Interesting Things To Do When Travelling to Cambodia - Updated 2024

Interesting Things To Do When Travelling to Cambodia - Updated 2024
| 12 min read

Cambodia is an off-the-beaten-path destination in Southeast Asia. If you are pressed for time, you may only visit the top gems of the country, such as Angkor Wat, an immense and antiquated sanctuary complex that is formally the world’s biggest religious landmark, and Angkor Thom. Without a doubt, these are must-see attractions, but it would be a slip-up not to learn more about the rest of the country. There are many incredible things to do, see, and eat in Cambodia.

Let this article be your guide to uncovering splendid sights, bold flavors, and once in a lifetime experience in this country.

1. Sunrise at Angkor Wat

The Angkor Wat complex, next to the city of Siem Reap, was developed for over thirty years in the 1100’s as a home for King Suryavarman II, but after his demise, it remained obscure and unfamiliar until France colonized Cambodia in the mid-1800’s. What explorers revealed amidst the wilderness, both overgrown and to some degree all around protected, is presently viewed as one of the Wonders of the World.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, a well-sought activity; you will be stunned by the number of travelers who show up at 5:30 am. You simply need to know how to beat the group and where to sit for ideal unhindered viewing and photography. Clue - leave the main walkway and sit on the outpost buildings for a better view.

Tip from tour guide

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

If you're not an early bird, don't worry! You can still enjoy great views in the afternoon, since the temple faces west and boasts better lighting during that time. Just a heads up that as the afternoon is usually pretty crowded. You can plan your visit during the lunch hours or the morning for a quieter time. However, as the temple is very large and extensively decorated, I would recommend visiting it twice. The east-facing walls boasting devata sculptures can be accessed via the western gate and are best seen early in the morning. 

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2. Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom
Source: Pixabay

Angkor Thom, another impressive temple in the complex, has not been restored to the degree of Angkor Wat, and it comprises numerous curious elements. Angkor Thom’s crucial feature is an entrance bridge bordered by 54 stone warriors that seem to be performing a tug-of-war with the sacred a Naga (snake). Some of the warriors’ heads are lost, taken by looters after the Vietnam War. Bas reliefs here depict scenes of the day-to-day life of Cambodian’s at the time; men will be playing chess, women cooking and caring for babies.

Tip from tour guide

Make sure to check out the stand-alone smiling-face structure towards the west gate of Angkor Thom to discover an architectural marvel. You can enjoy lovely water views from here. You can also spend some quality time with your family by visiting Tonle Sap Lake as well as the waterfall in Phnom Kulen. Click here to see the attraction:

Tip from tour guide

The north gate of Angkor Thom

The north gate of Angkor Thom is an architectural marvel in itself, with tall stone structures crowning the entrance. The entire gate is covered in moss and surrounded by trees, lending a unique charm to the place.

Tip from tour guide

Deva watching the south gate of Angkor Thom

Don't forget to check out the massive, stone statues of Deva (God) by the water towards the south gate of Angkor Thom. With lush green trees and water, it is the perfect spot for some peaceful moments.

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3. The Bayon Temple

The Bayon
Source: Pixabay

The Bayon Temple is the overwhelming element inside the walled city of Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm is not far outside the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom. Both are Buddhist temples, and were built by King Jayavarman VII; Bayon in the late 12th century, and Ta Prohm from the mid-12th century to the early thirteenth century. These two grand samples of Angkor engineering ought not to be missed.

Ta Prohm is well-known by sight as a lost temple in a jungle atmosphere. Ta Prohm is extensively ruined, but you can still explore numerous towers, close courtyards, and narrow corridors, discovering hidden gems of stone reliefs beneath the encroaching foliage. Many of the corridors are blocked by piles of carved stone blocks that clog their interiors.

Extraordinary trees tower above Ta Prohm, their leaves separating the daylight, giving welcome shade and throwing a greenish light above the powerful site. Gently cut reliefs on the dividers sprout lichen, greenery and creeping plants.

The Bayon Temple might be the most photographed of the temples in Cambodia. Dense with trees and vines, it is famed for its massive, enigmatic carved stone faces of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Portraying attractive smiling images, assumed by many to be a representation of Jayavarman himself, these sculptures have been dubbed by some of the “Mona Lisa of Southeast Asia.” Surrounding Bayon you will find 51 smaller towers, all with four faces of its own.

