Cambodia is a spiritual country full of ancient temples, lush mountains and the raging Mekong Delta. The capital, Phnom Penh, is a pulsing hub of markets, bars and restaurants by the riverside and with the grand Royal Palace at its centre. Yet any traveller will tell you that it is the Cambodian people who stand out the most. The nation has seen much turmoil and bloodshed yet the population’s enduring optimism can be felt in everything they do. Prepare to be welcomed into Cambodia with a wide smile.
Sights to See
Cambodia is the place to visit striking temples and palaces, including the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda and Wat Phnom.
If you’re not squeamish then the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes is an important part of Cambodia’s troubled history, as it was the country’s largest detention and torture centre during Pol Pot’s reign.
Cambodia has no shortage of beautiful natural sights, from the mighty Mekong River to the jungle-choked mountains where Cambodia’s ethnic minorities reside.
What’s For Lunch
Fried spiders! No, really. Deep fried arachnids are considered a regional delicacy in Cambodia, especially in the town of Sukon. But don’t worry, you can find them in Phnom Penh too. The spiders are a species of tarantula, about the size of your palm, and are usually fried in oil and tossed with sugar, salt and garlic. They are said to taste vaguely of chicken.
If You Only See One Thing
The most recognised structure in all of Cambodia is the grand temple Angkor Wat, believed to be the world’s biggest religious building. The huge structure was built in the early 12th century and is said to be where the ancient gods reside on earth. Surrounded by a moat, the central complex is decorated in relief sculptures including over 3,000 heavenly nymphs and has an impressive central tower. It is a purely stunning temple that is essential to the Cambodian people.
There aren’t a lot of signs when you’re out in the jungle or exploring an ancient Cambodian temple. For that reason it’s handy to know how to ask where the toilet is. Try to remember: Bantub dakk noew ay nah?
Cambodian carvers are very talented at detailed wood work. If you enjoyed some of the country’s fine temples, pick up a wooden asparas – the little nymphs you’ll often see carved on the walls.