Cambodia is famous for its temples of Angkor Wat, but otherwise the country is still quite unknown to tourists. Most tourists who go to Cambodia only visit Angkor Wat, before continuing their journey through Vietnam, Laos or Thailand. Cambodia is so much more than that. The temples of Angkor Wat are beautiful and fascinating, but Cambodia has so much more to offer tourists. It has a long coastline, just like Thailand, where hardly any tourists go. This is mainly due to the poor infrastructure and lack of tourist facilities, such as hotels, shops and restaurants. On the other hand, the coast of Cambodia has not yet been affected by mass tourism, such as neighbouring Thailand. There are beautiful, untouched coral reefs to admire and countless islands to visit. Only, how do you get there? Now you are reliant on the local fishing boats, but that of course makes the trip much more adventurous!
The other regions of Cambodia are also very worth visiting. The mighty Mekong River flows here from north to south, which is perfect for making a boat trip. You will also find the famous but almost extinct Irrawaddy Dolphin. West of the Mekong River lies Tonlé Sap, the largest lake in Southeast Asia. Many tourists sail across this lake from the capital Pnom Penh to Siem Reap province to admire the temples of Angkor.
Cambodia’s history is tumultuous: in the late 1970s, the khmer rouge leader, Pol Pot, ruled. Under his regime, 2 million people were killed, at that moment a fifth of the Cambodian population. Click here for more information about this black page in Cambodian history.
Cambodia is still littered with mines from the time of the war with Vietnam. Mine clearing is precision work and takes a lot of time and money. That makes it hard to clean them up. Fortunately, many areas in Cambodia are already mine-free. Unfortunately, there are still casualties today. For many tourists this is a reason to leave Cambodia, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The only rule is not to go off the trails.
In Battambang province, west of Siem Reap (where the temples of Angkor are situated), you can book a tour to a local village, a village homestay. Your guide is Sambath Soung, who has been showing tourists around the city of Battambang for years. Since 2006 he has taken tourists to his village of Tapon, 15 km from Battambang. This is where you spend the night at his aunt and uncle’s house. Now that tourists are arriving, a Western toilet has been installed at the house. Now everyone in the village wants a Western toilet! You can explore the area by bike or on the back of the bike. There are special temples and markets nearby, but it’s just as nice to walk around and meet the locals. You really are a tourist attraction here: very few tourists have preceded you. It is special to see how rural Cambodians live here. You can travel here by bus (on a very bad road). It’s much more fun to catch the boat that leads you here from Siem Reap. There are many people living here on and around the water, on houseboats and along the banks. For sambath Soung’s email address, click here. You absolutely can’t skip this village homestay on your trip through Cambodia.