Recently, I had the opportunity to embark on an unforgettable adventure with Intrepid Travel in Vietnam. It was truly a remarkable experience, leaving me eager to explore more of Southeast Asia. That’s why I couldn’t resist joining their “Best of Vietnam and Cambodia” tour, which promised to take me on an extraordinary journey through these captivating countries. Today, I want to share my insights specifically on the Cambodian leg of the tour, aptly named “Cambodian Traveller.” So let’s delve into the beauty and challenges of traveling in Cambodia with Intrepid Travel.
A Unique Perspective
Cambodia was a challenging destination for me personally, and I must admit that my difficulty was not solely due to the tour itself. Tourism in Cambodia is complex, and it’s easy for visitors to only scratch the surface of this fascinating country. However, Intrepid Travel shines in providing a more authentic and unfiltered experience. They go beyond the typical tourist hotspots to reveal the heart and soul of Cambodia.
Intrepid deserves credit for creating a tour that showcases the raw and unvarnished side of Cambodia. They don’t shy away from the realities, even when they aren’t pretty. Responsible tourism is at the core of their mission, and it’s refreshing to see a company that goes beyond surface-level travel.
Before You Go
If you’re wondering what to pack for this trip, I recommend checking out my Southeast Asia packing list. From light layers to comfortable sandals and a sleep sheet, these essentials will ensure you’re well-prepared for the adventure ahead. Additionally, Intrepid requires all travelers to have travel insurance. If you don’t have coverage, I recommend World Nomads for their affordable options.
Where Will You Go?
During this 9-day tour, we had the opportunity to explore some incredible destinations in Cambodia. Our itinerary included Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the magnificent Angkor temples, Battambang, and finally, Bangkok. Each place offered unique experiences and a deeper understanding of the country’s rich history and culture.
Who Will You Travel With?
My tour group consisted mainly of fellow travelers from Australia, with representation from the United States, Chile, and Germany as well. This diverse mix is typical of an Intrepid group and creates a lively and enriching atmosphere. As always, our group was small, with only 15 people, allowing for meaningful connections and shared experiences.
Who Is the Guide?
Our tour leader, Youk, was a local Cambodian with a wealth of knowledge about the country’s history and current political landscape. While he did an admirable job getting us from one point to another, some members of the group found his delivery overwhelming at times. Language barriers and listening challenges arose occasionally, leading many of us to explore independently. Despite these minor setbacks, Youk’s presence was invaluable during border crossings and ensured our safety.
How Will You Travel?
Throughout the tour, we primarily traveled by private mini-bus. This mode of transportation allowed us to bond as a group, share stories, and relax during travel days. However, it’s essential to note that Cambodia’s major roads are not always well-paved, so expect some slow and bumpy rides. We also had the chance to experience a comfortable journey on a Mekong Express bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, complete with air conditioning and amenities.
Where Will You Stay?
As part of Intrepid’s Original style of trip, our accommodation during the tour was primarily 2/3-star tourist class hotels. Solo travelers will typically share a room, unless they opt for a single supplement. It’s important to note that while the hotels in Cambodia may not match the standards of neighboring countries, they are clean and comfortable enough to rest and recharge for the next day’s adventures.
What Will You Eat?
Cambodian cuisine is an adventure in itself! From flavorful Khmer curries and amoks to seafood and rice dishes, you’ll have ample opportunities to sample the local delicacies. While street food is not officially regulated in Cambodia, exercise your judgment and try some of the tantalizing options available. Additionally, I highly recommend seeking out local restaurants and programs that support disadvantaged youth as cooks and waitstaff. Places like Friends in Phnom Penh, Genevieve’s in Siem Reap, and Jaan Bai in Battambang offer incredible dining experiences that contribute to the community.
What Will You Do?
The tour includes several activities that allow you to immerse yourself in Cambodian culture and history. Visiting the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh, exploring the majestic temples of Angkor with a 3-day temple pass, and embarking on a scenic boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake are just some of the incredible experiences included in the package.
Additionally, there are numerous optional activities available throughout the tour, such as a cyclo tour of Phnom Penh, a Khmer cooking class in Battambang, riding the famous “bamboo train,” and exploring the countryside on a tuk-tuk tour. These optional extras are never forced upon you but rather suggested opportunities to enrich your experience even further.
It’s important to acknowledge that traveling in Cambodia presents unique challenges. Shabbier hotels with less appetizing breakfasts, poorly maintained roads, and occasional encounters with corruption are part of the reality in Cambodia. However, it’s crucial to remember that these factors are beyond the control of the tour or the tour company. They are simply reflections of the country’s current circumstances.
Would I Recommend It?
Despite the challenges, I wholeheartedly recommend this tour to anyone interested in exploring Cambodia. Intrepid Travel’s commitment to responsible and immersive travel provides a deeper understanding of the country beyond the typical tourist attractions. The included activities, such as the Killing Fields and Angkor Wat, offer invaluable insights into Cambodia’s history. Moreover, traveling with a group and a knowledgeable local guide ensures a safe and enriching experience, especially during border crossings.
If you’re hesitant about navigating Cambodia on your own but still yearn to explore this incredible country, a tour like this is the perfect choice. The itinerary strikes a balance between group activities and free time, allowing you to create your own adventures and connect with fellow travelers. Cambodia may be challenging, but with Intrepid Travel, you’ll experience its beauty and complexity like never before.
Before I conclude, make sure to visit Ekilove for more amazing travel inspiration and resources.