The Ultimate Backpacking Cambodia Guide
Cambodia is bursting at the seams with rich culture, delectable cuisine, extraordinary nature and a wild party scene – the land of forgotten kingdoms is a playground for inquisitive backpackers. From exploring the grandeur temples of Angkor, to witnessing the unique bat cave spectacle in Battambang, raving until sunrise in the Jungle of Otres, swimming with bio-luminescent plankton on Koh Rong Island, Cambodia has everything you need to have a truly remarkable time.
In deep contrast to the above, Cambodia is haunted by a dark and distressing history. Most recently, the 19th century saw the country plagued with war, destruction and even genocide. As emotive as it may be, educating yourself about Cambodia’s horrifying past is an imperative part of travelling the country. Not only will it help ensure that nothing similar can ever happen again, but it will encourage immense respect for the unity of the nation’s citizens. To endure and then recover, from such tragic events, is a momentous and admirable task.
In this backpacking Cambodia guide, I will elaborate further on Cambodia’s history; as well as providing key information and in-depth itineraries, that will assist you in travelling this beautiful and fascinating country
Jump straight to:
- Best time to visit Cambodia
- Cambodia Visa
- Cambodia Itinerary
- Places to visit in Cambodia
- Travelling around Cambodia
- Cambodian Food
- Cambodian Culture
The best time to visit Cambodia
High Season for visiting Cambodia kicks off in November and continues until early February. At this time temperatures are cool and dry which makes exploration far more enjoyable; however, with the good weather comes the mass crowds. Expect popular tourist attractions, such as Angkor Wat, to be absolutely heaving at this time of year. Furthermore, prices are at their highest.
By mid-March to June the weather becomes extremely hot & humid. Expect air conditioning to be your new best friend, and sight-seeing to be an arduous task. If you do visit at this time of year, it’s best to stick to the beaches and islands in the South.
Monsoon Season runs from June to mid-October, and when it rains in Cambodia, it pours. It is therefore recommended to avoid this season. But if you don’t mind a bit (a lot, in small bursts) of rain, then you’ll bag yourself much cheaper flights.
Taking into consideration all of the above, the golden months to visit Cambodia are February and October. The weather is mostly good in these months, but not quite high season, therefore crowds are fewer & prices are lower. WIN!!
Visa on Arrival – Tourists visiting Cambodia, other than a few exceptions, are eligible for a visa on arrival. This visa can be obtained at Phnom Penh & Siem Reap airports, as well as majority of the cross-land borders of Thailand, Laos & Vietnam. The cost of this visa is $30 and permits the individual 30 days in the country.
*TIP – Crossing at land borders can sometimes feel like a sketchy ordeal. It’s common for the staff to add on an extra $ here and there for services which are somewhat unclear. As corrupt as it may be, you are in no real position to argue, therefore it’s wise to carry extra small change for these ‘charges’.
E-Visa – To avoid queues at the airport, and a select few land borders, it is possible to obtain an E-Visa in advance. The cost of the E-Visa is $37, including a $7 processing fee, and permits the individual 30 days in the country. This visa can take up to 3 days to process and can be applied for here.
Visa Extension – Anybody who has been accepted for Visa on Arrival or an E-Visa, is eligible for a 30-day visa extension. The easiest way to obtain this is to go through the hundreds of travel agents located in all tourist areas across the country. They will take care of all the paperwork for you, and the privilege will set you back $45.
Visa Requirements – To obtain any of these visa types, individuals require the following:
? Passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months
? A blank page in passport
? The visa fee to be paid in US dollars
? A passport photo
For more information in regards to visas, please check with the Cambodian tourism board
SIEM REAP – 2-3 DAYS
Siem Reap is the epitome of any major Southeast Asian city. On one hand you have vibrant culture and rich history; on the other, westernised restaurants, shopping and a wild nightlife scene. There is one significant feature however, that sets Siem Reap apart from the others – the forgotten Kingdom of Angkor. Even if you are not a city person, this imperative piece of history is not to be missed. Here are our top things to do when spending 2-3 days in Siem Reap.
