Seeking for a plan for the March/April holidays? I strongly advice you to consider Cambodia.
The first obstacle lies with the flight. It is not the cheapest flight ever: from Brussels, tickets with Qatar Airways or Fly Emirates cost around 1000€. Plan B: if you are nuts, like me, you can always travel for more than 20 hours, change 4 times airports and experience different jet lags for a short period of time.
Trip, check! Time to discover Cambodia
You will land in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Although it’s not the main touristic attraction, the Cambodian capital will immediately drive you to another planet. Traffic jam, thousands and thousands of tuk-tuks will be the first visit card right after you exit the airport. Welcome to Phnom Penh.
If you stay a couple of days, you should visit the National Museum and the Royal Palace. Both buildings are tremendously inspiring. In order to understand the recent Cambodian history, namely the Khmer rouge regime, you should visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing fields. Both are located outside the city centre, where the slaughters used to happen.
When it comes to taste the traditional Khmer food (Khmer are the ethnic majority in Cambodia – 96%), I recommend two restaurants. If you are looking for a fancy place, you should go to Malis. Although it is quite expensive compared to other Cambodian restaurants, it is still acceptable from your perspective (you can enjoy a very good meal for about 15/20€).
For a more typical local experience, I advice you to go to Romping. This restaurant, run by an NGO, will offer you the possible to discover the real bread and butter of traditional Khmer food.
The Phnom-Penh nightlife should also be in your agenda. Happy 11 is definitely a must-go with its incredible rooftop where you can party all night long. Be aware that at some point the rooftop will become blur. Or your view. It’s a question of perspective.
But Phnom-Penh only should be your first step, as the country offers you many possibilities both to discover another culture as well as to relax. The main attraction of Cambodia is of course Angkor.
Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.
A 3-day pass will allow you to discover a very significant part of this site for 62$, and a tuk-tuk can take you wherever you want for about 20$/day.
Angkor is also known for the production of rice.
Butterfly Tours, an NGO run by students, will take you on bike tour for a morning or a full day to different sites around Siam-Reap, the main city of the region. You will understand how the traditional rice is cropped, and how the local baskets and rice wines are made. As most of the traditional touristic attractions are managed by foreigners or big companies, these sorts of tours will guarantee that your money will be delivered to the locals.
The Angkor workshops will finally provide you with a short view on the traditional art and local handicraft in the region.
If you really need to relax, Chez Moi Residence is a very good place to stay. It is quite fancy but the prices are acceptable. You can enjoy the swimming-pool and Cambodian massages there.
Still not convinced about Cambodia?