Bayon Temple is enclosed by two long walls which offer an unusual posture of bas-relief scenes of legendary and historical events. As a whole, in total, there are more than 11,000 carved figures over 1.2km of wall. They were probably originally painted and gilded, however now the sculptures are getting faded.

Tip from tour guide

Intricate carvings on the temple walls The headless Buddha at Ta Prohm Ornate carvings and tree trunks merging together

The month of June is a wonderful time to check out temples such as Ta Prohm, which is nestled within the Angkor Complex. The temple is adorned with numerous trees, with their roots entwined with the roof as well as the walls of these old structures. Don't forget to check out the headless Buddha and the intricate wall carvings while you are here!

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4. Phnom Penh Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda (from USD 65.0)

interesting things to do when travelling to cambodia | phnom penh royal palace & silver pagoda

In Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, be sure to look for the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. The Khmer-style Throne Hall was constructed in 1866 to act as the home of the King of Cambodia, his family and foreign notables, as a venue for the presentation of court functions and ceremonies and as a symbol of the kingdom. South of the Throne Hall is the Royal Treasury and the Villa of Napoleon III.

The well-known Silver Pagoda, which was initially made of wood in 1866, was extended in 1962 by King Sihanouk, who had the floor trimmed with 5,329 silver tiles. Inside the palace grounds, the traffic noise is completely blocked off by the high walls and the different royal structures sit in quietness in the midst of the manicured tropical gardens.

The most worshipped picture is the Emerald Buddha, made of Baccarat precious stone and dating back to the 17th century. Behind it, there is another Buddha statue from 1906 that was made using 90 kg (198.4 lbs) of gold, and embellished with 9,584 jewels. Niches along the border contain blessings for sovereignty and dignitaries.

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Phnom Penh Private Tour: Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, S-21

Duration: 5.0 hour

13 reviews

5. Bamboo Island

Bamboo Island Beach
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Dcshaw used under CC BY-SA 3.0

A couple of days on Bamboo Island, off the coast of Sihanoukville, are highly recommended. The boat ride takes about 45 minutes and when you arrive you will find that just around 30 people live on the island. On its crescent-shaped shoreline, Bamboo Island has three lodge resorts, two restaurants and two bars and is, extremely laid back. Not at all like on the more frantic territory, there are no hawkers.

You will not have TV or access to the internet or even roads on Bamboo Island. However what you will discover is warm, blue, entirely clear water, ideal for swimming, delicate golden sandy shorelines, lavish surroundings, and a great deal of serenity. This is peacefulness at its best.

You will see footpaths all through the island, so you can sight see the wilderness secured inside. You will be able to find few day trippers, but come nightfall, the island is practically deserted. Two generators produce electricity in the early hours of the night; however, after that, it’s back to the moon and the stars for light.

A ferry leaves from Ochheuteal Beach at 10:00 and departs from the island at 16:00 the navigate takes around 45 minutes.

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6. Choeng Ek Memorial

Tuol Sleng Museum & Choeng Ek Memorial
Source: Pixabay

There are numerous things to see while in the Cheung Ek Killing Field in Phnom Penh. The spot is a mass grave where nearly 17,000 innocents were slaughtered . The place is truly alarming and sends a shudder down the spine as one reviews how the spot had been changed into a grave.

The Choeng Ek Memorial is the burial and execution grounds at Choeng Ek where thousands of exhumed skulls are on exhibition. The Killing Field is 15 km that is 9.32 Miles south-west of the city centre, and is one of the many sites of Khmer Rouge mass executions. The unearthed skulls of some 8,000 souls, organised by sex and age, are revealed under glass panels in the Memorial Stupa, which was created in 1988.

Cheung Ek Killing Field of Phnom Penh is open all day. All are welcome; however, it is prompted by the authorities that children need to be properly advised before coming here.

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7. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (from USD 20.0)

Cambodia’s heartbreaking history can be learnt about at the Tuol Sleng Museum, which is located in Phnom Penh.

In 1975, Tuol Svay Prey High School was controlled by Pol Pot’s security forces and transformed into a jail known as Security Prison 21 (S-21); it soon turned into the biggest focus of detainment and torment in the nation. Somewhere around 1975 and 1978 more than 17,000 individuals seized at S-21 were moved to the murdering fields of Choeung Ek. S-21 has been transformed into the Tuol Sleng Museum, which serves as a demonstration of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge.