#1. Explore the Forgotten Temples of Angkor
During the reign of the supreme Khmer Empire between the 9th and 15th centuries, Angkor served as its capital. During that time, the city saw the construction of over 1000 religious temples & monuments. Most iconic of these structures is the majestic Angkor Wat, meaning ‘Temple City’; said to be one of the largest religious monuments in the world.
After Ayutthaya had defeated the Khmer Empire, Angkor’s inhabitants fled, leaving the city to perish among the depths of the jungle. There are reports of a Portuguese voyager visiting the abandoned city in the late 1500s, however Angkor was effectively ‘re-discovered’ in 1860, by a French explorer named ‘Henry Mahout’. Following Mahouts’ reports of the cities magnificence, restoration works eventually commenced in 1907 by a group of French architects.
Today, the grandeur & harmonised architecture of the temple complex is visited by 2 million tourists annually. Sadly, this unsustainable tourism has contributed to significant damage of many of the monuments. UNESCO intervened in 1992, working to conserve the sacred monuments of Angkor. At an attempt to filter out tourists, visiting the world heritage site now comes with a hefty price tag attached to it.
With over 1000 monuments located across Angkor, you could spend days upon days exploring them, although it is possible to see the highlights within 1 day. For those looking for a deeper insight, there are passes available for 3 and 7 days. It is an enchanting experience to witness sunrise at Angkor Wat, however do not expect to be alone. Thousands of people gather for the early morning spectacle, before heading off on a similar route to the most popular temples.
TIP – If you are looking to escape the crowds, we recommend negotiating a price for your own personal tuk tuk driver. This way, he can take you on an alternative route to the larger tour groups, resulting in a more relaxed and enjoyable experience.
Cost: 1 Day – $37
3 Day – $62
7 Day – $72
#2 – Help a Good Cause at the Land Mine Museum
Founded by former child soldier, Aki Ra, The Land Mine Museum provides an educational insight into how war can continue to affect a nation long after it is over. Cambodia’s volatile past with the Khmer Rouge saw millions of landmines & unexploded bombs left scattered all over the country. Siem Reap only stabilised in the 1990s and shortly after was declared safe enough for tourists to visit.
The founder, Aki Ra, is an inspirational man who dedicated his life to demining Cambodia. Not only that, but he was determined to help those affected by the endless wars the country had endured. The museum is now staffed by victims and orphans, and all entrance fee profits are donated to charitable causes across the country.
#3 – Play out your Favourite Action Hero at the Military Shooting Range
Located approximately 1 hour outside of the city, the Military Shooting Range allows visitors the opportunity to play out a real life ‘Call of Duty’. Under the supervision of ex-soldiers, patrons can shoot an AK-47, machine gun, air rifle, pistol and for those brave enough, a hand grenade or rocket launcher.
Cost: AK47 $50
Machine Gun $80
Rocket Launcher $410
#4 – Party the Night Away on Pub Street
Once the sun has gone down, the only place to be is the legendary Pub Street. Littered with an array of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, the animated strip attracts thousands of visitors every night. Expect 1$ cocktails, delicious street food, loud music, drunk backpackers and a truly vivacious vibe!
The most famous bar on the strip is the iconic ‘Angkor What?’. “Promoting irresponsible drinking since 1998”, this trendy bar attracts customers into the establishment with attractive happy hour deals and graffiti adorned walls. Furthermore, the doors remain open all night, allowing the heavyweight champions to party all the way until dawn.
Where to Stay?
With the city hosting a bustling backpacker scene, hostels are very easy to find in Siem Reap. From 3$ hostels to 10$ hostels, and party hostels to chilled hostels, there is something to suit everybody.
BATTAMBANG – 2 DAYS
Battambang is a charming, rural town, located around 3 hours South of Siem Reap. It is one of the few places in Cambodia where tourism hasn’t really caught on, and therefore tourists who do visit are rewarded with a raw, authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience. You do not need any more than 2 days to see the main highlights of the cities. Here are our top things to do in Battambang.
