By CHRIS BAILLET
If you are still hesitating where to go for your next holiday destination, Cambodia is a country to put on the top of your list. Here are seven reasons why I think you should come to the “Land of Smiles” and have an unforgettable experience:
Meeting these warm people is THE reason that will make your stay in this country memorable. Despite all the tragedies during the decades of war, the people of Cambodia have an incomparable kindness. Smiling, tolerant, helpful and honest even if the prices swell a little at the sight of tourists. (Prices do become affordable after a bit of bargaining and a funny and friendly “Tlay na”, translated as “Very expensive!” in Khmer). Throughout your journey you will go from friendly contact to friendly contact, smiles to smiles.
2. Angkor Wat Sites
They have breathtaking monuments, magical and majestic, especially Angkor Wat Temple which is the largest religious building in the world and will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of your trip. They were mostly built between the ninth and thirteenth century, and the majority of them are located in the archaeological park around the town of Siem Reap, where you will have to pay an entrance fee for the day ($20 for one day, $40 for a three-day pass, and $60 the past seven days). You cannot come to Cambodia and miss the ruins of the ancient Khmer civilization.
3. Cambodian Cuisine
Many people consider the Cambodian cuisine as a pale imitation of Thai cuisine, known worldwide for its strength and flavors. It is true that there are similarities, but the art of the Khmer table is a finer taste, less robust for us poor Westerners, which lets us discover its subtle and extraordinary flavors. Traditional dishes, various curry and many other delicious treats will delight your every meal. And the street food, another culinary delight, will offer all sorts of oddities. Over the years cooking classes have become very popular and there are good affordable, ways to learn the secrets of local chefs while feasting and passing a good time.
4. Cheap Destination
Indeed, Cambodia is one of the cheapest countries in Asia. A tasty meal in a small street restaurant will cost you between $1 and $3 depending on the dish you choose, a basic but comfortable room with fan will be charged less than $10 during high season and less than $15 if you prefer air conditioning, and for less than $15 you will find a bus ticket that will take you anywhere you want in Cambodia or even up to one of the top destinations in the neighboring countries. Travelers can easily get by with a budget of $20 per day.
5. The Change of Scenery
During a trip abroad it’s not uncommon to find similarities with your own country, the architecture of a building, a landscape, a specific time in a specific context that makes you say to yourself, “Oh! It seems like… “. There are few chances this will happen in Cambodia. Places and unusual scenes can give you a sense of exoticism and wonderment all day long.
6. The Nightlife
The country is known for its magical landscapes, magnificent historical sites, but much less for its lively life after the sunset. Cambodians like to gather in the evening with a drink and a good meal, so you won’t have trouble to find bars, cafés and bistros, shows and live bands, karaoke, beer gardens and night clubs to go for a crazy “Cambodian party”. It will actually be hard to get back at a reasonable hour as the temptations are great and the evenings exhilarating.
7. People Again
I repeat, I know, but that’s really what strikes you the most throughout your travels, all those unforgettable encounters and spontaneous smiles with those lovely people.
I tried to give you seven good reasons why you should love Cambodia, but the list is endless and everyone will find in his journey his own reason, because this country is fantastic. But like any fantastic country it’s changing (unfortunately) very quickly due to the ever increasing number of tourists, 3.2 million in 2012, but do not worry, there will always be reasons why you’ll love it.
Chris Baillet left his homeland France in 2010 to explore Asia. When he arrived to Cambodia and especially Siem Reap, he really got stuck, fell hopelessly in love with the place and its people. Today he is one of Siem Reap’s biggest fans, through a recently launched web travel guide www.siemreap.net, he is now on a daily basis promoting and sharing with the world the wonders of this enchanting place and their smiling culture.