Before I arrived in Cambodia, there were only two things about the country that I really knew about. One was the famous Angkor Wat temple and the other was the genocide that took place in the seventies. After spending some time in this amazing place I realised that, while it’s important to always remember the atrocities that happened, there is so much more to Cambodia than its history and its temples.
The people are so happy and friendly, which is quite incredible considering the country’s brutal history. The guide who showed me around the Angkor Wat temple complex lost many members of his family during the genocide and he was one of the most positive and fun-loving people I think I’ve ever met. Thailand is known as ‘the land of smiles’, but Cambodia has to be a close second.
There are many beautiful beaches to relax on and islands to hop around along the coast of Cambodia. I had never thought of it as a beach destination before, but I actually preferred some Cambodian beaches to Thai ones because they were much quieter.
The food is delicious. If you love Thai food then you will get along fine in Cambodia. The dishes are different, but there are still plenty of rice and noodles. If you’re feeling brave you can try some of the more unusual local foods – scorpions, tarantulas and insects. I wish someone had taken a picture of my face the first time I saw a bottle of ‘tarantula wine’ – I’m sure my expression was hilarious!
There is a pretty active nightlife scene in Cambodia, which I wasn’t expecting. Some of the nightlife areas didn’t appeal to me much and reminded me of the seedier parts of Bangkok, but I also had some really fun nights out here.
As I said before, there is much more to Cambodia than temples. However, the temples you’ll see here are some of the most unique and extraordinary in the world. From the breathtaking Angkor Wat to the smiling figures of Angkor Thom and the overgrown jungle at Ta Prohm, there is so much to see.
So if you’re thinking about flying in to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat and then moving on again, I’d recommend against it. This is definitely a place you want to spend some time exploring.