Cambodia : A country that deserves to be visited

A trip that changed my life forever and a country that gave me a new perspective to successful living – Cambodia, in many ways defines extreme suffering and ultimate triumphs of an entire human population. A country that until recently was on the brink of total destruction, now has significant stories to tell, beautiful sights and sounds to share. Many would argue that the influx of huge numbers of tourists every year is a major cause behind some of the grave social issues within the country. While that is true to a certain extent, Cambodia is one country I personally believe that actually deserves and needs more tourists. When I say tourists, I mean ethical and responsible travelers. Here are four reasons why.

A couple of these four reasons might not be the usual “oh it’s a fairy-tale/paradise” ones, but are definitely worth exploring for pure humanitarian reasons.

Marvel and learn at the majestic Angkor Wat

Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm Ruins of Angkor

Touted as one of the most visited destinations in the world, the ruins of this ancient city is hugely popular owing to the magnanimous Angkor Wat and the mythical ruins of Ta Prohm temples. A paradise for architecture and history buffs, this huge ancient city complex is spread across the jungles in the outskirts of Siem Reap. Each and every stone of its structures signify the importance of these monuments to Cambodian society that relates back from the ancient bygone era of the Cambodian kingdom to the more recent turmoil of the Khmer Rouge. Mesmerizing at dawn and dusk, with the sheer audacity of the huge structures to its minutest intricate details, this place commands the awe and admiration like the Pyramids of Giza or Machu Picchu.

Soak in the beautiful landscapes

Otres Beach in Sihanoukville

Amid the most revered attraction of Angkor Wat the amazingly beautiful landscape of Cambodia stays very much underrated till today. Once I ventured out of Siem Reap I was greeted with the lush green countryside with a backdrop of the cloud-covered mountain ranges. Not until recently, the beach town of Sihanoukville (although it has a seedy vibe after sundown), the beautiful island of Koh Rong and the sleepy riverside settlement of Kampot were being visited by travelers. Jungles, mountains, islands, rivers and beaches – Cambodia has it all. Truly, one just needs to look beyond Angkor Wat to experience the rustic and laid-back atmosphere this country has in store.

Support the campaign against child prostitution

Child prostitution is the major issue in Cambodia right now

Cambodia is still very much an underdeveloped country with a majority of the silent population suffering from the aftermath of a devastating civil war. Poverty in this country stares at you in one of the ugliest forms – child prostitution. Children as young as 5-6 years are being traded as commodities and pushed into the sex trade and yes, the rise in tourism has a lot to do with it. That is where the need for ethical tourism and responsible travel comes in. There are organizations like Childsafe Cambodia that have various initiatives towards safeguarding the present and future of vulnerable children. An influx of more responsible travelers who are willing to learn, understand and help the situation of these kids, can go a long way in giving the wonderful Cambodian society the helping had they need and deserve.

The Scars of Khmer Rouge

Khmer Rouge
Khmer Rouge regime claimed more than 3 million lives

A bloody, destructive regime that took almost 3 million Cambodian lives through mass executions, famine and disease, yet it remains among one of the least talked about civil wars. Considering it was not so long ago for human memory, every Cambodian above the age of 40 has lived through those times. The disastrous affect it had on this country are still evident from almost every facet of the Cambodian society. The faces and eyes of these people tell a million stories – one of which I heard from a survivor – which need to be heard. More and more travelers who visit the “Killing Fields” at Phnom Penh now get a brief knowledge on the Khmer Rouge and its atrocities. Like many other travelers, I became aware of this reality only after I visited Cambodia and that made me realize the need for people all over the world to learn and know about the difficult past.

There are some journeys that stay with us for a very long time. Some destinations have such an impact on our psyche that completely changes the way we look at the world. Cambodia has been THAT place for me. The six days of my stay in Cambodia were influential enough to change the course of my own notion of life. It is an absolutely beautiful country with a lot to offer. The iconic structures of Angkor, the beautiful beaches, rivers and mountains are a testimony to that. However, for a nation that is still trying to stand on its feet, the stoic resilience of its people with hope in their hearts is what makes this place so endearing.

Cambodia Pin

P.S. Here my every mention of being a traveler is meant to be for ethical and responsible travel only.

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Cambodia : A country that deserves to be visited

Smart Ways to Truly Understand a Culture When You Travel

Whenever you travel, you always experience new aspects of different cultures. Even when you travel within your home country, you will come across various cultural quirks. You might discover a popular local dish or learn a word from local dialect. If you love culture, one of your goals when you’re traveling might be to experience it as authentically as possible. However, whether a traveler can ever truly understand another culture is an age-old question. You may never see a culture through the eyes of a local, but you can still make an effort to understand it. Here are some of the things you can do.

See as Much as You Can

Image from Pexels
Image from Pexels

The first thing you should do is try to see as much as possible. That doesn’t mean you have to go all over the country, although that is one option. If you want to explore how the culture differs in various regions, consider planning a journey that spans across a considerable area. You can easily find famous, well-trodden paths such as the Char Dham in India. However, you can also plan to stay at one place for all the days of your trip. If you do, make sure you don’t still to just the city center or one small neighborhood. Try to visit different parts of the locale and experience different things, from the nightlife to local festivals and foods.

Go Where the Locals Go

One of the worst things you can do when you’re traveling is to stick to the tourist areas. It might be fine if you’re just “on vacation”, but if you’re traveling, you need to get out there. The tourist traps are expensive, overcrowded, and don’t show you the real local culture. If you want to see an authentic side to your destination, you need to wander and follow the locals. Take Venice for example, one of the most popular places for tourists. The busy parts of the city aren’t for everyone. If you start to wander the streets, you might get lost, but you could also find some great secrets. Similarly in Hong Kong, if you head out of the maze of skyscrapers or skip the obviously popular Disneyland, you will find a lot of hiking/trekking trails amid beautiful mountain ranges and waterfalls.

Image from Pexels

Don’t Be Afraid to Participate

Joining in is a great way to get to know a culture. You should be willing to experience it yourself so you can understand it. Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to have boundaries. You don’t have to compromise your morals to join in. However, you should keep an open mind about trying new foods or experiencing activities. If you’re offered an opportunity, consider it carefully before you turn it down. Even if your immediate instinct is not to do it, make sure you won’t regret it later. For example, I participated in an adventure marathon at a remote village in Indonesia while I was there on a volunteering stint.

Image from Pexels

Stay for a While

If you’re only on a flying visit, it will be hard to get to know the local culture. Similarly, staying in a hotel means you’re disconnected from your destination. If you want a more in-depth experience, you could consider living like a local for a while. Rent an apartment for a longer period or perhaps even look for a homestay/couch-surf. Alternatively, you can get involved in some volunteering activities during your travel which is a wonderful way to understand the local communities.

You might not ever be a local when you travel somewhere, but you can still try to understand the people who are. Not only you get to experience something new but understanding different cultures opens up your mind in a lot of ways. You start appreciating the importance and existence of diversity all around the world. You go home a more enriched person if you make the effort to absorb the various shades of a new culture.


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Smart Ways to Truly Understand a Culture When You Travel