With its mighty Angkorian temples, lush jungle landscapes, and welcoming people, Cambodia is a special place to explore.
I’ve been to Cambodia twice. My maiden voyage there was as a solo traveler. It was my first time visiting Southeast Asia, and I also journeyed to Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos during that three-week adventure. A few years later, Shawn and I spent 16 days in Cambodia, as part of a five-month-long Asian trip.
Though the country is rebounding from years of genocide and war, a visit there is still fraught with reminders of Cambodia’s tragic past. When I saw children begging, or men with amputated limbs selling books and postcards in Phnom Penh, I often felt overwhelmed and uncertain how to make a difference. One way that visitors can help is by patronizing family-owned businesses and other well-respected establishments with a cause. I’ve shared some sites I found worthwhile on this page.
Below, you’ll also find my clickable Cambodia index, as well as destination-specific tips and accommodation ideas.
Click the index button below to see all my posts from Cambodia.
Table of Contents
- Remember those who lost their lives at the hands of the Khmer Rouge by visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Killing Fields.
- Enjoy a dining experience with a cause at Friends the Restaurant. This nonprofit organization works with former street children by teaching them valuable skills in the hospitality industry and other vocations. We found Friends’ tapas-style food to be superb! (I had a tasty baguette with sautéed zucchini and peppers, along with a refreshing citrus drink.) The cost was a bit more than what we would’ve paid at another local restaurant, but the prices were still extremely reasonable — about $15 for the two of us. We also appreciated the restaurant’s cheery, immaculate interior. Paintings made by young Cambodian artists adorned some walls, while a gallery of black and white images of youth participants filled another corner of the restaurant. What was most gratifying, however, was knowing that the riels we spent were going to a worthwhile cause!
- Explore the well-manicured grounds of the Royal Palace, then marvel at the glittering Silver Pagoda.
- Brush shoulders with locals out for an evening walk — even worshippers carrying lotus blossoms — as you stroll Phnom Penh’s Riverside.
- Peruse stalls overflowing with stacks of silken scarves, silver jewelry, homemade chopsticks, woodcarvings, and name-brand clothing labels at the Russian Market.
- Learn about Cambodia’s long history of silk production at a silk farm just outside of Siem Reap.
- Avoid temple fatigue as you explore magnificent Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon. (The next time I return to Cambodia, I hope to see Banteay Srei too, as I’ve heard it is one of the most beautiful and delicate of Angkor’s temples.) As you go from temple to temple, you might even encounter reenactors dressed in traditional Khmer costumes.
- Marvel at the beautiful (nearly 1,800!) devatas and apsaras (female figures) etched into stone at Angkor Wat.
- Landmines still pose a threat in Cambodia. The Cambodian Landmine Museum, founded by a former Khmer Rouge child soldier, educates visitors about the dangers of landmines.
- Immerse yourself in rural life by threshing rice, visiting a local market, even biking through serene rice paddies.
- Learn how to cook traditional Khmer dishes like amok at a homestay.
- Visit an English class.
- Takeo Province – Wanting an immersive and authentic Cambodian experience, we journeyed from Phnom Penh to Takeo Province by bus. We spent 10 extraordinary days at the Meas Family Homestay (affiliate link), which is located in a rural community called Angk Ta Saom, about 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh. This was one of the highlights of our three weeks in Cambodia — if not the highlight! Owners Siphen and Mach, who are both educators, introduced us to activities in their community. We learned how to thresh rice, we visited high school and college English classes, and we accompanied Siphen to the local fresh market. The homemade meals were fantastic too! (We feasted on freshwater lobster, tropical fruit, coconut shakes, and dishes incorporating rice grown in the area.)
Additional Cambodia Resources
- Cambodia’s currency is the Cambodia Riel (KHR). Calculate the current exchange rate. The US Dollar is Cambodia’s unofficial second currency.
- Cambodia Ministry of Tourism (official tourism website)