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Ode to Cambodia: From Khmer Hell to Travelers’ Heaven

In the 1970’s, the Khmer Rouge terrorized this land,

Killing all who didn’t agree with the “Year Zero” plan.

Filled with torture, starvation, landmines, and gore,

The ghostly Killing Fields weren’t just Hollywood lore.

Under Pol Pot’s evil reign, two million Khmer died,

While most of the world watched in horror and cried.

Today, Cambodia is a traveler’s delight,

Although the squatters and tuk-tuks may give you a fright.

Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm are magical places,

With ancient temples, Buddhist monks, and warm smiling faces.

The creepiest things in Cambodia may be on your plate!

Despite its horrific past, Cambodia is a must-see destination on any Southeast Asia itinerary. If you only have a few days, be sure to include 3-4 days in Siem Reap, the gateway city to the Angkor Wat complex.

Things to do with kids in Siem Reap

  • Hire a guide and visit the Angkor Wat complex. You might consider taking 2-3 half day tours to keep the kids from getting templed out. Angkor Wat at sunrise is spectacular, but be forewarned, you will be jockeying with hundreds of other people to get a front row view of the magical site.
  • When your kids do get templed out, check out the elephant rides and zip lining tours that are available in Angkor Wat.
  • Cooking school was a highlight for our kids. Many hotels offer this activity and it’s very inexpensive.
  • There’s nothing like some spa time after a long day of temple touring. (If you’re interested in an inexpensive spa vacation, consider going to Ubud, Bali.)

    Golden Temple Cambodia spa
    Golden Temple Spa
  • Be sure to visit the Cambodia Landmine Museum. Aki Ra was a conscripted child soldier of the Khmer Rouge who was forced to plant landmines. A CNN Top 10 Hero, he has made it his life’s mission to de-mine Cambodia. Learn about his efforts and how you can help.
  • Wander around the market. There’s nothing like a local market to enjoy the colorful local culture.

Where to stay in Siem Reap

Hands down,Golden Temple Hotel is one of our all-time favorite hotels! It is centrally located and has the most amazing service ever.

Before you go to Cambodia

Be sure to brush up on Cambodia’s tragic history before visiting. Please read the books and watch the movies before deciding if they are suitable for your child. My daughters have read the books but have not watched the movies.

Recommended reading:

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Recommended viewing:

First They Killed My Father (2017 Netflix original)–Directed and produced by Angelina Jolie

The Killing Fields (1984)–Received multiple Academy Awards in 1985

Have you fallen in love with a destination with a tragic past? If so, please tell us about it!

*Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links, which means I will earn a teeny-tiny commission if you book a hotel through my page. You won’t pay any extra and it allows me to continue giving awesome free travel tips! It’s a win-win.
Visiting Angkor Wat Cambodia

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