After three decades of civil war Cambodia is finally back on the Southeast Asia travel map. Densely forested mountains, mighty rivers and serene beaches provide the backdrop to this eclectic country whilst colonial French architecture, ornamental Wats, ancient temples and tiny wooden houses all tarnished by Cambodia's turbulent history decorate its towns. The poverty and the scars of its past are unavoidable yet the Khmer people deal with it with grace, charm and warmth.
The first thing you notice about Siem Reap is that it is a city of huge contrast. Five star hotels perch on litter lined streets as children in threadbare clothes play in between busloads of tourists. As you venture further into the colonial heart of the city these contrasts blend into a harmonious hubbub where street vendors and tuk tuk drivers nestle in between exquisite restaurants and boutique stores.
The proximity of the majestic Angkok Wat has led to Siem Reap receiving in excess of one million visitors per year. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people only staying for a couple of days and are often haunted by the glimpses of extreme poverty they see. By choosing to volunteer here you will be contributing to the poorest country in South East Asia while living in a fantastically vibrant city.
Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia; it is an energetic city which is home to approximately one million people. It is the commercial, political, and cultural hub of Cambodia. Phnom Penh was once known as the 'Pearl Of Asia' and is once again on the upswing. This can be witnessed especially along the riverfront street known as Sisowath Quay where many cafes, restaurants and trendy shops have opened in the past few years.
There are a variety of western style restaurants and bars in close proximity to the more traditional Khmer street vendors throughout the city. In addition to the eateries the bustling Russian and Central Markets are great spots for shopping and souvenir hunting. Sightseeing opportunities abound within the city including The National Museum, the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
Just a few kilometers outside of town The Killing Fields are a worthwhile yet heart wrenching afternoon journey. For weekend excursions, Siam Reap and the stunning temples of Angkor Wat lie a few hours to the north and the laid back beach town of Sihanoukville is a just few hours south of the city.