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Five reasons to go on a family holiday to Cambodia – a guest post by Cathy Winston from MummyTravels

boat gliding through water in the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia

This guest post, which explains why a family holiday to Cambodia should be on your wish-list, is by Cathy Winston from MummyTravels. Head over to her blog for more travel inspiration. All words and images are by Cathy.

When you’re planning a family holiday, it’s easy to overlook Cambodia. Further off the beaten track than other South East Asian destinations like Thailand, its most famous attraction, Angkor Wat, might not immediately strike you as family-friendly, either.

But after two weeks exploring Cambodia with my daughter, who was then aged five, it’s one of the best trips we’ve taken to date. Here are my five reasons to go on a family holiday to Cambodia.

The welcome

Wherever you travel in Cambodia, you’ll be met with the same friendly welcome – and kids are always the centre of attention.

There’s little of the hard sell you might get elsewhere, and all offers tend to come with a smile. But the bonus when you’ve got younger kids, is that Cambodians are always ready to make life a little easier – whether that’s fussy little ones ordering off-menu, or a willingness to adapt tours.

The history

cambodia-girl-angkor-wat-reflection

Cambodia’s Angkor Wat is just one place to see many, many beautiful temples

The Angkor temples are one of the glories of Cambodia, and rightly so. They’re so much more than Angkor Wat alone. You could spend days exploring even just the most famous ones, including Bayon with its giant serene faces and Ta Prohm, famous for its appearance in Tomb Raider, with its trees twined through the temple.

But that’s really just the start: study the carvings and you’ll find unexpected animals appearing, while others tell the stories of Hindu mythology as well.

Outside Siem Reap, you can explore the hilltop Phnom Banan, based on the same layout as Angkor Wat with amazing views (and over 300 steps up). And they’re far from relics of the past either. You’ll spot monks giving blessings or scurrying to prayer at the sound of a gong, incense sticks still burning and offerings left out.

In Phnom Penh, temples sit alongside palaces, a sea of gold, reds and oranges where kings once ruled. And if you’re travelling with older kids, it’s here too that you’ll discover the much darker recent past, with memorials to the worst terrors of the Khmer Rouge.

The scenery and wildlife

Travelling around Cambodia, you can lose yourself in the endless green rice fields, with splashes of colour from a village or temple along the way. It’s a fantastic place to spot wildlife too, and you can always try venturing further off the beaten track into the mountains.

Cambodia’s east is home to elephants. Or travel to the coast in the south, at Kep, and you’ll spy butterflies galore. Near Battambang we stood by a cave at dusk to watch millions of bats flood out from the crack in the rock to gorge on insects which would otherwise decimate the fields. And everywhere are monkeys, by the temples at Angkor, climbing over the royal palace roof in Phnom Penh, picking fruit from the trees by the coast.

boat gliding through water in the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia

Boating in the Cardamom Mountains can provide a respite from the bustle of Angkor.

In the Cardamom mountains, the river snakes calmly amongst the trees before crashing down in the froth of a waterfall. Watching the boats reflected in the water from our floating tents, the mist rolling down dark sweep of trees on the hills, was a world away from the heat and dust of Angkor.

The beach

My daughter loves an adventure. But on any long trip, a chance to stop and relax goes down just as well. A family holiday to Cambodia could very well include a trip to one of the country’s beach destinations.

Sihanoukville is one of the best known, but look slightly further away from the more built up resorts here towards Otres Beach if you want a more chilled-out escape. Or, if you’ve got longer to spare, take the boat out to Koh Rong for an island retreat.

Further along the coast, close to the border with Vietnam, lies Kep, which is known for its crab, and its crumbling Modernist buildings (the area was once the favourite weekend escape of Cambodia’s elite). The national park nearby is another haven for wildlife.

cambodia-sihanoukville-otres-beach

Cambodia’s beaches are glorious places for families to visit.

The way of life/traditions

Travelling around Cambodia, there’s still a chance to see a traditional way of life continuing. Stilt houses still rise above the waters of Tonle Sap lake, with small boats moored up for the owners. In the countryside, the houses leave space underneath for hammocks and animals to shelter from the monsoon.

Oxen pull carts through the villages where rice still grows bright green in the fields along the roadside. Rice appears on every menu, alongside food whose influences go back centuries to neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand, as well as China, India and France.

We skipped Siem Reap’s notorious bug café – although adventurous older kids will love the challenge of nibbling tarantula and locusts. But we did find a sauce of red ants on the menu more than once, along with deep-fried frangipani flowers, spiced coconut fish amok, as well as noodles and stir fries, all washed down with sugar cane juice.

Each day of the week traditionally has its own colour, something which still endures in the countryside in particular. You’ll see monks in their traditional orange robes everywhere. And if quite a few of them can be spotted taking selfies in temples on their mobiles, start your day early and you’ll find many still accept alms at dawn too.

You can read more in Cathy’s post, which describes a two-week Cambodia itinerary. Have you been on a family holiday to Cambodia, or somewhere similar? What did you think?

For more on Asia, read our post on five reasons to visit Bandung in Indonesia

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five reasons to go on a family holiday to Cambodia

4 Comments

  • Cathy (Mummytravels)
    March 20, 2019 at 11:26 am

    Thank you for sharing and letting me relive some memories of a wonderful trip!

    Reply
    • Nell
      April 4, 2019 at 10:53 am

      And thank YOU for such a fab feature!

      Reply
  • Alexandra Wrigley
    March 22, 2019 at 8:27 am

    This is really helpful. I’m 23 years but in the next few years or so I want to plan to have children and still fulfil my dream of seeing most of Asia before I’m 30. Knowing you can visit Cambodia with children and that they are accommodating is great to know. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Nell
      April 4, 2019 at 10:53 am

      There’s SO much you can do with kids. Preparation’s key – but if you have the will, anything’s possible.

      Reply

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