Cambodia- how to explain it. By far one of the most beautiful, dirty, easy, difficult, incredible, incredibly sad, awesome, inspiring places I have been. Although Cambodia has a rough past, its bright future is on the fast track without a a doubt. It is one of those places you just have to experience for yourself, and although Angkor Wat is a definite must, there is just so much more that makes Cambodia the magical place that it is, so here a few things not to be missed!
KAMPOT - This riverside town is the absolute perfect way to relax, sit back, and take it all in. Rooms over the water like this one at Eden Eco Village will run you a mere $15 a night, and come on, what better way to just soak in this sweet town. We stayed here 4 nights and could have stayed double that easily. Motorbike rentals area must here as all the unique guesthouses are a 10 minute ride from town and for $5 a day you have transport as well as a great way to explore the neat riverside dirt roads.
KEP- CRAB MARKET - A quick and beautiful 1 hour ride from Kampot you will find the seaside getaway town of Kep. What used to be filled with French vacation homes now lies a quaint little beach and an famous Kep crab/seafood market. It is easy, just tell the seafood girls how much you want and they will cook it up right there for you, beach front. We got 1/2 a kilo of shrimp and 1/2 a kilo of crab with 2 beers for $8, you just can’t beat it.
Cheap Draft Beer While you are talking about beers, let me entice you further with this, ice cold 50 cent draft beers practically everywhere. You will get so spoiled that you will huff at the thief who charges 75 cents. I am pretty sure I can’t a couple kilos from this, but no regrets, Cambodia is dang hot and nothing increased my happiness like these 50 cent refreshers.
Camping on Koh Ta Kiev Island - This was by far one of my favorite things we have done, not just in Cambodia, but on our whole trip. You can take a boat from Otres Beach, (which is also so fun I actually forgot to take pictures). The boats will run you about $12-$15 but they take you to a couple islands to snorkel on the way to Koh Ta Kiev and they cook you up lunch. Be warned, this island has no power, and aside from the camping spot called Crusoe’s Beach Camping, there is maybe a couple rustic bungalow guesthouses and an absinth distillery in a treehouse, no joke. The tents come with a mattress and a pillow for $10 a night or you can have an army hammock for $5, no reservation necessary, you just arrive and pick a spot. They do have food options, or do as we did and bring some supplies from the mainland too. It is the beach you are looking for when you think paradise, I actually swam for hours in the sea without even being able to see anyone else around me at all. Perfect for skinny dipping, not that I did or anything Just Go!
Banana Flower Salad- My absolute favorite dish, and a welcome fresh taste after months of fried rice and cheap pad thai. The salad is made from and served in a flower from a banana tree which is light and slightly crunchy in texture, mixed with thai basil, mint, onions, lime, chicken, and other veggies for about $2-$3.
Land Mine Museum, Siem Reap- Sorry to change the tone, but Cambodia is just the land of extremes, and as stated previously, there is an immensely heartbreaking side, that also should be seen and acknowledged. Cambodia still has thousands of unexploded land mines scattered through the countryside, a terrible aftermath of the Vietnam War. Statistically 2 every week still injure or kill innocent people; this museum provides education and funding to de-mine the area and deserves a visit.
Take a Tuk Tuk to the Killing Fields and the S21 Genocide Museum- Again, sad but extremely important. As balanced backpackers, which I’m sure you are, it is so important that when we experience these amazing cultures we don’t forget to do more than drink cheap beer and get a tan. This is only picture I took, to take pictures at the fields or museum seemed wrong, but I urge you to consider taking a day to learn about the horrific effects of the Khmer Rouge Crimes in the 70′s in Cambodia. You can hire a driver for $16 per day to take you around as pictured above which is great way to employ survivors and get to know a more intimate side of Cambodia.
Treat Yourself- Lastly, after all that temple-ing, museum going, and general heat exhaustion, treat yourself to some luxury. With treatments that cheap, you can’t afford not to.
So have fun, drink beer, eat amazing food, beach it up, and take the time to reelect on the history, Cambodia will not disappoint.