A detailed guide to the things you need to know before you visit Cambodia!
If you’re planning on a visit to the land of the Khmers then this list of the things you need to know before you visit Cambodia will be invaluable. Cambodia is a beautiful, welcoming country with some world-class sites and an awesome party culture, but it’s also a place with a turbulent past and a challenging future that it helps to be aware of. Here are a few things to bear in mind before you arrive.
The Khmer Rouge History of Cambodia
You’ve probably heard of the Khmer Rouge, but it pays to understand the impact that they had on the country. The Khmer Rouge regime ruled with a reign of terror for many years and murdered millions of people. Some parts of the country were still under Khmer rule as recently as the mid-90s and even today, many people have to live next door to people who may have harmed them or their family members in the past.
Reparation court trials are still ongoing and the country as a whole is optimistic about the future, but an appreciation of local sensitivities about the subject is important. Some travellers feel that a visit to one of the Khmer Rouge ‘killing field’ sites is a good way to pay their respects, but just being aware of the past helps the whole country to move forward.
The best photo ops come with added religion!
Whether you’re enjoying the splendid grandeur of Angkor Wat or exploring one of the hundreds of other tourist sites across the country, you’ll soon twig that Cambodian tourism has a lot to do with religion! Orange-robed Buddhist monks moving slowly through ancient crumbling stupas is a photographer’s dream, but remember to stay respectful and come prepared for a temple visit as well as a photo op. That means all the usual things like covering your knees and shoulders and remaining quiet. The photos will be worth it!
How to Help Cambodian charities
There’s no getting away from the fact that Cambodia is a poor country, and you’re more than likely to get the urge to donate to charities or individuals while you’re here. Obviously helping out is a great thing, but just be careful how you do it.
Choose well-established local projects run by local staff where you know the money will reach the people who need it most. Tempting though it is, try not to give money to people begging on the street (especially the children). The sad fact is that Cambodia is rife with begging cartels and an unscrupulous ‘handler’ may end up with your well-intentioned dollars.
Try and explore the ‘real’ Cambodia.
You absolutely shouldn’t come to Cambodia without experiencing Angkor Wat, the beaches and Phnom Penh, but the country has so much more to offer than that. Try and leave a little time in your trip to go further afield; the little-visited mountain temples of the north are well worth the journey and the eco-camps of the interior are wonderful places to relax, interact with local communities and see some indigenous wildlife. You’ll leave much the richer for it.
And the most important thing to know about Cambodia?
You’ll always need more time than you think! This is an intoxicating country that has so much to give, from the parties of Pub Street in Siem Reap to the blissful beaches in the south. Throw in their world-beating temples and a delicious cuisine and you’ll never want to leave!