Hello! I’m Tara Mathews from food and travel blog vegeTARAian and I’m honoured to post for Love Swah readers a little something from my recent travels.
As someone with a deep love of Southeast Asia, l wanted to share some reasons why you should add Cambodia to your travel wish list. I hope some or all of my observations will encourage you to consider this fascinating country for your next overseas adventure.
1. Beautiful smiling faces
Despite the atrocities in Cambodia’s not too distant history, Cambodian’s are very kind people and so many say ‘hello’ and wave at visitors. It would be near impossible not to be charmed by the delightful children in the countryside who are so curious and friendly.
2. A contrast of city and country
Visit busy and highly populated cities such as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and spend time in quiet rural towns like Banteay Chhmar for a change of pace.
3. Incredible temples and relics
When planning temple visits think beyond Angkor Wat – while this is the biggest and most impressive historic site, it’s just one of the fascinating temples in Cambodia. Bayon is a marvel with over 200 faces carved into stone, the thick tree roots growing over the ruins of Ta Prohm is a natural wonder and the most intricate carvings can be seen at Banteay Srei.
4. Traditional Khmer cuisine
Rice, fish and soup are staples of Cambodian cuisine and there are plenty of options for adventurous eaters (think spiders, insects and fermented fish paste). Sampling a fragrant Amok curry, made with galangal and coconut milk, is a must. Traditionally this Khmer dish is made with fish but many eateries will also offer other versions.
5. Spend time with locals
Experience simple, modest living of a village homestay and test out your Khmer language skills with a local family. These are memories that will stay with you long after you leave Cambodia.
6. Support the local economy
In Cambodia you’re never far from stalls offering handmade jewellery, scarves and clothing at very affordable prices. Bargaining is common, especially in the markets, and the local currency Riel and US dollars are accepted.
7. Local traditions
If you visit Battambang, the bamboo train is a must. It’s a bumpy ride on an open, flat, bamboo tray with cushions, powered by a small outboard motor. Changes are proposed on this line so now is a great time to experience the bamboo train before it’s gone.
8. Riverside homes
During the wet season, residents in the fishing town of Kompong Plok are subject to the rising waters from the Mekong River and to adapt, they have built homes on strong bamboo stilts, that amazingly sit six metres high.
My visit to Cambodia was wonderful, compelling and left me with a real yearning to learn and see more of the country, that is so rich in history. While it’s important to reflect on Cambodia’s harrowing past and pay respect for all that they’ve been through, remarkably there is an overwhelming sense of calm and the people are so friendly and peaceful. I know I will go back to explore more of this fascinating country. I hope you get a chance to experience the wonder of Cambodia, too.
Tara Mathews is a writer, friend of animals, and lover of food. Tara is a freelance writer and editor of vegeTARAian – a Sydney food and travel blog dedicated to sharing the adventures of veg-loving life.