In the beautiful and rich continent of Asia lies the majestic Kingdom of Cambodia, the country with a total area of 69,898 sq. mi. located near Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Although just 88thin rank when it comes to total area, this country will give you an adventure of a lifetime by exploring three of its major destinations – Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, and Siem Reap.
Here are the 10 places you wouldn’t want to miss when you set foot in the Land of Smiles:
Even before reaching the country, you have probably known that Cambodia is ruled by a royal family and what more could be proof that you were in the great Kingdom if not a photo op with the Palace as your background, right? Your trip should never be remiss of a tour around Preah Barum Reachea Veang Chaktomuk Serei Mongkol (yup, that’s the full name of the Palace in Khmer language.
But don’t worry! You need not use this when you talk to your tuktuk driver; “Royal Palace” will suffice.) The Palace grounds are open every day from 7:30-11:00 and 2:00-5:00. Though you can tour the place on your own with the help of guide pamphlets available near the admission booth, guided tours are recommended.
Just separated by a walled walkway, the Silver Pagoda is located beside the Royal Palace and is, in fact, within the same compound. The Silver Pagoda, or Wat Preah Keo Morokat (“The Temple of the Emerald Buddha”), got its name because of the 5329 silver tiles that cover the entire floor.
Aside from being silver-floored and being home to priceless Buddhist and historical artifacts, the uniqueness of this temple lies in the fact that this is where the King of Cambodia listens to the monks’ sermon and where Royal ceremonies are performed.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a former high school that was turned into Security Prison 21 (S-21) during the Khmer Rouge regime. It’s one out of at least 150 execution centers in the entire country where as many as 20,000 prisoners were tortured and killed.
Gory as it may sound, this museum is now haven to those who would want to see Cambodia for what it is by looking at what it was and what it had gone through.
Speaking of studying the past, another historical haven that you shouldn’t miss is Choeung Ek. An orchard turned into one of the many killing fields during the Khmer Rouge regime, Choeung Ek is now open to tourists and in fact, the government of Cambodia itself encourages visitors of the country to check it out.
There now lays a Buddhist stupa where more than 5,000 human skulls of the victims of Khmer Rouge are housed. You will not only be able to see where it all happened, but you will also get to hear stories of survivors and witnesses through the audio tour. Sight-seeing while learning – you get to do both in Choeung Ek.
Not only does Cambodia offer historical and cultural satisfaction, it also has a lot to offer when it comes to natural sites. For instance, the coastal city of Sihanoukville is filled with beautiful and pristine white beaches like the Otres beach, Serendipity beach, Ochheuteal beach, etc. that everyone can explore.
If you want to stay within the city, but enjoy both pool and ocean, the best place for you is Holiday Palace Casino Resort – which is not only affordable, but has good food, beautiful infinity pool, and a casino where you can surely try your luck. However, if you want some off-shore adventure, you can take a boat for a 1-2-hour trip to nearby Koh Rong Island.
Wat Krom, which means “lower wat,” is a temple in Sihanoukville and lies on a small hill overlooking the ocean. Don’t worry, this isn’t the kind of hill where you lose your breath climbing. Aside from the beautiful and unique architecture, this temple dedicated to local deity Ya-Mao, is one of the most go-to tourist spots in the Province of Sihanoukville.
Here, you will also get to meet Buddhist monks who will welcome you with their peaceful and very hospitable smiles and nods.
While traveling, you might want to get postcard-worthy photos, and surely, the Golden Lions Monument, as worthy as Daisy was in Gatsby’s eyes, is the most postcard-worthy photo you could take while in Sihanoukville.
Locally referred to as Vimean Tao Meas, this monument of two humungous golden lions located in the city center is one, if not the most prominent landmark of Sihanoukville. It would be a sin for you to not check this off your Cambodian trip bucket list!
As soon as you get to the place, you might want to explore the town first sans the temples and while you’re at it, you should probably reward yourself by feasting at the dinner buffet in Koulen II Restaurant.
This is a must-go for tourists because not only do they offer all sorts of cuisine around the world during supper, they also have a show starting at 7:30 every night showcasing a variety of Traditional Khmer dances, that include the Apsara Dance, which is the most famous of all traditional Khmer dances.
It isn’t only your tummies that will be full when you come here; your soul will also be filled with so much culture and the arts!
The Angkor Night Market is the first-ever night market in Cambodia. Here, you will not only find great deals for souvenirs and handicrafts from a lot of stalls that sell a variety of them for reasonable prices, but you can also enjoy live music at bars like the Island Bar or the Brick House bar, and enjoy a massage or a 3D event movie about the Khmer Rouge!
This is a good way to end your day at Siem Reap, as it is where a lot of tourists end theirs, which gives you endless of opportunities to meet new friends from all over the world.
And of course, globally known as a temple hub, you cannot go to Cambodia and not see the magnificent temples at the Angkor Archeological Park. Here, you will get to see a lot of temples, including the Banteay Kdei, Ta Keo, Angkor Thom, the world-famous Angkor Wat, and the temple where parts of the Tomb Raider was filmed, Ta Prohm. This may take up a whole day as there will be lots of temples which take time to explore.
For lunch, you might want to stop by the Khmer Angkor Kitchen where delicious food is served and like many local restaurants, where hammocks are located at the ground floor where customers can rest for a while after they dine – an experience that is definitely one for the books!
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