#1. Pay Respect at the Killing Caves
You will notice a pattern emerging on this blog, whereby several the things to do in Cambodia revolve around the country’s dark history. Although visiting these sites can be distressing, it is also very important. Shamefully we hadn’t heard of the Khmer Rouge until we visited Cambodia, and despite the horrific nature of these sites, we were grateful for the education they provided.
The Killing Caves, located on Phnom Sampeou Mountain, once served as an execution site during the time of the Khmer Rouge. Victims would be brutally killed at the tip of the shaft, before being thrown into the cave amid thousands of other bodies. Today, crafted statues portray a gruesome story of the regimes barbaric crimes, while a memorial area hosts a glass covered cabin possessing the human skulls and bones of the victims.
If this all sounds a bit too disturbing for you, you can also enjoy the beautiful pagoda located at the peak of the mountain, alongside the awe-inspiring views of the surrounding countryside.
#2. Visit the Bat Caves at Dusk
On a lighter note, Phnom Sampeou Mountain also hosts one of the most bizarre events of mother nature that we have witnessed throughout our travels. Every evening at dusk, as if on cue, millions upon millions of bats emerge from the caves to go hunting. Consequently, a colossal black snake forms in the sky, slithering all the way into the horizon.
This unique spectacle continues for around 30-40 minutes, and local businesses are all set up for the event. Plastic chairs line the street at the entrance of the caves, and beer or other refreshments are available for purchase. So, sit back, relax, and watch the show unfold!
#3. Ride the Bamboo Train
What was once the top thing to do in Battambang, is unfortunately not so high on the list anymore. Featured on Jack Whitehall’s ‘Travels with my Father’, the original Bamboo Train would take you on a journey through Battambang’s rural countryside. The show depicted humorous yet intriguing scenes of the rickety old train passing by charming local villages, as well as an abundance of captivating scenery.
Today, the original train is no more, and has instead been converted into a bit of tourist trap. As of January 2018, the track has been shortened to cover no more than 250m each way, and visitors pay a steep price for the pleasure. We will let you decide if it’s worth it or not…
#4. Enjoy Cocktails at The Snow Container
A seemingly quiet and sleepy town, Battambang in-fact beholds some pretty cool drinking holes. The fairly recently built Snow Container is like a pop-up city, and inside hosts an array of bars & restaurants. Enjoy anything from strong buckets to trendy cocktails, but be prepared for the ongoing battle of who can play the loudest music!
Where to Stay?
PHNOM PENH – 2-3 DAYS
Phnom Penh, the nation’s busy capital city, serves as the country’s political, cultural and historical centre. Here visitors can appreciate the rich khmer culture, learn more of the countries compelling history and indulge in the abundance of bustling markets. You need spend no more than 2-3 days in the city to tick off the main highlights. Here are our top things to do in Phnom Penh:
#1. Take an Emotional Walk Through History at the Killing Fields
Although there are a number of memorial sites dotted around Cambodia, the Killing Fields, otherwise known as Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre, is undoubtedly the most significant. Audio tour guides and information boards lead visitors through the haunting grounds, depicting a disturbing account of the atrocious events that took place there. An estimated 1 million people were executed at this site alone between the years of 1975 and 1979.
The tour ends at the Buddhist Memorial Stupa, which was created in 1988 to commemorate all those who lost their lives under the genocidal regime. The Stupa houses the skulls of almost 10,000 victims who were exhumed from the mass graves that litter the grounds. A visit to the Killing Fields can be a somewhat harrowing ordeal; however, it is imperative that our current, and future generations are educated about this bitter slice of recent history.
#2. Escape the Hustle and Bustle of the City at Wat Phnom Temple
As the country’s capital city, it is inevitable that Phnom Penh is host to an array of striking religious temples. One of the most remarkable however is the majestic design of the Wat Phnom Temple. Considered the most sacred temple in Cambodia, a visit here provides a welcome break from the bustling metropolis of the city.
