Things to Do in Cambodia (apart from the temples)

2 Dec

Whenever you talk to people about visiting Cambodia, the first thing they say is – “visit the Angkor Wat Temples” and if some people know a bit more than they talk about visiting the Khmer Rouge rule and the killing fields etc in Phnom Penh. But after my trip to Cambodia, I discovered that this country has so much more to offer (apart from the normal touristy stuff mentioned in various websites and guidebooks) that one should definitely incorporate in their travel itineraries. So I have decided to list down a few things that I feel you should definitely keep time for whenever you decide to visit this beautiful country.

  • Interact with local people – This is one of my most recommended things to do here. The local population here is very poor (yes I felt that even after coming from India) and have suffered immensely under the Khmer Rouge rule (every person you meet here has lost numerous family members to this tragedy). Still they are open to talk about the history, about what happened, how they lost their family, the politics, how they survived against all odds, etc etc. And the best part is that during this entire conversation, they talk about moving forward and their future plans for their kids. So much so that you really feel like lauding them for their courage, hard work and positivity. This encounter also helped me thank god once again for what I have and am in life. Also, if you are into portrait photography, then you will find very interesting models in people and kids around here.
Monks at the temples of Siem Reap

Monks at the temples of Siem Reap

  • Listen to local music – Around Siem Reap you will come across numerous small groups sitting outside various temple (like a small band) and playing local musical instruments. These instruments are very different from our own and the melody is ver soulful and touching. Many of them also have CDs of this music. All these groups are land mine survivors and are playing these instruments to avoid begging for a living. So be sure to spare a minute and listen to this beautiful music.
Musicians of Siem Reap - Photo courtesy -http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7046/6779396946_5eea022d6e_z.jpg

Musicians of Siem Reap – Photo courtesy -http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7046/6779396946_5eea022d6e_z.jpg

  • Shopping – If you like shopping of natural and hand-made stuff, then Cambodia is shopping paradise for you. Walk around the local shops on the main roads or visit the Night market where you will find numerous local NGO shops that retail products made by locals for a cause. A lot of foreigners here have helped local people make local handicrafts with designs and quality meant for international tourists. So these things are very local in design but very international in quality. Also, be sure to check out the following –
    • Natural bath and cosmetic products,
    • Hand quilted bags and quilts local
    • Silk products like chic  dresses, hand bags, scarves, clutches, etc. If you have the time then you can also select local silk fabrics and get dresses tailored to your tastes and specifications.
    • Accessories like ear rings, neck pieces, brooches, in all kinds of materials especially silk
    • Apsara candles in Siem Reap
    • Local paintings
    • Additionally, I have written another detailed post on shopping in Phnom Penh which you read at http://wp.me/p29z7S-hG
Local artisans

Local artisans

  • Buy local food products – Cambodia has some very distinct and unique food products that you should definitely try. Visit a local super market and be sure to try the local coffee, palm sugar and all kinds of local fresh fruits.
  • Take some time off and visit Artisan de Angor in Siem Reap – Artisans de Angkor is a company that was created to provide employment to rural population in Cambodia and to also revive Khmer arts and crafts. They have an entire campus in Siem Reap where they provide free escorted tours in various languages. In this tour, they first explain the story of Artisans Angkor and then show you the knowledge and techniques of their artisans in stone and wood carving, lacquering, silver plating and silk painting. They also have a local showroom for shopping and a cafe. For additional information please check at http://www.artisansdangkor.com/
Artisans de Angkor. Photo courtesy http://www.artisansdangkor.com/

Artisans de Angkor. Photo courtesy http://www.artisansdangkor.com/

  • Visit a Silk Farm – Both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh have local silk farms that allow visits from tourists and chance to learn more about the entire process of silk production – from mulberry bush cultivation to production of silk fabrics. These farms are beautiful by themselves for a visit and you can also learn additional details on the mulberry trees, silkworm farming, cocoon unwinding, preparation of the silk threads, ikat technique (tie-dyeing of the threads) and silk weaving. A visit here is really recommended for everyone.
Silk Weaving. Photo courtesy -http://www.artisansdangkor.com/

Silk Weaving. Photo courtesy -http://www.artisansdangkor.com/

  • Pub Street – Keep your evenings free for a stroll through the party street – The Pub Street. Now this is one small lane but both sides are lined with pubs and restaurants with a wide variety of drinking and dining options. This street is very alive and vibrant with people from various nationalities and with food from many countries including Indian. This is also a great place to meet many fellow travelers and swap stories about journeys and travels.
Pub Street, Siem Reap

Pub Street, Siem Reap

Pub Street, Siem Reap

Pub Street, Siem Reap

  • Take a fish or normal foot massage – All the walking around in temples and streets does definitely tire the feet, hence these massages are a welcome relief. All along the streets, the night market and in the pub street you will see loads of massage parlors that offer foot massages for as low as $2. Try the fish massage too for $1 wherein small fish eat away the dead skin of your feet. These massages are out of the world and a must try whenever you are here.
  • Check out the local trees and flowers – Historically all the temples in Siem Reap had been covered by forests. Though now many of them have been cut down but there are still some very old trees and flowers all around these temples. I have written separate posts on both the trees and flowers that you can read at http://wp.me/p29z7S-ik and http://wp.me/p29z7S-i3
  • Walk around in the streets – Whenever you have the time just walk around the cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh to soak in the character, architecture and feel of these cities. You will see remnants of a beautiful French architecture and an ancient Khmer culture in many hidden nooks and corners of these cities.
Architecture, Phnom Penh

Architecture, Phnom Penh

  • Beaches – Cambodia is now increasingly also becoming famous for its beautiful beaches of Sihanoukville, Kep and Koh Kong. Though we didn’t get a chance to visit these places I have heard they are truly beautiful and worth a visit.
  • Adventure Sports – Increasingly many tour agents are arranging for various adventure sports (kayaking, biking etc) and cycling tours around Cambodia which we didn’t do but you can check out.

