach hut-style accommodation like the bungalows in Palm Beach Resort, which is where the unfortunate cockroach-in-my-tshirt incident happened.
Thankfully though, there was a bar right on the beach where I could have a nice G&T and forget about the whole thing.
If you’re here, please remember to take a midnight dip in the ocean and see the amazing neon green plankton. It’s incredibly surreal and feels like you’re swimming in bright green glitter.
Be a history geek in Phnom Penh
If you’re going to Cambodia, you’ll probably travel through the capital of Phnom Penh at some point. It’s completely different to Siem Reap, and has more of a big city vibe with tonnes of shops, bars and restaurants.
While I was here, I was keen to visit S22 and The Killing Fields, and even though it was a harrowing day, I was really glad I went. I think it’s important to see these places for yourself and understand what really happened there, no matter how upsetting. It’s amazing to see how the country has re-built after 30 years or so, and I would really recommend these tours.
Another must-see is the Royal Palace. It’s a beautiful place to wander around and pretty centrally located too, which is great if you haven’t got much time. I spent my last few hours here and it was the perfect way to end my trip.
Thanks for having me Cambodia!