Encompassed by peace and serenity, visitors are invited to walk the grounds of the temple complex. Short walkways through the verdant gardens lead to various other religious monuments and interesting artefacts.
#3. Visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Tuol Sleng, once a school, was transformed into a sadistic detention centre, during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. The camp served as a prison for political prisoners, whom endured months or even years of torture and mistreatment. Countless others died from malnutrition and untreated disease.
The museum has remained virtually untouched since those dark times, in order to provide visitors an accurate insight to the inhumane conditions that the victims would have endured. These reminders are supported by harrowing images that can be found on walls throughout the vicinity.
#4. Shop Until You Drop at the City Markets
You’ll be pleased to know that the capital isn’t all culture and history. Phnom Penh is also famous for its vibrant markets that can be found across the city. Most popular is the Central Market, where visitors can expect to find great bargains on clothes, jewelry and gifts. Or if it’s exquisite handcrafted items and home decor you’re looking for, then it’s worth checking out the lively Russian Market. Don’t forget to haggle, it can be great fun, but also be sure to haggle sensibly. Pay what you think is fair for the item, so all parties feel like they are getting a good deal.
Where to Stay?
An abundance of hostels can be found littered across the city, however our favourite is Onederz Hostel along the riverfront. Partnered with great views, the trendy rooftop bar provides a nice retreat from the busy city streets.
SIHANOUKVILLE – 3-4 DAYS
After an exhausting week exploring the cities of Cambodia, the powdery white sand beaches of Sihanoukville are going to be calling your name. Whether you’re looking for the vibrant backpacker scene of Serendipity, or the eccentric hippie enclave of Otres, Sihanoukville is the perfect beach getaway. Here are our top things to do in Sihanoukville:
#1. Relax on Otres Beach with a Coconut in Hand
With limited things to do in Sihanoukville, what better way to spend the day than relaxing on the beach with a coconut in hand. Personally, we preferred the laid-back vibes of Otres Beach, over the party scene of Serendipity, but each to their own, so plan accordingly.
Otres Beach is a seemingly never-ending stretch of bay, and while some sections host an array of funky beach bars & restaurants, others are completely remote. The powdery golden sand is pristine and free of rubbish, while the crystal-clear water is warm and calm. Verdant palm trees adorn the bay, and the sunsets are some of the best we have seen in Asia – simply paradise!
#2. Rave until Sunrise at Kerfuffle Jungle Party
Techno fans rejoice! Kerfuffle Jungle Party is arguably the wackiest and wildest party in all of Southeast Asia. Hundreds, if not thousands, of free-spirited ravers gather in the jungle of Otres to dance their way into dawn. Expect world class DJs, exciting fire performers and fairground rides to create a somewhat ethereal wonderland. We can guarantee it will be one of the most exhilarating and debaucherous nights of your life!
Kerfuffle is on every Wednesday during the dry season (December-June) and opens from 10pm to 10am. Ticket prices are usually around $10. “Consume & Contend!!!”
#3. Get Involved in Some Water Sport Action
For the intrepid travellers out there, the coast of Sihanoukville offers an array of water sports. From scuba diving to snorkelling; and kayaking to windsurfing, you are sure to find something that will get the adrenaline pumping. Just be sure to shop around for the best prices as they tend to vary considerably. It’s also worth checking Trip Advisor reviews as a safety precaution.
Where to Stay?
If you are a fan of the laidback Hippie Vibe, then you will undoubtedly love Lost in Neverland Hostel located in Otres Village. This quirky hostel offers open plan dorm style accommodation, or alternatively private teepees (yes tee-pees) amid a beautifully verdant garden. If it’s the lively backpacker scene you seek, then Monkey Republic located near Serendipity Beach is a popular choice.