A visit to Tuol Sleng is a significantly sad experience. The sheer conventionality of the spot makes it considerably more awful: the rural setting, the plain school structures, the grassy playing area where kids kick around balls compared with rusted beds, instruments of torture and a many great walls of pictures. It shows the darkest side of the human soul.

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The Killing Field and Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) Tour

Duration: 4 hours

818 reviews

8. Tonlé Sap Lake

Tonlé Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. During the dry season, the lake channels into the Tonle Sap River, which streams into the Mekong River. Whereas in the rainy season (June to October), the immense amount of water in the Mekong causes the Tonlé Sap River to reverse its flow.

The blend of water streaming into the lake and the backup of the Tonle Sap River expands the lake to 5-times its size in the dry season. This rise in capacity surges the encompassing floodplain and timberlands, making an extraordinarily different and vibrant eco-system.

Tonlé Sap Lake is full of life and villages. It is fascinating to see a town with buildings built up on stilts for when the floods come during the time of rainy season. Coming to the fishing villages, you get the opportunity to see a rural lifestyle as you see numerous towns, rice fields, and so forth. It is a long dusty trek, and you can take an auto or van.

Three beautiful villages you may want to visit are Chong Khneas, Kampong Phluk, and Kampong Khleang. Chong Khneas village may be seen somehow as a tourist trap but is closest to Siem Reap, which makes it an excellent choice for a short day trip. You will have a two-hour boat ride, which leaves from Chong Khneas dock, and that will cost about 10 USD/person.

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9. Apsaras Dance Performance

Apsaras Dance Performance
Source: Pixabay

A visit to Cambodia will not be completed unless you explore the ancient art of Apsara dance. Women dressed in sparkling silk tunics, sequined tops together with decorative golden crowns, perform their movements with skill and reflection. The dance took on its structure, including the movement and meaning that implies, throughout the rules of Jayavarman II and Jayavarman VII along within the Angkor era time.

Apsara dancing blends two features: traditional ballet and the representation of early myths. Numerous of the dances comprise performing a portion of the Ramayana, which is an ancient Indian epic. Earlier the Apsara dance was performed exclusively for the advantage of the privileged, and especially for the King. Nowadays, you can attend these performances in different restaurants both in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The shows usually happen over dinner.

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10. Siem Reap: Pub Street and Night Market

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user antwerpenR used under CC BY 2.0

Siem Reap, which means the “Defeat of Siam,” is the most prosperous region of contemporary Cambodia. Its proximity to the Angkor Wat temple complex has turned the city into one of the world’s premier travel destinations. More than one million travelers visit Siem Reap every year. It has rehashed itself as the epicenter of chic Cambodia, including cool parties to hip lodgings, world-class restaurants, and extravagant spas.

Siem Reap’s nightlife has the vibe of New Orleans at Mardi Gras. There are a lot of restaurants and spas. You can start your dining with the lip-smacking mixed drink, “Tomb Raider,” and after that soak your feet in one of the numerous “fish pedicure” tanks. You will discover bargains in the Night Market – for the most part, knock-off Ray-Bans (5 USD), quickly delivered oil artistic creations (15 USD) and drawstring pants (3 for 10 USD).

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11. Artisans Angkor in Siem Reap

Artisans Angkor-12-Wood carving-2007-gje
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Gerd Eichmann used under CC BY-SA 4.0

At Artisans Angkor, in Siem Reap, you will be able to find artisans at work in this trade school for disadvantaged Cambodians, so shop in the vibrant store where goods fly off the shelves. The best selling products are silver-plated boxes, ornaments and vividly colored silk scarves. You will discover everything from fashion to furniture.

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12. Russian Market in Phnom Penh

Russian Market area Phnom Penh (12200843206)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Clay Gilliland used under CC BY-SA 2.0

This sizzling bazaar is the traditional market every visitor might come to at least one time during a trip to Phnom Penh. This is the place where you can shop for your remembrances and cut-price name-brand clothing. We can’t promise the genuineness of everything; however, as some might be knock-offs, but you may genuine articles sewed in local factories. You’ll need to pay as little as 20% of the price back home for brands like Banana Republic, Billabong, Calvin Klein, Colombia, Gap, and Next.

