Get a Cambodian Visa, and off you go!
Do you find yourself in need of an exotic adventure? We all need a break from time to time and, may I suggest that we also need to spread our wings and perhaps venture beyond our traditional comfort zones occasionally. Who was it that said, 'that travel broadens the mind'? Well whoever it was was wise indeed as there is nothing to get your perspective of life in a developed country back, than to holiday on one that is un-developed.
I am going to suggest that you consider; 'What about a holiday in Cambodia', the ancient Kingdom of Angkor in the heart of Indochina. As you can see from the map below, the Kingdom of Cambodia is nestled beside Thailand, Laos and Vietnam and shares the mighty and mystical Mekong River with all those three neighbors.
So how would an American get themselves to Cambodia? Well it's remarkably simple really. Really a case of get a Cambodian Visa, and off you go! While it is not (yet) possible to fly directly from the USA to Cambodia, it is relatively easy to reach. There are an abundance of flights direct from both US coasts to the three main neighboring hubs of Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumphur. From there it is a short hop to either Phnom Penh the frenetic capital, or to Siem Reip, host to the famous Angkor Wat temples, scene of the popular blockbuster Tomb Raider featuring the character Lara Croft.
Depending on what you know of Cambodia, you may have visions of land mines, third world poverty and general mayhem. Well you'd be at least partly right. There are lots of unexploded ordnance still lying on the ground in this country, but don't worry all the areas visited by tourists have long ago been rendered safe. Yes, Cambodia is a poor country, and you will see poverty if you visit. You will also see a great spirit of will and aspiration among its people, the Khmer tribe being the largest ethnic grouping by far. You will see Buddhist Monks clad in stunning saffron robes, exotic temples and beautiful natural landscapes of mountains, jungle and rice paddy fields.
But before you get going, it is perhaps wise to swat up on this mystical country. Below is a picture of the Cambodian Lonely Planet guide book. Well worth the read at the rec retail of $24, but I found it for just $16.
Cambodian Lonely Planet Guide Book
This well written paper and ink book will give you a wealth of useful information in both the planning stages of your trip, as well as when you are on the ground.
Another good read I recommend is an easy to digest book designed to assist you in adhering to the Buddhist culture of this Kingdom. It is called 'Do's and Dont's in Cambodia, and I put in a picture of it below. Well worth it at under $20.
Do's and Dont's in Cambodia
If you have say 2 weeks to explore this nation, may I suggest that a trip up to Siem Reip to see the Angkor Wat temple complex is an absolute given. It is a short 1 hour flight from the capital Phnom Penh, and there is a huge variety of accommodation available in this city. Everything from a $10 a night fan room right up to 5 star resort luxury.
English is widely spoken and guides are easily available to show you both around the city and the expansive temple complex. Some folks can see all they need to see of the temples in a day, others take a weekly ticket and explore the various temples at their leisure.
Once you have seen the temples, and perhaps taken a leisurely trip out onto the massive Tonle Sap lake, you may well itch for a change of pace. In that case I would suggest heading off to the beachside town of Sihanoukville, on the nations west coast. Sihanoukville is Cambodia's only deep port, but also has stunning beaches - white sand, warm gently lapping water and an endless variety of food and drinks available right there on the sand, or under thatched huts nearby. Here is a picture of one of the 5 main beaches of Sihanoukville.
Some dot points for your guidance:
- It is a hot tropical country that gets most of it's rainfall between April and November, so the premium time to travel there would be mid November to mid March.
- Although the currency is the Cambodian Riel, (approx 4000 to the $usd), US dollars are widely accepted throughout. In fact ATM's, of which there are plenty, dispense these greenbacks in favour of the local bills.
- Please buy the very cheap bottled drinking water from any local store as the tap water is not recommended, (remember I said exotic!)
- I also urge you to take out travel insurance. In the event of an illness or injury, it is great to be assured you can be treated in a professional high standard hospital, or even - if need be, flown home.
- The Buddhist Khmers love a drink and the local beers are excellent. They eat all types of meat, but lamb is hard to find; with seafood, chicken and beef being the staples.
- Fresh tropical fruit is everywhere. It is cheap and magnificent!
- Your money goes a long way in Cambodia. As a guide an $80 hotel room back home would cost you around $20. For that you can expect a pool, air conditioning, a bar, restaurant and room safe.
- As an American citizen you are entitled to an automatic 1 month tourist visa on arrival in the country. It costs $20 and can be extended for one extra month at a price.
- Just some cultural tips, (but please do consider that do's and dont's book, ok). When visiting temples, please dress conservatively - no singlets or beachwear. Please also remove your shoes at the entrance.Also, unlike in the west, patting a Khmer on the head or using your foot to point at someone is considered rude and is frowned upon.
Hey culture slips do happen and Khmers will forgive a LOT as long as you show respect, and a big friendly smile.
So there you go. Please consider an exotic adventure - a Holiday in Cambodia. It really is as easy as getting plane ticket, a visa and off you go!
Amazon Price: $45.00 $29.37 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 6, 2013)