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15 Reasons Why You Have To Go To Cambodia This Year

Photo by Xuan Thinh Mai on Unsplash

So you’re thinking of visiting Cambodia? Here are 15 reasons why saying yes to any and every offer to go to Cambodia is the right thing to do. These reasons are suggested and written by both locals and tourists

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#1 Place To Visit: War Museum

First-hand experience: Never have my emotions been torn apart as much as they were at the war museum, I found the experience to be more eye-opening and shocking than Auschwitz, S21 or the Killing Fields. It goes without saying that them three places were all horrific.

Our guide was brilliant, he gave us a harrowing account of his life. The bleakest moments in his life included discovering his family had all been killed, getting his back burned when he stood too close to a rocket launcher, losing a leg and being shot. He still has shrapnel stuck in his body which he insisted we felt. As I felt the shrapnel a shiver ran through my entire body.

Contributors: Ross Symonds from Ross The Explorer

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#2 The Amazing Community

Join a tour group, come on a retreat or show up and make a friend! Cambodia is a place where you can go alone and find friends or a group to join up with. Every time we go we meet more people. We have dear friends at all the local restaurants who recognize us when we visit. Those who come on my retreat alone end up making friends with other retreaters and now have relationships that have lasted years! It’s truly the only place I have noticed you can show up and make friends and even family once you arrive!

Contributors: LesleyLogan from Lesley Logan Pilates

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  1. I did this retreat. So much fun. The temples are so beautiful, and I still stay in touch with the people I met in my group

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#3 A very young population; visit the Killing Fields to understand

About half of Cambodia's people are under age 15, and nearly no one is over age 50.  In the 1970s, about one third of the population was killed under the Khmer Rouge regime.  Babies killed during that time would now be over 40 years old.  It is a dark history, but visit the Killing Fields near Phnom Penh to feel the emotion yourself.

Contributors: David Sylvia from Crusoe

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#4 Explore the beautiful beaches of Sihanoukville

While most people think of the waters in Thailand, experienced travelers will tell you that Cambodia is also home to incredible beaches that are pristine and less crowded. Facing the Gulf of Thailand, the area is filled with beautiful sandy beaches, seafood restaurants, and nightclubs.

Contributors: Ernest Shahbazian from Trip Astute

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#5 Place To Visit: Discover Ream National Park

Ream National Park is southeast of Sihanoukville and is a large untouched nature reserve. You'll see mangroves, birds, and other wildlife that are native to the area.

Contributors: Ernest Shahbazian from Trip Astute

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#6 Place To Visit: Angkor Wat Out-Builds the Pyramids of Egypt

Angkor Wat is made from between 5 and 10 million stone blocks, and is the largest religious monument ever constructed.  The entire city of Angkor used more stone than all the pyramids of Egypt combined and covered more area than present-day Paris.

Contributors: David Sylvia from Crusoe

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#7 Be A Real-Life Lara Croft, Tomb Raider

The temple in the movie Tomb Raider was the temple of Ta Prohm in Cambodia.  It is rumored to have a carving of a stegosaurus to stand as proof that humans and dinosaurs cohabited the Earth. Others claim the picture is a buffalo, a rhinoceros, or a mythical creature.

Contributors: David Sylvia from Crusoe

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#8 No McDonalds!

If you want to escape American fast food and immerse yourself in local culture, visit Cambodia.  It has never had a McDonald's in the whole country.  Only Ghana and Yemen can say the same.

Contributors: David Sylvia from Crusoe

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#9 Place To Visit: Night Market in Siem Reap

A visit to Cambodia wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t get a chance to see the ‘Night Market’ in Siem Reap.  After spending the day touring Angkor Wat and Lauren Croft’s Tomb, relax with fish giving your feet the best 30-minute cleansing followed an hour massage for $4.  Then give some of the outdoor street vendors some much-needed business in their specialty booths selling $2 t-shirts and local candy and crafts. There are lots of dinner options along the bustling streets and finish the night off with a nightcap at a bar or opt for the rolled ice cream before taking your Siem Reap Tuk Tuk Limo back to your hotel.

Contributors: Rob Hutchins from Live with Adventure

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#10 Gay-friendly kings

Cambodia's previous king came out in support of gay marriage during his rule. Cambodia's current king is rumored to be gay; he is an ex-ballet dancer and has remained unmarried for 65 years.

Contributors: David Sylvia from Crusoe

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#11 Experience: Phare

First-hand experience: Our main ambition when visiting Cambodia was to see Angkor Wat, like every other tourist on the planet. But we discovered that Siem Reap is so much more than Angkor Wat. A highlight of our stay was seeing Phare, a circus performed by young Cambodians.

Think a smaller scale Cirque du Soleil without all the pomp and circumstance. The performers are part of a social program founded by Phare Ponleu Selpak who seeks to improve the lives of at risk youth by educating them in the arts as well as providing professional training. Not only do you get to be fabulously entertained, you are helping the welfare of Cambodians as well.

Contributors: Amanda Johnson from Kid on the Road

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#12 The Scary Snacks

Fried tarantulas are a delicacy in Cambodia.  You'll find them everywhere in Skuon in Cham Province, but you can find them elsewhere throughout the country.  They're said to crunch sort of like a soft-shell crab.

Contributors: David Sylvia from Crusoe

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#13 The New Years Celebrations in April

The Buddhist New Year is celebrated in April.  People celebrate by throwing water and talcum powder on each other in the streets.  The practice had been banned in major cities, but Siem Reap began again in 2015.

Contributors: David Sylvia from Crusoe

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#14 Place To Visit: The Sacred Waterfall (Kulen Mountain)

First-hand experience: When I saw that a waterfall was on the itinerary I was underwhelmed. I was in Siem Reap to explore the temples! But, as we got to the part of the river where the water becomes sacred, I got excited. I could feel it.

You can see the blessing stones under the tiny ripples of flowing water, and you would hardly believe something this calm and docile would lead to a huge roaring waterfall. After buying some tasty treats from the local food vendors I made my way down the steps. Before I reached the bottom I could feel the mist. The unveiling of the waterfall was amazing, It's a rush. The water was so beautiful that we ended up staying most of the day to swim, climb, pose, and explore it. Kulen Mountain is definitely worth the trip.

P.S. If you're into dirtbikes/motorcycles: there is a dirtbike tour that will set up for a ride to the top.

Contributors: Zachary Weiner from Nomadic Creative

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#15 Place To Stay: Jaya House River Park

Located alongside the Siem Reap River in Cambodia and surrounded by the Angkor World Heritage sites, Jaya House River Park is a 36-room boutique hotel offering luxury amenities and services. This includes two swimming pools (one featuring the world's first silver chrome tiles), Spa and an all-day-dining restaurant.

Each guest also receives one complimentary spa service daily. With a goal of celebrating Cambodia's heyday during the 1960s, the art features several large paintings made in Siem Reap by the Small Art School (an NGO supported by Jaya House).  Laundry bags are made by Rehash Trash using recycled plastic bags from Chi Kreng Province and created full-time jobs for 14 women.

Contributors: Debra Kelman Loew from Robertson Solutions

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