Wanderlust Watches in Collaboration with Fast Cover.
The Kingdom of Cambodia, sitting in the heart of the well-trodden Southeast Asia loop, can now boast about being one of the world’s most popular travelling destinations. With a steadily increasing flow of tourists coming to experience the pristine coastline and explore the fabled temples of Angkor. “Thousands of people travel to Cambodia each year, particularly backpackers drawn to the cheap cost of travelling,” said Dean Van Es, the CEO of Fast Cover.
But increased tourism hasn’t altered the special charm of Cambodia. There is something to explore around every corner, vibrant markets, a recent history that will move you and yet some of the most cheerful and accommodating people that’ll ensure you never forget your trip.
The ancient temple Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s iconic landmark. But flicking through pictures online and in travel guides won’t prepare you for the site. Angkor Wat is magnificent not only in design but in sheer size. Getting up before dawn and beating the crowds to the site to watch the sunrise is a must-do activity. But it is important to remember that beyond Angkor Wat there is 400km2 of land and many other temples that should be explored. While many travellers go to Angkor for a day, reserving two or even three day pass will give you more time to look at the temples from every angle and imagine how the Khmer empire looked centuries ago when it ruled much of Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are among the country’s other popular hotspots. Both have become bustling cities, with cosmopolitan cafes and a booming nightlife scene, particularly along Siem Reap’s Pub Street. Yet just a few hours away Cambodia’s rural landscape and coast gives an entirely different experience. Down on the South Coast, at destinations such as Sihanoukville, you can relax for days indulging in good food, fresh fruit and enjoying floating around in clear water. It is easy to get lost in the slow pace of life on the beach. A few Australians and Americans already have set up bars by the beach so that they can spend months on end by the water.
There is also now a number of ecotourism operations beginning to gain traction in areas such as the Cardamom Mountains. There are over sixty rare or endangered species in Cambodia which have become extinct elsewhere in Southeast Asia including the Asian elephant and tigers.
In Phnom Penh you can be taken back into the recent history of the Khmer Rouge genocide. Exploring Cambodia today, it is difficult to register that one of the country’s darkest periods occurred just over thirty years ago. In the Killing Fields you can quietly walk through the site where more than a million people died, while listening to a recorded story of the Khmer Rouge regime. Security Prison 21 and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum are another two sites where people reflect on the impacts of Pol Pot’s dictatorship.
Visiting these places gives you an even greater appreciation for Cambodia’s people. Though the country experienced hell only a few decades ago, travellers are bound to run into friendly locals that they can have a drink with and talk to.