The foreigners call it the Russian Market since predominantly exiled Russian shopped here in the 1980s. Furthermore, it has a vast collection of handicrafts and antiquities including miniature Buddhas, woodcarvings, betel-nut boxes, silks, silver jewelery, musical instruments and more. Bargain hard because many tourists pass through here every day.

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13. Psar Thmei, the Central Market in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh Central Market 8
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Christophe95 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Bordered on four sides by hectic traffic-clogged streets, Psar Thmei, or Central Market, was created by the French in 1937. It was the Asia’s largest market. In 2011 it was revived after this extensive renovations, its climatic focal lobby is put down with slows down offering ornaments, exhibitions and watches while its four huge wings sell second-rate gadgets, family things, garments and fabrics alongside new create, gifts and blossoms. It is a decent place for cheap food, as well; bordering the business sector toward the south are food stands offering local dishes for a few thousand riel.

Nearby the main buildings are shops providing Krama (checked scarves), stationery, household items, cloth for sarongs, flowers and second hand clothes, generally from Europe and the US. In case of photographers, the new food unit gives a lot of chances. Central Market is certainly the greatest of Phnom Penh’s markets for browsing. The shops are open from early morning until early evening.

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Try traditional Cambodian cuisine

interesting things to do when travelling to cambodia | try traditional cambodian cuisine

Cambodians love to eat. As soon as you learn about the local cuisine, you will also soon fall in love with Cambodian food.

A classic Cambodian meal will usually involve a bowl of soup, salad, the main dish, vegetables, and rice. One of their most famous dishes is the Amok; a traditional curry usually served in banana leaf. Cambodian dessert, generally created with fresh fruits and sticky rice, will greatly complement the meal.

Cambodian food is perhaps the most overlooked of all Asian cuisines. Too often Cambodian cooking is dismissed as a lesser version of Thai or Vietnamese fare. Visiting Cambodia will give you the chance to learn about this much-misunderstood cuisine and enjoy its unique charms. Find below a few suggestions to where to try the most well known dishes.

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14. Frizz, Phnom Penh

Guinness Pie
Source: Photo by Flickr user Lil' Dee used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The name do not sound similar to Khmer; however, the most delicious Cambodian cuisine can be found here, and they also offer international offerings like steak and Guinness pie. The restaurant also operates cooking classes.

This restaurant was founded by a Dutch expat who worked as a freelance correspondent. He thought to concentrate on genuine and traditional Cambodian cuisine, and now still astonishingly difficult to catch on the popular river front in Phnom Penh.

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15. Khmer Surin, Phnom Penh

Pad Thai
Source: Pixabay

Khmer Surin has been serving excellent Khmer and Thai food ever since 1996. Khmer Surin Restaurant additionally advances tourism in Cambodia by giving a great ethnic and culinary experience.

The restaurant is a retreat in the city with its rich tropical plants, flowers and water gardn. The restaurant is in an ancient Khmer-style building decorated with Cambodian antique furniture and silk. The table settings are handmade with exclusive designs.

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16. Angkor Palm, Siem Reap

Angkor Palm Restaurant (8660158628)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Dion Hinchcliffe used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Mr Bun Try the owner of Angkor Palm, Siem Reap, who has 31 years of experience in France with this field. He returned to Cambodia and started up Angkor Palm Restaurant at Siem Reap, and now it has been nine years it is successfully running. He is consistently endeavoring to enhance the recipes and uses increasingly natural items from his Angkor Palm Farm. They have their farm which supplies daily fresh and organic products. This restaurant is always the best cost-quality restaurant which provides beautiful organic food at the owest rate.

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17. Pomme d'Amour, Battambang

Classic steak tartare
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user insatiablemunch used under CC BY 2.0

The restaurant “Apple of Love,” is a specialist in offering steak tartare and shrimp flambé with rice alcohol. Owner Patrice cooks the Khmer cuisine food with a French twist present in it that would be very much classy and innovative. The food is an outstanding fusion of French and Khmer cuisine. The restaurant is located in Battambang, which is few meters from the central market.

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Cambodia, between tradition and modernity

Cambodia is a state where you can turn up to the kingdom of the gods at Angkor Wat or see ultimate sorrow at Tuol Sleng prison. As a typically safe and diverse destination, it will show a side of Asia you won’t find anywhere else in the region.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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