Cambodia is where the sugar palms grow. That is what the Khmer have said since time immemorial. The distinctive, tousled round tops of the palm trees and rice fields cover the surface of the country as far as the eye can see. Water buffalo wallow in the mud, chewing their cud and staring just as they did one thousand years ago. Cambodia is still that way today in spite of the modern appearance of Phnom Penh.
There is idyllic rural life wherever you look: men and women threshing rice on the fields, the checked krama cloth wrapped around their heads like a turban, their teeth and lips blood red from the juice of betel nuts. Most of the 14 million Cambodians are farmers who live from hand to mouth – an extremely frugal existence between ox carts and stilt houses, their roofs covered with palm thatch, burdened by debt, and rice fields where countless landmines are a constant threat to life and limb. Many of the 2.85 million visitors to this once abused country never forget their experience. A country with so many faces – from terrifying grimaces and smiling asparas to Buddha’s wise countenance radiating hope.
Here is Marco Polo’s list of unique experiences to be had in Cambodia!
A versatile accessory
You will come across the versatile, checked krama shawl wherever you go in the country. One of
the best places to buy one is at the bustling Phsar Thmay market in Phnom Penh.
On bank notes, the country’s flag and even on a beer bottle – no symbol is
more characteristic of the country than the largest building in the ruined city of Angkor: the world-famous, majestic Angkor Wat monastery is an absolute must!
Murderous legacy of the Khmer Rouge
Remember the approximately 1.5 million Cambodians murdered during the terror regime of the Khmer Rouge on the infamous Killing Fields near Phnom Penh.
Delicious: a tarantula snack
If you ever felt a real need to sink your teeth into a crispy fried, fist sized tarantula, you can sample this little delicacy in the village of Skun.
Crash course in the Cambodian lifestyle
Discover the Cambodian traditions in the Cambodian Cultural Village in Siem Reap: from a model of a traditional house you can walk through to a wedding ceremony with all the frills including gifts for the monks and hair-cutting ritual.
Boat tour of the Ramsar Wetlands
After the end of the rainy season, you can chug through an endless labyrinth of river channels, islands and flooded forests on the Mekong north of Stung Treng – a lonely, vast amphibian world.
Buy the Cambodia Marco Polo Pocket Guide