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While Cambodia is a country suffering from poverty, pervasive corruption and political unrest, it’s also a uniquely beautiful developing country with a dark, recent past. While these socio-political problems remain at the forefront of Cambodia’s to-do list, they are rarely seen by the average tourist. The Khmer people are generally friendly and inviting, the food is amazing and the markets enjoyable. The weather is warm, the accommodation and tourist hot-spots cheap, and it’s rich with history. Officially known as The Kingdom of Cambodia, the native language is Khmer and the most widespread religion practiced by around 95% of its people is Theravada Buddhism. This southeast Asian country spans low lying plains, Mekong Delta, mountains and Gulf of Thailand coastline. The Capital city is Phnom Penh, however Cambodia most famous monument lies in just outside Siem Reap, the Angkor Archeological Complex.
DON’T spend all your money on silk scarves and garments at the markets. Silk is one of Cambodia’s main trades and exports.
DO visit the silk farm outside Siem Reap, Artisans Angkor, to learn about the process and buy handmade keepsakes. They also have a few small boutiques spotted around Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
DO respect their culture. Cambodians are a modest people and as such when visiting religious sites you will be required to dress modestly.
DON’T wear short-shorts or skimpy tops, while the bigger tourist-driven cities are more progressive, you may still attract unwanted attention from Khmer men and pointed whispers from the women.
DO take a walk beside the Mekong River on Sisowath Quay. A busy hub in Phnom Penh filled with restaurants, bars and shops that will eventually lead you to sightseeing hotspots such as The Royal Palace, The Silver Pagoda and The National Museum. If your looking for somewhere to have a fancy drink, you will also find the Foreign Correspondents Club or FCC, at 363 Sisowath Quay.
DON’T touch stray animals, rabies is a proper problem here, so get your shots.
DO make friends with a trustworthy tuk-tuk driver and make him your regular guy. They know the city well and if they like you, will warn you when a place or person seems fishy. Most Importantly, employ him for the day to take you around the Angkor Archeological Complex, without a tuk-tuk it’s almost impossible to cover the entire complex in 1-2 days.
DON’T give money to the children begging on the streets or buy things from them. Most often these children have been sent to beg rather than going to school by their parents. Friends International is one of many organisations trying to help these children, donate to them instead.
DO spend time visiting the markets in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, such as Central Market characterised by its art deco building, the Russian Market and The Angkor Night Market in Siem Reap.
DON’T be rude or lose your temper, this is called losing face and will never end well for you.
DO take a walk along Street 240 in Phnom Penh, an up and coming area not far from Sisowath Quay characterised by its cute cafes, boutiques and restaurants.
DON’T engage in gambling or other questionable street activity, police corruption here is hidden but prevalent, as are muggings.
DO get a Khmer massage
DON’T be careless with your money, pickpockets are rife here.
DO visit the killing fields of Choeung Ek for a heartbreaking history lesson, or the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, both in Phnom Penh. Although, this particular history lesson is to for the soft hearted.
DON’T waste time at the smaller, less important pagodas or ‘temples’ if you’re pressed for time. Stick to the Angkor Complex, The Royal Palace, The Silver Pagoda, Sisowath Quay, Street 240
and Pub Street to get a brief, yet illuminating look into Cambodia’s most touristy cities.