For Cambodia’s episode about the famous things across the globe, we have asked our fellow travel blogger Delilah Hart of “our travel mix” What is Cambodia famous for? This is her cool response!
The Kingdom of Cambodia – the country with the largest religious monument in the world, delectable cuisine, rich culture, and a dark history.
Despite Angkor, the capital of the Khmer Empire making Cambodia famous to the world, there are plenty of other things to do in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, for example, landmarks, Khmer dishes, and cultural aspects that have made the country popular.
Read on to find out what Cambodia is famous for – it’s sure to be a country to add to your bucket list.
Things Cambodia is famous for
Angkor Archaeological Park
Hearing the word, Cambodia is almost synonymous with Angkor Archaeological Park, or Angkor Wat, the largest and most popular temple (out of at least 100) within the complex. Temples date back to as early as the 9th century.
One top tip is to arrive super early if you plan to view the sunrise from Angkor Wat. Most tours will leave at 4:45 am but organize to leave at 4:30 am. If you don’t arrive early enough to get in the front row, you’ll be watching a fellow visitor’s head rather than the sunrise itself.
Despite the early morning and the freezing tuk-tuk ride due to the breeze, the view is 100% worth it.
The one-day pass is by far the most popular, but the three-day pass is highly recommended. The temple complex is deceivingly massive, and even in three days, you won’t be able to see every temple.
Toul Sleng Genocide Museum
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and The Killing Fields are the top must-do attractions in Cambodia. They expose Cambodia’s dark history, a genocide of their own people.
Just over 40 years ago from 1975 to 1979, the dictator-led Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, resulting in an estimated two million deaths in an attempt to create an “ideal” race.
The museum is the site of the S-21 prison and interrogation center. It discusses some very gruesome, in-depth stories, so come prepared as it will be a heavy day.
The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
The Killing Fields are a collective of sites where mass killings by the Khmer Rouge occurred in the dark of the night. The most well-known killing field and mass grave, Choeung Ek, located in Phnom Penh, has become a major tourist attraction. Choeung Ek is the mass grave of over 200,000 Cambodians.
There is an audiobook available, like the Genocide Museum, which gives a comprehensive overview of the history of the Khmer Rouge.
Koh Rong Island
Koh Rong has put Cambodia on the map as a great party island destination for backpackers. Once a hidden gem (there are only around 1000 locals that live on Koh Rong), now a popular tourist destination.
Koh Rong is a short 45-minute ferry ride from Sihanoukville. On the island, you’ll find lush greenery and waterfalls surrounded by picturesque beaches.
If an island filled with social hostels and beach parties isn’t for you, then you’re in luck. Just south of Koh Rong is a smaller island called Koh Rong Samloem. This quieter island is the place to relax. Koh ta Kiev is another quiet, perfect to relax island!
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is one of the most popular attractions in Phnom Penh. There are multiple buildings within the King of Cambodia’s place of residence.
The capital city of Cambodia was moved from Oudong to Phnom Penh in 1865, where the King of Cambodia recruited architects to build a palace. The spectacular architecture deservedly draws in crowds. Even the walls surrounding the palace are a work of art, with their bright yellow coloring paired with teal blue gates. Be sure to visit the silver pagoda, the main attraction within the complex.
Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge earned infamy during the years 1975 to 1979. They were the communist party of Kampuchea or Cambodia, and it was during these 4 years that the Khmer Rouge caused the deaths of up to 2.5 million Cambodians.
The Khmer Rouge was headed by the tyrannical Pol Pot and executed tasks that aimed to turn Cambodia into a communist country. Their methods for achieving this were ineffective and harsh, involving forced labor, starvation, torture and murder.
The wounds caused by the Khmer Rouge have left the country scarred to this day. It is still recent history, with families having been torn apart and the country devastated.
Floating villages are such a sight in Southeast Asia. As the name suggests, the village literally floats. The stalls aren’t on land, but instead, goods are sold from boats.
The visit is guaranteed to be a unique shopping experience. Find the floating villages a short drive from Siem Reap on the Tonle Sap River. Some of the famous floating villages include Chong Kneas and Kampong Phluk.
Some of the floating villages have more tourists as visitors than locals, and as a result, have become more commercialized. In general, the further you go, the less touristy (and more authentic) they will be.
