Cambodia has got the lot, and its enchanting landscapes, rich history and culture and the innate hospitality of the people keep visitors coming back for more. Here are a few reasons why the country should be on everyone’s bucket list.
The Kingdom of Wonder comes coupled with a rich culture and heritage that runs through the veins of Cambodians. From magical apsara dancers, traditional music, elaborate ceremonies and stage shows, there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to immerse themselves in the vibrant local scene. Sovannaphum Theatre in Phnom Penh puts on regular performances, with workshops in shadow puppetry available. Cambodian Living Arts also produces a series of traditional dance shows.
History buffs will be in their element in Cambodia, with the great Khmer Empire remaining at the centre of national pride. From wandering around the ancient temples of Angkor Wat and discovering more about the kings who created them to the country’s switch from Hinduism to Buddhism and through to its recent violent past, the Kingdom holds a strong and fascinating history.
Despite lacking a national art gallery, the art scene is thriving in Cambodia, with a wave of young contemporary artists leading the way. Galleries sit throughout the capital and Siem Reap, as well as the artistic capital of Battambang and a handful in Kampot. Phnom Penh’s Sa Sa Bassac, Java Café and Gallery and Meta House often show the work of budding artists. In Siem Reap, Theam’s House, Constable Gallery at Large and The 1961 Coworking Space and Gallery are must-visits.
If you like to drive a hard bargain, then get your haggling hat on and head to the nearest market. They are central to life in Cambodia and are bustling early in the morning as people clamour to buy the freshest foods for the day. Russian Market, Central Market and BKK1 Market in Phnom Penh flog everything from clothes, souvenirs, music and DVDs to food, household goods and vehicle parts. In Siem Reap, Angkor Night Market and the Old Market are hot spots.
The Cambodian calendar is full of public holidays, with celebrations taking place regularly throughout the year. The main holiday is Khmer New Year, which falls on April 14 to 16 in 2018, with another favourite festival, Pchum Ben, taking place September 19–21, 2017. The religious festival sees Cambodians remember the dead, with offerings given to monks. Water Festival, which lands on November 2–4, 2017, sees people flock to the riverside in Phnom Penh to watch the colourful display of boat races that take place on the Tonle Sap River.
From the country’s signature fish amok and beef lok lak to crab and Kampot pepper and the mass of noodle and rice dishes that are eaten on a daily basis, exploring the flavours of Cambodia is essential. A range of food tours and cookery classes are available to take visitors on a journey through the tastes of the Kingdom. The more adventurous can sample popular snacks such as deep-fried tarantulas, crickets and other grub.
Whether it be tranquil views of a turquoise sea from powder white sand shores, looking over emerald green paddies or out across a deep jungle, Cambodia is full of breath-taking landscapes that will make any visitor stop and stare. Make sure you keep your camera fully charged for all of those Insta-worthy snaps.
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