With this post I have tried to cover everything that I feel you should experience in this country. I would also like to conclude by saying that whenever you decide to visit Cambodia, please visit with an open mind and try to see and experience this country with your heart.

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30 Responses to “Things to Do in Cambodia (apart from the temples)”

  1. RiverUnderWater December 2, 2012 at 21:47 #

    Great post! I hope to visit one day and I really like your tips, thanks for sharing 🙂

    Like

  2. Himanshu December 3, 2012 at 01:25 #

    Very nice. Loved the pics.

    Cheers!

    Himanshu Nagpal | Being Traveler

    Being Traveler

    Like

  3. laboratoriomondo December 3, 2012 at 05:39 #

    I agree. Cambodia is totally a country you should visit with an open heart!

    Like

    • getsetandgo December 3, 2012 at 15:43 #

      Thanks. This statement can only be understood by people who have actually visited Cambodia… 🙂

      Like

  4. Sonal December 3, 2012 at 13:06 #

    Am going to ask you to help me plan my next trip 🙂

    Like

    • getsetandgo December 3, 2012 at 15:45 #

      You know, we should do this for each other…. I loved your inputs on Pushkar and cant wait to try Himachal Pradesh.

      Like

  5. Niranjan December 3, 2012 at 15:57 #

    It is always nice to read and hear about the less explored areas/ activities of a place. Nice that you shared this.

    http://www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

    Like

    • getsetandgo December 3, 2012 at 17:57 #

      Thanjs Niranjan for the kind words and for your feedback on all my blog posts. Really appreciate it. 🙂

      Like

  6. pinkbananashoes December 3, 2012 at 21:21 #

    Hi, nice post. Made me miss Cambodia. I particularly have some great memories from Pub street. Thanks for posting. 🙂

    Like

  7. pommepal December 4, 2012 at 09:47 #

    Well written and very informative post. Thanks for all the information

    Like

  8. dNambiar December 5, 2012 at 06:37 #

    That’s a great post with lots of info. You make me want to visit Cambodia soon. 🙂

    Like

    • getsetandgo December 5, 2012 at 17:08 #

      Thanks and it is a must visit place. I loved every minute there 🙂

      Like

  9. GalOnTrip December 5, 2012 at 14:32 #

    I find it interesting and informative. And I didn’t know they have ‘ikat’ too in cambodia. Cause ikat is an Indonesian word literally means ‘tie or make a knot’. And the way Indonesian do it is the same as your pic. I think they share the same root, still southeast Asian thing

    Like

    • getsetandgo December 5, 2012 at 17:26 #

      Thanks GalonTrip and we have ‘ikat’ in India too … In some ways Indonesia, India and Cambodia are so similar… Both have similar Hindu history and some very similar arts and crafts 🙂 This is so amazing 🙂

      Like

      • GalOnTrip December 5, 2012 at 19:41 #

        ikat in india too? wow, i see. yes, we share the common hindu, buddhist history, arts & craft, even Indonesia used sanskrit letters long ago and have lots of temples too. haha, sounds pretty cool huh?

        Like

      • getsetandgo December 6, 2012 at 18:13 #

        Yah… such similarities never fail to amaze me… So many things common despite such distances…

        Like

  10. rommel December 13, 2012 at 09:25 #

    Outstanding post! You basically speak to all tourists to not ony see and visit, but also (at least try to) get culturized and be like the locals. The silk production sounds very promising and interesting. And the pics, no links or with, you provided brilliantly in conjunction of your topics.

    Like

    • getsetandgo December 13, 2012 at 11:55 #

      Thanks Rommel… A lot of Indians travel with package tours and just see the sights in every place and miss out the most important part of a holiday – like experiencing the local culture, meeting people etc. So this post is more to drive a small change in way people travel by writing on such varied options available.

      Like

  11. Kerry December 14, 2012 at 13:04 #

    you have shown the new picture of Cambodia to me.

    Like

    • getsetandgo December 17, 2012 at 15:06 #

      Thanks Kerry.. Have you been to Cambodia?

      Like

      • kerry December 21, 2012 at 10:45 #

        No, but really wanna go there once.

        Like

  12. Anshul Chaurasia December 19, 2012 at 16:43 #

    going there tomorrow, would tell you what all I found. thanks so much for all the immensely informative posts! 🙂

    Like

    • getsetandgo December 19, 2012 at 17:08 #

      Hey, have a good trip and I look forward to hearing more about your experiences and views on the place 🙂

      Like

  13. Nivedana April 16, 2013 at 12:19 #

    Snigdha, I did almost the exact same things on my trip! I also visited the Tonle Sap floating village. Did you get a chance to see that? It’s an entire village floating on water, with each house/ structure having rubber tyres at the bottom to help it float according to the water direction. Amazingly, they even have floating schools, grocery stores, and even a Karaoke bar – a small community of its own!

    Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A trip from Penang to Siem Reap, Cambodia « Tropical Expat - December 4, 2012

    […] You might want to read this blog about Cambodia, also: Things to do in Cambodia […]

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