From my point of view that’s the most important thing to do in Cambodia, even though it’s not a funny or entertaining activity. But it gives you a good understanding of what the Khmer people have been through. There was this terrible genocide 40 years ago in 1975, under the regime of Pol Pot and his party – the Khmer Rouge. About 3 Million people were brutally murdered – almost half of the population of former Cambodia. That killing field in Phnom Penh is one of the most famous ones, where one million Khmer were killed between 1975 and 1979. You walk across the field with an audio guide who explains every station you visit. Sometimes you can see clothes looking out of the ground. Those are clothes of murdered people who were buried underneath – and the staff from the killing field are still busy to collect those little pieces of fabric as remembrance of the innocent people who didn’t know where their journey would end. At the end of your visit you see the big memorial stupa with skulls in it – it is 62 meters high and contains 5000 skulls of victims, sorted by age or death cause. It demonstrates the terrible consquences of this genocide and leaves you speechless. To learn about the country and understand the people, you definitely need to visit this sight.
2. See the sunrise at Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is one of the most impressive remains of history. It is not without reason proclaimed as UNESCO World Heritage. Angor Wat is just one out of numerous other temples at the huge archaeological site near Siem Reap in Cambodia. We bought a three-day pass for 40$ and booked a Tuktuk driver for 15$ a day for both of us. On the first day we did the tour with the small temples, which took round about 6 hours. On the second day we left early in the morning at 5 o’clock for the big tour to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We were sitting at the edge of a big pond and waited for the sun to come up. Unfortunately it was cloudy this morning, so we hadn’t that perfect sunrise you see on postcards. But nevertheless it was stunning. Angkor Wat is of such an incredible beauty. It’s majestic and powerful. You are sitting there with hundreds of strangers, all armed with their cameras, waiting for the sunrise in hopes of taking that one famous picture everybody knows. Even though we weren’t lucky with the weather, it was worth it anyhow to go there very early in the morning, as the place isn’t as crowded as in the afternoon. Additionally I really enjoyed this special atmosphere during the sunrise.
3. Visit Beng Mealea close to Angkor Wat
Beng Mealea is a very unique and adventurous temple. We needed to pay extra for it, but it wasn’t to expensive, just about 5$. It is located about 40km outside of the big archeological site of Angkor Wat with all the other temples. The special thing about Beng Mealea is, that there are only remains of the former Hindu temple built approximately in the 12th century. We needed to climb over huge stones to get into the temple, which was kinda exhausting but very exciting. Inside you have a lot of vines like in the deep jungle. Some of them can be used as natural swings. They are so thick that you easily can sit or even stand on it. The whole scenery in and outside the temple is completely surreal. There are Khmer people who guide you the way across all those big stones lying around so you shouldn’t get lost. If you love Indiana Jones and want to feel a little bit like you were part of the movie than you definitely need to go visit Beng Mealea. That’s an experience you’ll never forget!
4. Go to Starfish Bakery in Sihanoukville
Cambodia has many charity projects you can support. They run a lot of cafés, for example, where you can have awesome drinks or beverages for a good cause. One of it is the so-called Starfish Bakery in Sihanoukville. It opened in 2001 and employs people with physical disabilities – and there are a lot of them in Cambodia. When we visited the café, I had an amazingly delicious vegetarian sandwich, as well as a hot chocolate and one cappuccino, which also were very good. We were sitting outside in the garden on a sofa underneath a roof, hiding from the heavy rainfalls, as we were in Cambodia during rainy season. They also have a little store next to the café, where you can buy handmade jewelry, bags, accessories or some kind of decoration. You can even have some free Khmer lessons once a week, held by one co-worker, Mr. Ra. He’s such a nice guy. I helped him a little bit with the Starfish Facebook Page and he taught me some important Khmer words, like “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Yes” or “No”. So – great place to drink and eat, gorgeous staff plus you support disadvantaged people in Cambodia and thus contribute to the development of this poor but lovely country.
5. See the fireflies in Kampot
Kampot – the little town where loads of the pepper we consume is produced – is a lovely place, with just a few shops and restaurants. We lived down by the river in a wooden cottage. It was a very rural but lovely accommodation. We booked a boat tour across the river in the nighttime, to see the fireflies. It was absolutely amazing. Again we had bad luck with the weather as it was raining all the time but we saw a lot of those little fluorescent animals. A fellow traveller showed us a little trick. He took a series of photos with his camera and turned the flashlight on. Owing to the illumination you could see thousands and thousands of fireflies in the dark air like tiny little enlightened bulbs flying around. It was just incredible.