Frommer's Favorite Experiences in Cambodia
Contemplating the Bayon: The Bayon in Angkor Thom is simply one of the most enigmatic and remarkable buildings in the world. Huge faces of a god-king stare out lazily from the rocky walls. You contemplate them and they contemplate you as they have millions before you. This is a truly mystical place.
Dancing the Ramvong: The Khmers' traditional dance involves walking around slowly in a circle while making delicate shapes with their hands. If you pass by a wedding or a celebration of any sort, or indeed go to a local disco or dance hall, you will see this dance. You will almost certainly be dragged over to join them. If you find yourself in a rural village, you may see old women doing the dance with no accompaniment at all, as the other villagers hoot with laughter. Join in -- it's great fun.
Enjoying Fresh Coffee and Baguettes by the Tonle Sap: Although imperialism may not be a good thing, the French occupation of Indochina left the region with a legacy of great breakfasts. In Phnom Penh, the riverfront of Sisowath Quay is the busy place to be seen. It is a wonderful venue to enjoy this Gallic legacy while watching the world go by. Head to any other waterfront throughout Laos or Cambodia and the experience will be equally fulfilling.
Haggling in the Market: Psar Toul Tom Poung and many other markets in Cambodia are busy, congested, and packed with everything you can imagine. Actually purchasing something requires the negotiating skills of a UN diplomat. Not too forceful, not too reticent, one has to strike exactly the right balance between bonhomie and confidence in order to secure the right price. If your vendor is grinning from ear to ear as you leave, then you have definitely lost the contest. No matter. If you got it right, you will have enjoyed the experience and be smiling too.
Dolphin Spotting on the Mekong: Up the Mekong in Kratie resides the very rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins. They are incredibly shy creatures (this might be partly due to the locals' past method of catching fish with live grenades). Traumatized as they justifiably may be, they do break the surface of the water every now and then, often in pairs, and there is something very rewarding about sitting in a boat as the water gently laps the hull scanning the waters for a sighting of these elusive creatures. So grab a couple of baguettes and pâté sandwiches, hire a boat with a boatman, stock the vessel with your favorite tipple, and head about 10km (6 1/4 miles) upstream for your aquatic rendezvous.
Savoring Kep Crab in Kampot Pepper: The very faded but formerly grand royal seaside resort of Kep produces some of the most spectacularly delicious seafood in Asia. Coincidentally the nearby town of Kampot produces some of the finest pepper in the world, a product that is exported around the globe. Like the work of a culinary Lennon and McCartney, this geographical accident results in the serving of sublime seafood all along the waterfront. People travel far to sample the Kep crab in Kampot pepper at the source. Once you have tried it you will know why.
Biking the Cardamoms: In 2008, the road between Koh Kong on the Thai border and Srey Ambal on the main road between Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh was completed. It passes through the Cardamom Mountains and is a great road if you like motorcycling. Lots of gentle bends, very little traffic, scenic river crossings, and panoramic scenery. You could equally enjoy it in a jeep or a car.
Boating up the Sangker River After the Rains: The journey from Siem Reap to Battambang can be done by water. It takes you across the Tonle Sap, the heart of the Khmer, and then down the narrow Sangker River. As you chug slowly up the narrow waterway you will be an intimate witness to Cambodian rural life along its bank, with friendly kids waving.
Taking in an Apsara Dance Show: One of the most exquisite forms of dance in the world, the slow, deliberate movements of Khmer classical dance are a wonder to behold. It's elegance incarnate.
Taking a Spin Through the Rice Paddies Around Battambang: Acquire professional two-wheeled transportation and head out from Battambang to the countryside. A real taste of rural Cambodia and village life awaits.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.