Why Cambodia Should be Your First Stop in Southeast Asia

A close up image of the Buddha's face in Bayon temple, Cambodia.

There is no doubt that Southeast Asia has some wonderful places to visit and discover, however,  Cambodia is now seeing a huge increase in tourist numbers as more and more people cross over the borders and explore the less walked trails that Cambodia has to offer. While Vietnam and Thailand boast a beauty of their own, here are some reasons why Cambodia should be your first choice when visiting Southeast Asia.

Friendly Faces

Smiles can be found in abundance across Southeast Asia, and there are plenty to be seen in Vietnam. However, most people who have travelled to Cambodia will agree that nothing beats Cambodian hospitality and you’ll be amazed by the gentle nature and warm welcome people give out on every occasion. From tuk-tuk drivers and waiters to street vendors and school kids, prepare for faces to light up with a grin and a stream of hellos to bellow through the air wherever you are in Cambodia.

Diversity of Dishes

Vietnamese food is usually delicious and hard to beat, but Phnom Penh is definitely king when it comes to restaurant choice. Despite its small size, the Cambodian capital is packed with venues serving up dishes from around the globe. Regardless of your budget or taste, the dining scene takes in neighbouring countries, exquisite French food, Mexican, Nepalese, Russian, German, Nigerian, Jamaican, Korean, Japanese and pretty much every country in between, with fine dining available at surprisingly low prices. Cambodia’s national dish is fish amok – a must-try curry dish, steamed in banana leaves.

Compact Size

It could be argued that Vietnam’s size and gives it more choice than Cambodia, and more places to explore. Don’t be fooled, Cambodia’s compact size means that getting off the beaten track is easier, and improved infrastructure, which is getting better all the time, makes remote locations more accessible and cheaper to get to. If you want to squeeze the cities, temples, islands, beaches and rainforest into a trip on any budget, don’t worry because it’s easy in Cambodia.

Angkor Wat

Of course, there’s so much more to Cambodia than its temples but, hello – it’s home to Angkor Wat. Until you’ve watched the sun peek from behind its iconic silhouette, the light revealing its incredible beauty, it’s hard to understand the majestic magnitude of this archaeological feat, which dates back to the early 12th century and was once the centre of the Khmer Empire.

Cambodian Charm

It’s fair to say that Cambodia is a little less developed than its neighbour, but this only adds to the unique experience that the Kingdom of Wonder can offer. Like the gift that keeps on giving, the country, especially rural areas, is full of jaw-dropping sights. A family of six balancing on one motorbike, no problem. Dozens of chickens tied together by their legs being transported on the back of a bike with a few freshly-slaughtered pigs slumped across the driver’s lap, normal. Men napping while precariously balancing on their ‘motos’, standard.

Entry with Ease

Vietnam has recently extended its visa exemption scheme for five European countries. However, for all other travellers, it’s approximately US$60 for a tourist visa, with limited options for visas on arrival. Visitors to Cambodia, on the other hand, can turn up at the airport, or another border, and for US$30 get a one-month visa within a few minutes. Those wanting to stay can easily extend without having to leave the country, and Immigration are pretty lax towards those who accidentally overstay, charging US$10 a day.

Off the Beaten Track

Tourism has undoubtedly taken off in Cambodia but it still remains almost completely off the beaten track, compared to many other parts of Southeast Asia. This makes finding your own serene piece of paradise and steering clear of crowds much simpler, with many remote spots within easy reach. And let’s not forget the fact that Cambodia still holds a little more edge when name-dropping countries visited among fellow travellers and friends!

Experience Old Southeast Asia

Despite Cambodia having some modern cities and all the conveniences, they offer a trip to the Cambodian province will leave you experiencing a real glimpse of how all of Southeast Asia would have been centuries ago. With the right tour and guides, you can visit and experience a way of life that has not changed in centuries.

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