KOH RONG – 3-4 DAYS
If you aren’t beached out already (is that even possible?) then visiting the paradise island of Koh Rong is an imperative addition to your itinerary. Prepare yourself for dazzling turquoise waters filled with coral reef and tropical marine life, pristine white sand, and flourishing palm trees, sounds awful doesn’t it?! The best thing about Koh Rong is that if you are there to party then it’s game on; however, if you’re looking to relax, it’s easy to escape the madness.
How to Get to Koh Rong
To get to Koh Rong, there are a number of ferry services operating from the main pier in Sihanoukville. Be sure to know which area you want to stay in on Koh Rong, as there are a number of stops dotted around the island. The journey is approximately 30-45 minutes by fast boat, and tickets are around $25 return.
Here are our top things to do on Koh Rong Island:
#1. Enjoy the Paradise Beaches
Being an island, appreciating the breath-taking beaches is undoubtedly the number 1 thing to do on Koh Rong. Other than Koh Touch, which in recent years has been transformed into a congested and dirty party enclave, the beaches resemble nothing less than a desert island paradise.
Beaches north of the island are the most remote, however no matter where you are located, you are never more than 10-15 minutes’ walk away from a secluded area of beach. Some of our favourites include Lonely Beach, 4K Beach and Coconut Beach, but there are many more to be found around the island.
#2. Sparkle as you Swim with Bioluminescent Plankton
Swimming with bioluminescent plankton is probably one of the most majestic experiences any individual can have in their lifetime. There are few places across the world where this natural wonder occurs, therefore do not miss out on this opportunity if you find yourself on Koh Rong Island. Several tour companies offer the experience and you can usually book on the day. You will be asked to meet your guide on the beach after dark and will be whisked out to the middle of the ocean on a fishing boat. It can be a daunting experience jumping into the dark depths of the water, but all fear will be eliminated when you witness the magical spectacle unfold. The plankton reacts with your movement, creating an array of bioluminescent waves in the water, and your body will look as if you are covered in glitter. Simply wonderful!
#3. Don’t Look Down at High Point Rope Park
If lounging on the beach isn’t your thing, why not take to the skies at High Point Rope Park. This ‘big kid’ playground has been developed amid the jungle of Koh Rong and gives visitors the opportunity to act out their inner monkey. There are various stages to the assault course, including suspension bridges, walking wires, self-moving devices such as the ropewalker and last but not least, zip lines!
#4. Party Until Sunrise on Police Beach
It isn’t without reason that Koh Rong has been branded as a bit of a party island. You can expect to find some of the craziest parties in all of Southeast Asia here. One of the most popular nights is the infamous techno party on Police Beach. From whacky themed parties, to full moon parties, to ‘any excuse to’ parties, you are guaranteed a truly wild time.
The Police Beach party is generally on every Wednesday and Saturday during dry season, opening from 9pm through to sunrise. Don’t forget your sunglasses.
Where to Stay?
Despite Koh Rong becoming a backpacker’s paradise in recent years, there are still very few hostels to be found on the island. We recommend staying a little bit outside of the Koh Touch area at Suns of Beaches Hostel. It’s a 1 hour walk to Koh Touch, however the beach is far more serene, peaceful and cleaner here.
7 DAY ITINERARY FOR CAMBODIA
If you have just 7 days to explore Cambodia, then we would recommend you hit Siem Reap for 2 days so you can tick off the temples of Angkor. Next, we would go to Phnom Penh for 2 days to learn about the country’s history, before heading to the beaches of Sihanoukville or Koh Rong to relax for the last 3 days.
Places to visit in Cambodia
If you find yourself with enough time, then it is well worth checking out the following destinations on your trip to Cambodia:
Kampot is a sleepy riverside town and the perfect place to chill out while enjoying the surrounding nature. Days are spent drinking coffee at the quaint cafes, taking relaxing boat trips on the river or enjoying the Arcadia Water Park.
Kep is located just a short 45-minute drive from Kampot. The journey is a picturesque one, routing through beautiful pepper plantations and salt fields. Once you arrive in Kep, you can enjoy the national park, where the ‘stairway to heaven’ trek will lead you to a beautiful pagoda and awe-inspiring views.