The cities come to life when the sun goes down and the food and market stalls start popping up. This is especially relevant in Siem Reap, with tourists filling Angkor Wat in the morning, then returning back to the town for the markets at night.
Shopping at the markets in Cambodia is great. The markets have a diverse selection of souvenirs, as well as clothing, beautiful artwork, and other handicrafts.
After making some purchases and taking part in the game that is haggling, you won’t find a shortage of street food stalls. Rolled ice cream stalls and pancake carts line the streets as far as the eye can see. You’ll also find plenty of savory dishes such as rice, noodles, and curries.
Tuk-tuks are hands down the best way to get around Cambodia. Not only are they cheaper to rent than cars, but they are also incredibly abundant, easy to order through the Grab app, and they’re smaller than cars, making it easier to get from one destination to another.
You’ll see two types of tuk-tuks roaming the streets; the classic ‘remorque’, a motorbike attached to a two-wheeled trailer and a three-wheeled auto rickshaw that is commonly seen in India.
Using a tuk-tuk to get around Angkor Archaeological Park is very common and the breeze you get from the open-air vehicle is a great way to cool down in between walking through the temples.
Cambodia’s traditional ballet is called Apsara. The history of the dance dates back to the seventh century. Apsara is traditionally led by one dancer and her subordinates.
Apsara is of Hindu origin. Apsaras are divine creatures from heaven brought to Earth to dance for the Gods. Their story is depicted on a bas-relief in Angkor Wat.
Dancers are adorned in beautiful costumes featuring a tightly-fitted silk bodice, gold headdress and jewelry, and a decorative collar.
The French ruled Cambodia from 1863 to 1953, explaining the strong French influence on the buildings in Phnom Penh.
The colonial-era buildings are well preserved, especially the grand post office of Phnom Penh, with its yellow buildings, green windows, and white trimmings.
When in Phnom Penh, create a list of French-inspired architecture and put together a DIY tour. Apart from the post office, add the UNESCO Office Building, The Mansion, Hotel Le Royal, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication, and FCC to your list.
Pizza does make people happy, but in Cambodia, happy pizza is a different ballgame. Marijuana is illegal in Cambodia, but the law isn’t enforced well, leading to many pizza joints (pun-intended) selling pizzas topped with cannabis.
This unusual dish is very popular amongst backpackers and young travelers throughout Southeast Asia, especially in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.
Amok is one of the most popular Khmer dishes to try during your next trip to Cambodia. The dish is typically fish in a coconut curry. You’ll find many chicken variations across restaurants, cafes, and stalls.
The dish is mild but so fragrant. The flavors to look out for include lemongrass, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and shallots.
If you’ve ever heard of the legendary banh mi from Vietnamese cuisine, num pang is the Cambodian version. This French-inspired dish consists of a fresh baguette with delicious fillings.
Wherever you go, you’ll get something a little different. But, num pang traditionally features meats, pickled vegetables, and pate. Find these for as cheap as $0.85 USD if you hunt around the roadside carts.
When in Cambodia, you’ve got to try their local beer. Enjoy a refreshing drink (or two) in the late afternoon when the sun is setting. It’s not their only locally-brewed beer, but it is their most famous. You could also try Klang Beer and Bayon Beer.
Fun fact; whereas the beer is named after the temples in Angkor, Siem Reap, the beer is brewed at the Cambrew Brewery in Sihanoukville, a coastal city in southern Cambodia.
Lok Lak is a taste like no other. It’s a dish adapted from Vietnamese cuisine.
Lok Lak is usually made from stir-fried beef, but you can commonly get pork and chicken Lok Lak nowadays. The meat is served with a fried egg and fresh vegetables, such as red onions, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber.
The characteristic peppery taste is provided by a simple but powerful sauce made from pepper, salt, and lime juice. Pour it over your plate and enjoy!
Kickstart your day with Kuy Teav, a fresh, great option for breakfast. This rice noodle dish is complete with pork stock, topped with fresh herbs that bring a tonne of flavor, shallots, spring onions, and bean sprouts.
You’ll find kuy teav everywhere in Cambodia; at market stalls, roadside cafes, and restaurants. Like many of the noodle dishes in Southeast Asia, your noodle dish will come with condiments to add flavor to the broth, like chili sauces and lime
Delilah Hart is a digital nomad traveling the world. She’s a blogger for Our Travel Mix, a travel site that aims to help people travel better.
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