Published 29th January 2020
For many people, the whole point of getting involved in teaching English as a Foreign Language is to jet off to some unknown destination and have the experience of a lifetime. Imagine getting lost on the way to work, eating a new food for lunch, and learning a new phrase in another language – every single day! If this sounds right up your alley and you’re considering going to South East Asia, then Cambodia should definitely be on your list. Mysterious and enigmatic, Cambodia is not your usual tourist destination. So if you’d like to find out more about Cambodia to decide whether or not it could be the destination you’ve been dreaming of, make a cup of tea, get comfortable and keep reading to discover what is Cambodia known for?
Obviously. Ok, this is the one thing that people do know about Cambodia, mostly thanks to Angelina Jolie. The national symbol of Cambodia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat is just one beautiful temple you can explore in the breathtaking Angkor Archaeological Park. Built in the 12th century, visitors can spend days walking around the mysterious Bayon, admiring the 216 gargantuan faces looking down on them, or Ta Promh (aka the Tomb Raider temple), the temple complex where the ruins have been overgrown by the jungle. Even with over 2 million visitors a year, visiting Angkor is a soulful, spiritual experience not to be missed.
Mekong River Irrawaddy Dolphins
Mekong River Irawaddy Dolphins are a rare breed of dolphins with a short beak and bulging forehead. In fact, there are thought to be only about 90 left in the world. When in Cambodia make sure you take a cruise down the river which they call home to catch a glimpse of these special animals.
If you’re a culture vulture, you can’t leave Cambodia without witnessing the iconic Khmer cultural dance that is the Apsara Dance. Drawing its inspiration from the mythological courts of kings and gods, Apsara dances narrate stories through the flexible movements of its dancers and their gorgeous costumes.
Though Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are the two more famous cities in Cambodia, Battambang is fast making a name for itself with travellers. A French colonial city in the north-west of Cambodia, it’s a small, sleepy town that has a lot to offer – be it bicycling through the rice paddies, kayaking, visiting mountain temples or learning the intricacies of Khmer cookery.
Not surprising considering its in South East Asia, Cambodia has loads of beautiful beaches just waiting to be enjoyed. Sihanoukville, Koh Rong and Reap are a few names you should remember if you feel the need for some R&R on a Cambodian beach.
Cuisine of contrasts
Cambodia is definitely a must-visit for any foodies, especially seafood lovers. Often called a ‘cuisine of contrasts’, local favourites to enjoy are fish amok (steamed fish with coconut cream in banana leaves), samlor machu trey (sweet and sour soup with fish), and num anksom sach chrouk (sticky rice cake).
Sadly, one of Cambodia’s most known features is its bloody history. During the reign of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, almost 2 million people believed to be associated with the old government were captured, tortured and killed. It’s possible to visit the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to learn more about this horrific chapter in Cambodia’s history – but take some tissues with you.
There is no doubt that Cambodia is a country worth visiting. Even if you didn’t know much about it before, now is the time to go and explore this country which will not be a hidden gem for much longer.