KOH RONG SAMLOEM
Koh Rong Samloem is an island located South of Koh Rong. With no roads, limited power, weak WIFI and breathtaking beaches, this remote island is perfect for those seeking a completely off the grid getaway.
Travelling around Cambodia
When travelling from place to place in Cambodia, a cheap and easy mode of transport is by Tourist Bus. All destinations are easily accessible this way and journeys can be organised through the 100s of tour operators located across the country. There are several bus companies operating a similar service, however Mekong Express is the popular choice, offering comfort, snacks and WIFI (when it’s working).
When moving around locally, the cheapest option is to rent a scooter for the day. That is if you are confident driving of course. When driving in Cambodia, always drive sensibly, wear a helmet, and to avoid any unnecessary fines, carry your international driving permit.
If a scooter isn’t an option for you, then Tuk Tuks or taxis are the next best option. Always negotiate your price before getting into the vehicle, and don’t be afraid to haggle if you think they are asking too much. In the bigger cities, Grab Taxi operate, and therefore your price is determined by the app in advance.
One of the most exciting factors when visiting a new country, is trying all the weird and wonderful dishes that make up the local cuisine. Thankfully Cambodian cuisine is more wonderful than weird, but it wouldn’t be South East Asia if there wasn’t some element of peculiarity on the menu. Here we will share some of our favourite dishes, as well as some of the most unusual for good measure.
#1. Fish Amok
This is one of the most popular Cambodian dishes, and you won’t find many menus without some form of Amok on the menu. A real amok, will consist of steamed fish topped with a delicious sauce of coconut milk and spices, served alongside rice. Often, however, restaurants will serve it as a curry style dish. Both are equally delicious.
#2. Khmer Curry
Another national dish is the delicious Khmer curry. Lighter and less spicy than the curries of its Thai neighbours, the abundance of spices creates an explosion of flavour with every bite. Khmer curry can be served with meat or as a vegetarian option.
#3. Kuy Teav
Kuy Teav is the Cambodian version of a noodle soup, which is a cheap and delicious option for budget backpackers. This dish is traditionally made with vermicelli noodles and can be made with meat or as a vegetarian option.
#4. Chicken & Banana Flower Salad
This light and refreshing salad is a perfect lunch option amid the sweltering midday heat. Tender chicken breast is sliced among banana blossom flower and served alongside a deliciously zesty sauce of lime, chili and garlic.
#5. Street Food
Street food can be found all over Cambodia, and not only is it delicious but it’s cheap too. Some of the popular dishes include rice dishes, noodle dishes, steamed pork buns and meat skewers. Whereby some of the more refined pallets enjoy deep fried scorpion, tarantula or fruit served alongside fish sauce!
Not knowing what to expect when travelling to a new country can be an exciting yet daunting experience. Here are some useful tips that will help you prepare for Cambodia ahead of travel.
#1. Always be Respectful
This should really go without saying, however too often we see tourists disrespecting the local culture, the local people and the beautiful attractions we have all come to see. Try to be an admirable representative for your country; act sensibly, treat people kindly and leave a place exactly as you found it.
#2. Cover Up When It’s Appropriate
Cambodia is a relatively liberal country and many tourist areas are very westernised, however it doesn’t mean that the locals appreciate you walking in shops or restaurants in a bikini. Shorts and vest tops are acceptable in most areas but be sure you wear something to cover your shoulders and legs when visiting any historical or religious sites.
#3. Learn to Speak the Lingo
When travelling to any country, it’s worth learning some key phrases in the local language. Not only will you gain respect from the locals, but it will also enhance your travel experience. Here are some key Khmer phrases that you are likely to use often.
#4. Daily Budget
Cambodia is the country where you can buy a beer for 50 cents, a meal for $1 and a room for $3; however, the tourist attractions are relatively expensive. Expect your daily budget to be around $15-$25 a day on average.
