If you visit Cambodia for the first time, you probably already have in mind to stop by the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat on your own, to go from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh or vice-versa, and you might even consider going to rest your feet in the white sand of Sihanoukville and Kep's seaside beaches before heading out to Vietnam or Myanmar?
Let me stop you now! To make the most out of what is a once in a life time experience, From Siem Reap to Sihanouk Ville here are 5 tips to visit Cambodia and never have regrets.
Ask your guide to take you to one of the great water reservoirs where you can witness the reflection of the temple on the water as the sun comes up. Depending on the weather, you might be able to take pictures featuring shades of orange, red and purple that all your friend will envy!
Did you know that the whole area of Angkor spans over 400 square km (250 sq. mi) ? One day is definitely not enough! My recommendation: get accustomed to the area map and the greater circuit on day one by riding a tuktuk or a car, but on day two, rent you own bicycle and explore! Parking is not a big deal and it will always be time for a full body massage at night back to the city.
If you think visiting Angkor Wat is the chance to get your tan on, you must read this. Don't get me wrong!s Spending the entire day outside has its perks (although a fare skin like mine just turns into an over cooked lobster) but the heat from the stone reflects on the body which can made the temperature rise to intolerable levels. Also exposition to the bright light might give you headaches or heatstroke by the mid afternoon thus ruining your plans for the rest of the day... Be smart, bring water, sunglasses, wear sheer shirts with half or long sleeves, one of those elephant print pajama like pants and your will rock the touristy look! In bonus, you will qualify for the appropriate dress code to enter respectfully the Buddhist faith sanctuaries and avoid to get ripped by shop owners waiting on the side to sell overprice pants to careless tourists.
This is an emotional one. I had mixed feelings about visiting the Killing fields, an area where 1 million people, men women and children were slaughtered during the reign of the Communist Khmer Rouge. The air is heavy, and the ground is irregular and disfigured as if it had recovered from bombings, but which in fact testifies of a much darker and awful truth. Unspeakable events happened and the remains of those who perished were collected and are visible in the central tower in display. Walk your way through the path with a local guide, most of them will share how personally the war affected them or their families. It will really make you understand how the Cambodian people are survivors, and appreciate their resilience even more.
Sihanouk ville and Kep are at the center of Cambodia's epicurean seaside life. Beaches and seafood buffets offer an oasis where you can rest a soared back from backpacking and trekking or worse, riding a night bus. But if you make it to Kep, make sure to visit a Pepper farm. In fact, it is one of the province biggest industry and the French used to directly import Kep's pepper to France for chef who would swear by its unique flavor.
So spice up your trip to Cambodia! Make the most of your stay wither it is through gem hunting in Angkor Wat, reliving History in Phnom Penh or giving a try to Cambodia's seaside life in Sihanouk Ville or Kep.