A lot of people go to Cambodia and just stay here for a few days, they go to Angkor Wat, the killing fields and then move on to Vietnam, Laos or Thailand to spend more time there. Honestly, they are missing out! So far I have spent about 2,5 months in Cambodia and I am not even close to grasping the beauty and the culture of this country!
If you are planning a trip to Southeast Asia right now, I would suggest to read this article and perhaps extent the amount of days you have planned here, so you can include a bit more things to do in Cambodia.
1. Angkor Wat
Let’s start with the obvious. Yes of course, you have to go and see Angkor Wat! I would suggest to do the sunrise tour. The atmosphere is very special when you see the sun come up behind this magnificent almost magical temple. Also, the mornings are not very hot yet so it’s a bit more comfortable to walk around. Especially if you go to see other temples in the area as well (which you totally should because they are gorgeous and a bit less busy)!
I really hope you will spend more than 2 days in Siem Reap. Because next to Angkor Wat, this city has so much more to offer!
2. The Unseen Cambodia: An unforgettable day in the countryside
The title says it all, this truly is an unforgettable day in the countryside! I have been to this place twice and they both were some of my favorite days in Cambodia. The first time I was here, we did a bunch of great activities! We went rice husking, crab hunting and fishing with a big net in the local pond.
I can tell you, it is good that I can buy my groceries at a market, because my hunting skills are not on par. I even decided to let a crab go free after I caught it because I felt sorry for it haha.
Anyway, after catching my own fish and crabs the women in the village prepared them to have for lunch. Luckily for me they also added extra vegetables and other dishes (because else I would be done after about 3 bites haha). After lunch I learned how to weave my own basket (which now has a prominent place on my kitchen table). We even visited the local school and I got to try some of the neighbours’ delicious jackfruit. Although I was terrible at almost all of the activities, it was the perfect day!
My second time at Kouk Doung
The second time I went to Kouk Doung was for a Khmer New Years party that this host organized. Even though I had only spent one day here previously, it felt like coming home! The warmth and friendliness of everybody in Kouk Doung Village is something I will never forget and I hope to be going back there again soon. I know it sounds sentimental but its true, if you are looking for an authentic heart warming experience, I strongly recommend you to book Unseen Cambodia: An unforgettable day in the countryside!
3. Try a workshop!
Every chance I get, I try one of the different workshops Backstreet Academy has to offer. So far I have really enjoyed all of them! They have given me a bunch of great souvenirs to take back home :)! Also, whether it is stone carving, spoon painting, iron pencil sketching, or any of the other workshops that are being offered, spending a few hours really creating something yourself, gets you back to the present moment and helps you to appreciate the local artforms even more! Besides that, the local hosts are some of the sweetest people I have met on my journey through Cambodia!
4. More workshops 🙂
Backstreet Academy also provides a bunch of handicrafts workshops in Phnom Penh, so if you did not get a chance to do so in Siem Reap, be sure to try one here. Or just go for your second,third,fourth one! (I can’t even count how many I have done and I still enjoy them just as much as the first).
5. Take a street food tour
Another thing you cannot miss on your things to do in Cambodia list, is a local food tour! I went on the evening street food tour with Nara in Phnom Penh and I am still getting hungry thinking about it! With a tuktuk he took us around to a bunch of different places, including a local market. And you get to try a lot of different local delicacies, most of which were very delicious! I am saying most, because he also takes you out of your comfort zone. He makes you surprise yourself as to how adventurous you are with your eating.
I ended up eating crickets, which actually taste really nice! If they were not crickets, I would probably be buying them in mega packages to eat while watching movies. I also tried silkworms but that was a bit too adventurous for me, they explode when you bite them and I did not see that coming haha.
Especially if you do not have a lot of time for things to do in Phnom Penh I would totally recommend this because it is a wonderful and fast way to see a big part of the city and get to know the local culture.
6. Kep and Kampot
If you have some more time to travel beyond Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and are looking for things to do in Cambodia, it is totally worth the travel to the south and see the wonderful towns Kep and Kampot! There are two things that were my favorite here! Kampot pepper and the Kep Crab! And even better, the two combined!! Kep is all about crab! There is even a big crab statue rising out of the sea! I am not sure on whether it’s an higher form of art but it is sure worth it to have a look when you are there.
My suggestion, go to the crab market for some lunch, buy your own crab from one of the ladies there (quite the experience) and eat it right there on the dock. They will even make it with Kampot Pepper! And honestly, it is delicious! After eating your Kep crab (with Kampot paper) head a bit further down the road. You can go for a swim and some relaxing at one of the little beaches there. After your swim you can drive a bit further to see that famous crab statue.
After seeing that statue I got hungry again and I actually went back for more crab haha but that is up to you!
If you enjoyed the statue in Kep you will love Kampot! The big roundabout in the town has it’s own special food statue. A fruit platter with a huge durian in the middle!
If you do not know durian, it is the fruit that has all those spikes and smells like (well how to describe it?) sweaty gym socks and rotten onion? A lot of my friends are crazy about this fruit and eat it every chance they get. But it is too milky for my taste. And next to smelling a like it, it even has the texture of a rotten onion. Luckily the roundabout does not come with the Durian smell or taste included.
Anyway, Kampot is nice town to just relax in for a few days. You can go see a pepper farm, take a walk in the national park or get a nice massage. If you are staying in Kampot and don’t feel like moving hotels too much, you can go to Kep as a day trip, since Kampot and Kep are not that far apart!
7. Koh Rong or Koh Rong Samloem
If you enjoyed the beach in Kep I suggest you to travel even further down and enjoy a few days on the sunny beaches Koh Rong or Koh Rong Samloem. The thing to do there is, absolutely NOTHING. Which is why it is PERFECT! It gives you that time to relax, swim and finally finish that book that you have been carrying around with you!
8. Banteay Chhmar (ruins)
Sadly enough, I cannot tell you about this place firsthand (YET). But I do not want to leave it out of this blog because it just seems to good!
The Banteay Chhmar ruins in North-West Cambodia are even older than Angkor Wat and there is hardly anybody there! After reading this article in the guardian, I knew this place was next on my travel bucket list! Hopefully somewhere in the next month or so, I find the time to get out here for a weekend! If you are looking for things to do in Cambodia, and you are dreading the business of Angkor Wat, I think this would make a good addition (or dare I say it, even an alternative).
PHOTO CREDIT: The Mondulkiri Project
I am really, really, really looking forward to going hiking in the eastern province of Mondulkiri!! Sadly enough it is the end of April now. Which means Cambodia is really hot! It can be around 37 degrees during the day. Since I am staying here for another few months, I am trying to stay patient and wait for the temperature to cool down a bit before going on this great adventure! Since you might not have this time, I want to tell you about this place anyway.
The province of Mondulkiri offers tons of trekking opportunities. It has a big jungle filled with wild animals, hidden waterfalls, swimming holes and clear rivers! Mondulkiri also has mountains (not very much of those in Siem Reap, where I am staying now haha). The region is home to Cambodia’s Bunong hill tribe and its largest elephant population, which, sadly enough, are at a low. If your are looking for things to do in Cambodia that are off the beaten path, I think this would be perfect!
There are many more places to visit in Cambodia that I secretly want to write about but than this post will end up being a book haha! So I will stick to this for now, and I hope to update you with a new blog very soon!