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19 interesting facts about Cambodia

We first visited Cambodia in 2011 and it instantly became one of our favourite countries. Kia returned this year and fell in love all over again. This time, she took a Mekong River cruise and watched the country drift past from a different perspective. She also revisited the iconic sites of Angkor Wat and S21 prison, two destinations that highlight two deeply contrasting pasts: one of glory and opulence, the other of degradation and cruelty. Continue reading

Phnom Penned: 10 great books about Cambodia

Cambodia’s literary canon is comparatively threadbare. There are no old masters like Salman Rushdie or Haruki Murakami nor contemporary voices like Khaled Hosseini or Mohsin Hamid – a fact of little wonder when one considers what happened in the country between 1975 and 1979.

In that short period, nearly all of Cambodia’s artists, writers, and musicians were systematically killed by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime as part of its radical attempt to engineer a classless peasant society. The culling delivered a devastating blow to the county’s artistic heritage – one that still reverberates 40 years later.

In lieu of grand swathes of literary fiction, the reader can turn to an alternative set of books about Cambodia. Start with our list of 10, as shared on the G Adventures blog.

Khmer chameleon: how to blend with locals in Cambodia

It’s become something of a mantra among travel experts, this call to “mix with the locals”. It urges us to learn the local language, to dress in local dress, to “do as the Romans do”.

It’s true that local interaction offers a more authentic experience, but how many of us truly engage beyond haggling at a market or talking to a taxi driver? With western pressures on our time, most travellers are lucky to even leave the tourist hotspots. With a little thought, however, it can be done.

We share on the G Adventures blog five local experiences that offer a slice of real life in Cambodia.

Visiting S21 prison: morbid or meaningful?

There are some sights you likely see only once. Places like Petra, Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat are so grand, exotic and expensive, they are the very definition of a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience.

Other sights are seen once because once is enough; places like Dachau concentration camp in Germany or S21 prison in Cambodia.

It was discomfiting then to find myself at the gates of S21 prison for the second time in five years. My first visit in 2011 had been harrowing enough. We had evaded an overzealous tour guide and journeyed through the former prison alone – a sobering experience I wasn’t sure I wanted to repeat. Continue reading

The best time to visit Angkor Wat is right now

Years ago, when our trip around the world was still a twinkle in my eye, I met a travel writer called ‘John’ at an industry party. For the first 30 minutes of conversation, John was fascinating as he regaled me with tales of Namibia, Mongolia and Timor-Leste. As the hour wore on, however, and his two drinks became three, he descended into a rant about tourism and how the world’s most precious sights were being destroyed.

“Kia,” he snapped, stressing my name into a single syllable. “The best time to see the world is now. You say you want to travel? Go! Go and see the world before it’s destroyed by the hordes.”

I rolled my eyes. Funny how travel writers always excuse themselves from the ‘hordes’, as if an 800-word commission from easyjet Traveller offers a meaningful reason to be anywhere. Continue reading

Mekong river cruise: an indie traveller’s first time on tour

I didn’t know what to expect of my Mekong river cruise through Vietnam and Cambodia. Firstly, I was travelling without Peter for the first time in four years. Secondly, I’d read mixed reviews of Vietnam and, thirdly, I was embarking on a tour with a pre-planned itinerary.

I won’t pretend that my ‘indie’ travel has been all hostels and roaches. My commissions outside of Atlas & Boots have taken me to numerous luxury resorts around the world, but I’d never before joined a scheduled group tour. Continue reading

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The biggest buildings in the world

Modern architecture has made relentless and remarkable progress over the past century, and with construction of the world’s tallest and first one 1km high building beginning this week in Saudi Arabia, it doesn’t look to be slowing any time soon. The biggest buildings in the world continue to grow and not just higher into the sky. On the ground they are expanding in all directions too.

Architects continue to overcome structural hurdles and make history with innovative and groundbreaking designs. Here are some of their biggest and grandest: the biggest buildings in the world. Continue reading

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5 stunning film locations we love

The first time I went to New York back in 2000, I was uncertain that I would enjoy it. It loomed large and vivid in my mind, woven by a hundred films I’d seen in the past. The noise, colour and oversize personality depicted on screen were sure to be a letdown – how could they not be?

Of course, I was wrong. I absolutely loved New York. Still in its pre-9/11 era, the city was vibrant and welcoming. The food, the energy, the delicious September weather was heady and romantic, just like in the films. Continue reading

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6 excruciatingly awkward travel moments

We’re all aware that travel is supposed to be about exploring the globe, meeting amazing people and finding yourself. The web is littered with blog posts about life-changing and eye-opening moments. However, it’s not all heartening tales and romantic anecdotes.

I’ve been around the backpacker’s block and I’ve had several excruciatingly awkward travel moments; the sort of experiences that are so cringeworthy, you just don’t know where to look or what to say. Here’s my list of the top six. Continue reading

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The otherworldly ruins of Beng Mealea, Cambodia

I love playing Indiana Jones on my travels and regularly get into character whenever the location seems right. I’ve done The Temple of Doom in India, The Last Crusade in Jordan, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on Nevis Peak. Even though Cambodia was never a location for the films, Beng Mealea seemed just so right for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unfortunately, Kia prohibits me from posting videos of my silliness on the internet. Perhaps clips of me humming the Indiana Jones theme tune, jumping around in a hat and pretending to whip things embarrass her more than I like to think. Needless to say, when I suggested an Angelina Jolie impression for Angkor Wat, she was quick to veto that too. You’ll just have to make do with her far less cinematographic clip of Beng Mealea. Continue reading