Decent WIFI can be found in most places in Cambodia unless you’re travelling to remote areas on the Koh Rong Islands. A local sim card with a monthly allowance of data can also be picked up from most airports and local shops.
Capital: Phnom Penh
Religion: Buddhism (95% of the population)
Population: 16 Million
Currency: Official currency – Cambodian Riel
Most Commonly used – US Dollar
TOP TIP: To speak politely in Cambodian males should use “baht” at the end of every sentence and females must use “jah.”
For example, a male would ask “how much” by saying “pun-man-baht” whereas a female would say “pun-man-jah.”
Hello (formal) = jum-reap-suor (+ baht/jah)
Hello (Informal) = su-sa-dai (+ baht/jah)
How are you? (informal) soks-sa-bye-dey (+ baht/jah)
How are you? (formal) dehr-nek-sok-sa-bye-dey (+ baht/jah)
I am fine = khnom-soks-a-bye (+ baht/jah)
Goodbye = Jum-reep-lear (+ baht/jah)
Yes = (male) Baht Jah Jah
No (+ baht/jah) = ot-tei (+ baht/jah)
Thank you = Or-kuon (+ baht/jah)
Sorry/Excuse me = som-touh (+ baht/jah)
Water Please = (male) sum- tek (+ baht/jah)
How much? = pun-man (+ baht/jah)
Too Expensive = t’lai-nah (+ baht/jah)
Expensive t’lai (+ baht/jah)
What is your name? dehr- nek-chmo-ey (+ baht/jah)
My name is = khnom-chmuoh (+ baht/jah)
Khmer Empire – Much of the earliest recorded history of Cambodia begins with the reign of the almighty Khmer Empire. Established in 802CE, the empire flourished for over 600 years, exerting influence over much of Southeast Asia. The commencement of this era saw both Hinduism & Buddhism catch on across the region; resulting in the construction of an abundance of religious infrastructure of which we still appreciate today. Most iconically for Cambodia, is the majestic temples of Angkor. Angkor served as capital of the Khmer Empire, and the magnificent design of Angkor Wat alone, serves as a true reflection of the empire’s prosperity.
A Weakened Cambodia – Despite the Khmer Empires supremacy, Angkor was brought to its knees in the 15th century by Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya took control of the empire, and Cambodia was set to be ruled as a vassal state. In an already weakened position, Cambodia would later become a protectorate of France in 1867; until finally reclaiming its independence in 1953.
The Vietnam War – Due to Cambodian impartiality during the first decade of the Vietnam War, which allowed Vietnamese soldiers to use Northern Territory as a base, the US conducted war on Cambodia in the year of 1969. Frustrations among the nation later lead to the Cambodia Coup of 1970, when the Head of State ‘Norodom Sihanouk’ was revoked of his position. Prime Minister ‘Lon Nol’ was appointed power over the state and marked the beginning of the Khmer Republic. The bombings continued in Cambodia until 1973.
The Khmer Rouge – Despite reformed stability initiated by the Khmer Republic, Cambodia was to be dealt another twisted hand in fate when the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975. Lead by the malevolent Pol Pot, the country was renamed to Democratic Kampuchea. The somber years that followed would see the Cambodian Genocide barbarically kill an estimated 3 million people – 25% of the population. Pol Pot’s insistence on national purity, self-sufficiency (even with medicine) and agriculture collectivisation led to death by execution, torture, famine and untreated disease.
Vietnam-Cambodia War – The sadistic reign of the Khmer Rouge continued until 1979, when Vietnam invaded Democratic Kampuchea and destroyed most of their army. This war was to continue until 1989, and controversially the movement retained a seat in government until 1993. In 1993, Monarchy was restored, and the country was renamed ‘The Kingdom of Cambodia’.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Our Taste For Life documents the story of Charlotte & Natalie – A British lesbian couple chasing their dreams around the world on a shoe-string budget. They share a passion for adventure, writing & photography and spend majority of their time bickering over what their next meal will be. Their next travel destination will be the incredible India, so to follow their journey be sure check out their blog and Instagram