In tourist promotional materials Cambodia is known as the "Kingdom of Wonder" and once you've visited its easy to see why.
Travellers were coming to Siem Reap before the end of last century to see the temples of Angkor, in what was then a quiet town without nightlife, in a country that had known horrific turmoil in its not so distant past.
Tourist development was progressing but in 2000 Angelina Jolie filmed Tomb Raider at Ta Prohm in Angkor Wat, she fell in love with Cambodia and the world knew it. Since then tourists have flooded in. Phnom Penh soon also began to draw crowds, and the city developed its infrastructure and now has many attractions.
Fast forward to 2015 and The Temples of Angkor, now a Unesco World Heritage Site and a complex of more than 1,000 temples, shrines and tombs attracts more than 2 million visitors annually. They have been named the best sight in the world by Lonely Planet.
But don't be mistaken, Cambodia isn't just ancient temples although of course a visit isn't complete without taking in Angkor Wat. There are untouched beaches to explore, crafts and creativity that will blow you away and a cuisine all of its own. However its the people, their culture and their way of being that you'll fall in love with and that will stay with you long after you've returned home.
Our "not to be missed" top 10 of Cambodia
- Temples of Angkor (obviously) - sunrise, sunset and everything in between. There are 1000+ temples here so unless you emigrate to Siem Reap you won't get to see them all. But you'll need to see the Faces of Bayon and go nose to nose with one for a photo opportunity; visit Ta Prohm with its tangling overgrown tree branches featured in Tomb Raider and of course Angkor Wat itself. For all the others it will depend on how much time you have.
- Made in Cambodia Markets, Siem Reap - held outside the Shinta Mani Hotel every Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. The market is a wonderful opportunity to purchase fine artisan and designer products, some of which are made by our very own designers featured here on our E-store.
- Trunkh Eclectic Stores, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh
- Marum Restaurants (part of the TREE Alliance) - not just incredible tapas style dishes that you won't find anywhere else on earth but "All profits from TREE restaurants are invested in the students who train there and the social programs which support them on their journey to becoming a skilled, productive and happy young person with a more secure future" (quote from http://tree-alliance.org/). Do taste the crispy ant dish.
- Cocktails at Miss Wong, Siem Reap - dumplings and cocktails in an old Shanghai style setting. Divine darling.
- Viroth's Hotel - step back in time with their 50s decor that is somehow right up to the minute. Laze by the pool or on your balcony daybed, enjoy the serene spa or simply enjoy the warm welcome here by the front of house representatives who make you feel so at home.
- Sugar Palm Restaurant - for the quintessential Khmer dish that is Fish Amok, they have perfected the souffle style. Have attempted this myself back home - a supreme failure on my part!!
- WA Gallery Concept Store - colour, design, art
- For a piece of history - Cocktails at the Foreign Correspondents Club, Siem Reap. The FCC is a standout building that you simply must visit when in Siem Reap - after you've sipped a cocktail on the balcony looking down on the busy streets below pop down and have a shop at the little boutiques featuring some of the town's best designers and art.
- To enjoy unique Khmer dishes in a sublime indoor / outdoor tropical environment - Chanry Tree Restaurant, Siem Reap. Just so much to choose from on the menu here so one visit won't be enough. Standout dishes are the crispy sticky rice with natang sauce, made with minced pork, shrimp, coconut milk, and peanuts; we loved crispy side of frangipanis and vegetables; the frog’s legs (ok I'll eat frog's legs anywhere) and the heavenly free-range Khmer roasted chicken. Must have is the local prahok dip.
And here's a bonus one for a touch of glamour - Eric Raisina Haute Couture House and Shops in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Of course his couture clothing is exquisite but if you just want to take home a souvenir from your trip his feather bags in every colour of the rainbow or his fringed scarves will be just the perfect piece for this purpose.
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