Explore Cambodia

by Andrea Cacciari  from Italy

white-temple
White Temple of the Oudong Mountain by Andrea Cacciari

When you think about Cambodia the first thing which comes to mind of course is Angkor Wat, but is not just that, to be fair is the most important and is a must see which you can’t miss, but the real point is how you decide to live the experience, we should start from the beginning anyway.

I was with a friend of mine, we started from Milan with Emirates and then switched to Malaysian Airlines in Bangkok, it was mid January and due to the tropical area where Cambodia is located, the best time to visit it goes from November to the second week of March, you will have then dry season (no rain, less mosquitoes). We arrived in Phnom Penh after a 17 hours journey, visa is on arrival at least for the majority of countries, make sure to check all the information about the cambodian visa related to your passport’s country.

Pariculars in a Temple by Andrea Cacciari

What to do in Phnom Penh: 

The Royal Palace is not economically cheap but is definitely worthy a visit, with tons of gold and well cared gardens, is a bit strange the transition from the chaos of the capital and entering in this complex which is really quiet, still good to go.

For a glimpse of green I suggest the Wat Phnom area, beautiful green garden with typical scolptures and also peacefull.

For a couple of night shots if you are into photography I suggest the independence monument of Phnom Penh located in the middle of a roundabout, with its lights in night time is really scenic and interesting.

If you are looking for some shopping to do, whatever you need, and I mean it, literally, you can visit the Orussey Market, you can find amazing food, shoes and clothes, jewelry, phones and hi-techs and body care products. It Is cheap compared to the westernian ones, is crowded and colorful.

If you feel you have to, you can also visit the genocide museum and fields. It’s grim and touching and also really sad, but I don’t like these things because make me feel bad being there and “visit” a place where thousand of innocent people died and seeing people taking selfie or even just pictures in this place make me feel bad for myself, for the people who died, for cambodian people and mankind in general. This is my thinking, if you feel to go you should do it but just be respectful.

Angkorwat-Complex
A man ride an elephant in the Angkor Wat Complex by Andrea Cacciari

One of the thing I enjoyed more was the Phnom Penh slum, is close to the Royal Palace (10 min. walking), and is just…..life, yes maybe rough life, hard life and poor life but is life, if you feel not scared and comfortable with the situation and the smell it dosen’t bother you, you will have a great experience.

If you are a party boy/girl you can go basically everywhere, Phnom Penh is full of pubs, discos and party houses. My suggestion is also to go for a massage, you have some typical treatments to choose from and they are cheap and good for your health. Food is generally safe but always follow the main rule when you are abroad, especially Asia: if you see the place quite full of people then its safe.

oudong-town
Oudong Town by Andrea Cacciari

What else in Cambodia? :

Preah Vihear Temple is a Khmer site located in the far north at the border with Thailand, is less known and visited and is quite nice to visit especially with no people around. It is easily reachable from Siem Reap with buses.

Sambor Prei Kuki is probably the only place in Cambodia I regret I haven’t visited, is located half way between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, north of Kampong Thom, is a small temple incorporated inside a huge tree, and it is surrounded by a forest with few other temples, is a really good example of the Khmer legacy.

Koh Ker temple is little bit weird if you see the standard of temples in south east Asia for its pyramidal shape, but this is the point going visit it. You can find it east of Siem Reap and also is really a hidden gem because of the less tourists that even know this place, you could think to be in Mexico at some point.

Monkey
Monkey in the forest around the White Temple of Oudong by Andrea Cacciari

Oudong is a magical place located more or less 40km from Phnom Penh, we went there simply with a Tuk-Tuk, which is not probably the best choice, the road is made of red sand and is really hard to handle the dust for one and a half hour, sunglasses and a scarf or a mask are recommended. First you pass through the muslim area of Phnem Penh and is interesting to see differents lifestyle in the same city. You will also pass through a rural area of villages with the chance of a stop if you chose the tuk-tuk, amazing natural scenery and beautiful people. When you arrive to the site you’ll have to climb a little, avoid scams such as fake guides unless you wanna pay them 5-10 dollars at the end for all the explanations, make sure to tell them from the beginning you are not going to pay them, avoid the monkeys, in this area have rabies, not relly comfy. At the top of the staircase you will have this magnificent white temple with elephants carved on it and three other smaller temples khmer style, is cheap, easy, fast and beautiful, make sure to go if you are in Phnom Penh.

Siem Reap is the best place in Cambodia to use as a base to visit the surroundings. North of Phnom Penh if you are in the capital you can take a flight or a 7 hours bus. As a town it offers everything you can look for, from food to parties, but most important thing is really close to Angkor Wat and the huge complex of temples around it.

tree
Tree of the Taphrom Temple of the Angkor Wat complex  by Andrea Cacciari

I suggest to visit the temples at least for a couple of days and if you are able to go by yourself at the temples with a tuk-tuk, hire the driver and make sure he is coming to pick you up in the early morning (4am), I went there at 3.30 am and was magical, I had a torch and a helmet, I felt like Indiana Jones going inside the temple by myself in the early morning with the light of the torch lighting up figures on the walls and faces of Buddha in every corner, with silent around and a bit of adrenaline. Reach your spot at the pond and then wait for the sunrise, is worthy even though could be ruined by the thousands of people who arrive around 6am. Make sure to go also to Angkor Thom, visit as many temples as you can because every single one is different, ask the tuk-tuk driver to take you also to the “Lady Temple”.

When you are in town you can go do some shopping (cheaper than Phnom Penh), go drink a coffe on the main road, and try the street food such as spiders, snakes and other insects, plus fruits!!

Ultimately I would say that the best amount of time suggested is a couple of weeks divided in this way: 4-5 days Phnom Penh and the rest of the time in Siem Reap. If you are going between November and February I don’t reccomend using anti-malaria tabs but in the rest of the time I suggest to use it especially if you go north of Phnom Penh, double check your vaccinations because you probably need few more shots before going, no worries though, nothing brutal ;).

I think I sayd everything you need to know, hoping you will find my guide/story helpful for your trip to Cambodia.

bayon-temple
Bayon Temple in the Angkor Thom complex  by Andrea Cacciari
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