As a frequent traveler, I have traveled to over ten countries but I always prefer Cambodia. I am often asked why and although I wish I could give a cookiecutter answer, my love and appreciation for Cambodia is anything but ordinary. I started going to Cambodia in early 2015, it was my first trip across the country completely alone. I was newly single and wanted to fulfill all my dreams, while exploring what they even were. I had always wanted to be Mother Teresa, as a little girl, so this was my opportunity to give back in a third world country. I did a quick search, through tears, and ended up booking a trip for three weeks later. My family, frequent travelers as well, became a bit concerned that I would be traveling alone. “Don’t worry,” I assured them, “I am going with a tour company, it will be totally fine,” I stated, as I hoped my voice did not shake. I was terrified AND I hate heights.
If you asked me after my first trip, I would have assured you that I loved the hospitality of Cambodians. With so much buddhism in Srok Kambuchea, many people do good work/deeds and believe in karma. There is a societal norm of dedication to the wellbeing of others. On many occasions, I have seen locals use their very minimal time off work to provide for extended family, donate to monks, or go to poor areas to contribute by offering rice bags. I have been to Cambodia 7 times and every time my answer changes. Sometimes I value learning skills; riding an ATV through Siem Reap, getting an Open Water Diver Training Courses on Koh Rong Island, taking care of elephants in Mondulkiri, or learning how to cook a khmer traditional dish; such as prahok or lok lak. Sometimes my love for Cambodia has more to do with achieving things, that would be impossible in the United States.
During my second trip, I was able to construct a concrete pathway at a local school, due to patience of locals teaching and correcting me. During a trip to Tonle Sap Lake, while seeing the floating village, a small khmer boy named Jhoey let me steer his boat. He was 7 years old, but was an expert at knowing how deep and polluted parts of the lake were. Cambodia was also the place I learned how to ride a motorcycle and, after many trips to Cambodia, the place I started casually touring friends and family. Cambodia helped me have river resort and beach suite experiences, while on a single mom income. For anyone thinking you will have satisfaction viewing Angkor Wat alone, you have many more experiences to achieve. Not only could you stop by a crocodile farm, you could be invited as a guest at a local wedding or your trip to Cambodia could intercept with one of many official Cambodian holidays (such as Khmer New Years in April or the Water Festival in late monsoon season).
One experience I had with my mom was being blessed by a monk, on a full moon. I highly recommend having a monk read your fortune, give you a blessing, or predict your future. You can also get a special khmer massage, such as coining. Cambodia had the potential of becoming one of the most visited locations of 2022 and I am not surprised why people are falling in love. Cambodia is a magical place of opportunity. I highly encourage everyone to visit; whether to volunteer, go hiking, to visit pub street, go camping, or explore family history.