Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia and is on the bucket-list of many backpackers. We have visited Cambodia for a couple of weeks during our trip through Asia and we created a short list of things you should see or do when you visit this beautiful country.
We personally knew Cambodia because of two things, the amazing temples including Angkor Wat and the terrible past of the country. When you visit Cambodia you will notice the unique mix of beautiful culture and sad history.
Almost everyone has heard at least once about Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. With a total size of 1,626,000 square metre Angkor Wat is an impressive sight to see.
Angkor Wat was originally build as a Hindu temple in the 12th century, but it gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple. Inside of the temple you can clearly see the mixture of both religions.
Angkor Wat is the symbol of Cambodia and something the country is very proud of. The temple is even printed on the flag of Cambodia.
Apsaras Dance Performance
The traditional Khmer dance can be seen in many different places, including temples and restaurant. A great time to see the Apsaras Dance is during a meal in a restaurant. We saw a dance performance during a meal in the Temple Balcony restaurant in Siem Reap. There are different dance styles, which all tell a different story.
The Bayon Temple is located close to Angkor Wat and can easily be explored by bicycle or tuk tuk. The beautiful decorated Bayon Temple is build as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII. On top of the many towers you will see giant smiling stone faces.
Ta Prohm temple
Another impressive temple nearby is the Ta Prohm temple. This temple is one of the most visited and photogenic places in the Angkor region. This UNESCO heritage is almost in the same condition in which it was found, surrounded by jungle and trees growing out of the ruins.
Phnom Penh Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is the royal residence of the king of Cambodia, located in Phnom Penh. It has been occupied since it was built in 1866, except for a short period during and after the Khmer Rouge. The palace and the surrounding buildings are decorated with gold, silver and thousands of diamonds.
Killing Fields (Memorial Stupa)
A gruesome reminder of Cambodia’s tragic past are the killing fields and mass graves. 15km of Phnom Penh’s city centre you will find the Memorial Stupa, located on Choeung Ek, one of the many killing fields. A guided audio tour will show you around the killing fields, where you will see the killing trees and mass graves. Within the Memorial Stupa you will find the skulls of 8000 victims displayed behind glass.
Choeung Ek is just one of the thousands mass graves around the country. On the 9th of May a memorial service is held at the stupa, in memory of the estimated 1,7 million people who died during the genocide. Although many believe the real number of deaths is way higher.
Tuol Sleng Museum
The Tuol Sleng Museum is a former high school, but has been used by the Khmer Rouge regime as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) between 1975 and 1979. Tuol Sleng was one of the 150 execution centres in the country. In these four years between 17.000 and 20.000 people were imprisoned in Tuol Sleng, where they were tortured and killed. Only seven people survived.