Cambodia might be most famous for Angkor Wat, but there is so much more to this history soaked country. We visited Battambang, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Here are our top 5 experiences from our two weeks in Cambodia in January 2017.
Bamboo train, Battambang
The most basic train you could think of, the bamboo train starts a short drive east of Battambang and takes you 7km through forest and farmland. Once used as a way to transport goods it is now purely there for tourism. It is a really exhilarating feeling whizzing down the track at around 15km/h in the open air and admiring the lush green countryside all around you. There is only a single track but when two trains are going in opposite directions, both trains come to a halt and the train drivers work together to simply take one train apart.
Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus, Battambang
Phare Ponleu Selpak is a NGO which has been working with disadvantaged children and young adults since 1994. One of the many ways it supports these children and young adults is through the circus. Every Monday and Thursday there is a show at 7pm which includes around 12 of their students. I’d heard lots of good things about it before getting there and it definitely surpassed my expectations! These kids are amazingly talented and hardworking and it was truly remarkable to watch them perform various circus skills including acrobatics and juggling. It was a really entertaining and rewarding evening. You can find out about their upcoming events here.
Book one of their events here.
Bat cave, Battambang
Phnom Sampeou is a mountain outside Battambang. There is a temple on top with some lovely views, but, if you’re a nature lover, its what’s inside the mountain that counts. For about 40 minutes after sunset every night, the dusk sky is filled with a river of millions of bats leaving their cave. The sheer number of them is breath-taking. One fun thing we learned from the local vendors there is that if you make a hissing sound, the bats above will suddenly scatter. The bats are a great example of humans and nature working together, as they provide pest control for the surrounding area.
Killing Fields & S21 Torture Prison, Phnom Penh
The most sobering part of our travels but also the most interesting and educational. From 1975 to 1979 the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia tortured and killed up to 3 million people, and prisons and execution areas from that time can be found throughout Cambodia. It’s absolutely heartbreaking, but it’s such a big part of their recent history that you have to learn about it if you visit Cambodia. I found it all so interesting that afterwards I read a book called ‘Survival in the Killing Fields’ which I also highly recommend.
Read more: How Tragedies Impact a Culture
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Last but certainly not least for Cambodia, Angkor Wat! The world’s largest religious monument certainly didn’t disappoint. We spent 2 days exploring the many temples it has to offer, I think my favourite was Bayon temple filled with smiling stone faces. It was really great to compare the style and conservation of all the different temples. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that I would recommend to everyone, just make sure you pack lots of water and snacks as it can be a long day exploring. And keep an eye out for the monkeys!
Have you been to Cambodia? What was your favourite experience? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!
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