Written by Siti Fatimah Ayuningdyah
Best known for its ancient temple city, which attracts tourists from all over the world every year, Cambodia is an often overlooked gem for a lot of Indonesian travelers, who, let’s admit it, would rather shop than exploring temples. Alas, Cambodia is much more than just a bunch of mystical archeological sites. Cambodia is perfect for a short getaway with friends, and the whole trip comes with a very friendly price tag!
How to Get There
Unfortunately, not a lot of airlines offer direct flights from Singapore to Cambodia. JetStar is one of those who do. Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are two of the most famous tourist destinations in the country. We would recommend that you stay longer in Siem Reap, as exploring Phnom Penh, the capital city, can be done in just a couple of days. From Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and vice versa you can take a plane, a bus or a boat. The bus and boat ride will take up to six hours, but both cost significantly lower than a plane ride. Out of the two, we would recommend you to take the bus, because there will be much less hassle. (More Information: http://www.canbypublications.com/siemreap/srtransp.htm )
Where to Stay
- Siem Reap: We found a dainty little guesthouse that offers value for money accommodations called “River Village Manor”. The owner is an affable Australian who personally takes a really good care of his guests. The room is spacious, clean, and cheap. He can also take care of your transportations, usually in the form of tuk-tuk or busses, if you ask him. Find out more about this place through http://rivervillagemanor.com/.
- Phnom Penh: Stay at one of the affordable guesthouses near the Royal Palace, the center of activities in Phnom Penh. Staying in that area will provide you with transportation ease as there will be a lot of ‘tuk-tuk’s available 24/7.
What to Visit
- Siem Reap
- Angkor Archeological Park: The temples within this park include the famed Angkor Wat and the very location of Angelina Jolie’s “Tomb Raider” movie. You can reach the complex using pre-booked tuk-tuk. It will be good if you can get an English-speaking tuk-tuk driver who is knowledgeable about the Angkor Temples, many of them usually work for guesthouses or hotels, because of the wealth of history the temples possess. If you want to explore the temples, make sure you wear long pants and covered shoes for your own safety. Many like to go there very early in the morning so they can watch the sunrise in the park, which is absolutely sensational visually. After watching sunrise, you can go and have a traditional Khmer breakfast near the temples. Fortunately for you who cannot stomach exotic food, they also serve delicious pancakes and waffles.
- Pub Street: Quite similar to Patong area in Phuket, this is the center of Siem Reap’s nightlife. They have restaurants, pubs (d’uh), clubs, and massage parlors. One of the restaurants actually serves crocodile meat as their main offerings, which is definitely interesting if you’re up for it. If you cannot imagine yourself sinking your teeth into a tasty, juicy crocodile burger, which suspiciously tastes like chicken, there is always the traditional Khmer Cuisine greeting you in every corner. One thing you absolutely cannot miss while you’re there is the super satisfying Khmer Massage, which only costs $6. The massage is so good with a very friendly price, so we recommend having the massage every day after a long, tiring day – simply heavenly.
- Tonle Sap Lake: Usually the tour to Tonle Sap lake comes in a package that includes back-to-back motorcycle rides, boat rides, kayak rides, and a tour to explore the floating village. First, you will get a ride on a motorcycle driven by Cambodian youths to get to the edge of the lake. From there, you will ride through the Tonle Sap lake and see glimpses of the floating village. The next pit stop is the floating restaurant, which serves traditional Cambodian dishes. After your meal you may explore the floating village with your guide, which is quite a sight, especially looking at the houses and the school. Next will be another boat ride and a kayak ride, two persons per kayak, through the exquisite mangrove forest. Definitely not to be missed.
- Phnom Penh
- The Royal Palace: Located at the heart of the city, the palace is the #1 tourist attraction in the city. The palace has a dress code of wearing pants (or skirts) below the knee or longer, which is quite strict as they wouldn’t let you in if you wear shorts. The Royal Palace is majestic and beautiful without losing the mythical air Cambodia is famous for. Inside there are quite a few number of building which are worth exploring. This is a great place to get your cam-whore on, too!
- Cheung Ek Killing Fields: We won’t lie, if you choose to visit this place, it will be rather emotionally devastating. Yet, it will be an experience you’ll be glad to have. Only 15 kilometers south-west of Phnom Penh, the place is a chilling reminder of the brutalities of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. Approximately 17,000 civilians were killed and buried in mass graves, which are still very much evident today. From the first moment you set foot in the place, you’ll get that chill; you can feel it in your bones that something so inhumanely unimaginable took place there several decades ago. First, you will be greeted by a pagoda storing bones of about 8,000 innocent lives who met their ends in the hands of the Khmer Rouge. As you travel around the complex, you can still see pieces of bones and blood stains near on the trees and on the ground, as well as bits of tattered clothing of the victims that are left as they are since the 1970’s, as if to remind us of the brutality that once took place. They also have a movie theatre and a museum to educate visitors about what happened. This is not a place that will soon leave your mind and it is definitely not for the faint hearted.
Cambodia has some ‘interesting’ food, from the aforementioned crocodile burger to barbequed dogs. If you’re looking for a culinary adventure, this is definitely the place for you. Of course, they also have more ‘normal’ delicacies, such as the Amok Soup, Luk-lak, and, surprisingly, their omelettes. Oh, and don’t forget to try the street food!
Tuk-tuk is your friend. Use it well.