G&Ts and blind massages: 6 days, 6 reasons to mini-break in Cambodia

Angkor Wat is reason enough to go to Cambodia. South East Asia's greatest manmade sight is one of those landmarks that you lose yourself in, where hours pass in a flash as you explore and relax amidst the exquisite jungle-clad temples. But we’re getting beyond the country’s big draw – here are six other reasons why a week in Cambodia is time well spent.

Blind massage, Siem Reap

One of Siem Reap's great local treats, feeling the full force of one of the local blind masseuses can be an invigorating, and at times somewhat painful pleasure. You're spoilt for choice - the town has plenty of places where trained masseuses are waiting to work the knots out of your muscles, and the outrageously low prices makes this one of Cambodia's great bargains. Tip: the normal massage is vigorous, so ask for a mild version if you shy away from your back and neck being pummelled for pleasure.

Sunset at Phnom Bakheng

The perfect end to a day at Angkor Wat. You won't be alone in climbing the temple stairs to the hilltop, but once you're there you'll understand Phnom Bakheng's popularity. Tonle Sap Lake unfurls in front of you, as the sun steadily lowers itself into the water. The colours are remarkable, the burnished orange and reds seemingly setting the waters aflame, the pinks and purples of the evening sky day-glo bright. Photography heaven, Phnom Bakheng is also a great communal event, reverential in a fun kind of way – expect a burst of applause as the sun hits the water. Even better, once the sun disappears, the crowds do too. Wait a few minutes and you'll be enjoying the blockbuster views of darkening Tonle Sap pretty much to yourself.

The Killing Fields

By some estimates, the Khmer Rouge killed one in every four people in Cambodia – either directly through force or as a result of starvation and disease. Since the 1984 film, the phrase ‘Killing Fields’ has become common parlance, and as a result risks losing its power. But the term is accurate: Choeung Ek was an execution site where nearly 10,000 bodies were dumped in mass graves, and today those pits are still visible, the 'killing tree' still stands, a memorial displays 5000 skulls. Incredibly powerful and sobering, the Cambodian Government encourages people to visit Choeung Ek, to learn about and remember the barbaric atrocities committed by the Pol Pot regime.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club, Phnom Penh

Long the epicentre of Phnom Penh's ex-pat cabal, the FCC remains an atmospheric joint in which to swirl and sip your G&T. Sink into comfortable seats under the high ceilings, while languid fans, photos of yesteryear and fine rooftop views add to the ambience – this old world institution feels lost in time amid the new go-ahead identity Cambodia is busily forging all around it. And therein lies the FCC's charm.

Food

Cambodia's culinary reputation suffers for being sandwiched between the great cuisines of Vietnam and Thailand, and it's true the local fare can lack the zing and variety of its neighbours' offerings, but there are nonetheless some very fine morsels to indulge in here. Khmer cuisine is wide-ranging in its influences, from the sweet spice of Thailand to Chinese noodles to flavours borrowed from Indian cookery. One must try is amok-trey: curried fish steamed in banana leaves and served in a coconut sauce. It's a local speciality and widely available. Another Khmer standard is bok lahong - green papaya salad. Common in nearby countries too, it's worth trying in Cambodia for the regular addition of smoked fish. Tasty, and if you like that Njoam Ma-Kak Tray Ang will be right up your street: deep fried, smoked fish served in a spicy salad. Give the local fried rice a try as well - Chaa Bai Mreah Preoo - a moreish concoction featuring Asian basil, chillies, garlic and fish sauce. This is definitely a country with a sweet tooth (exhibit number one: condensed milk freely poured into coffees) so desserts are often dangerously good: deep-fried bananas with caramel sauce... sticky rice with mango... coconut rice puddings – best to work your way through the menu and see what you like best!

Banteay Srei – Cambodia’s other temple

Around 25km north of Angkor's other temples, Banteay Srei fully deserves its name (translation: 'citadel of beauty'). It may be almost a miniaturist piece compared to the grand structures to the south, but for many, this is the crowning achievement of Khmer architecture. Its red sandstone has weathered the test of time remarkably well – the bas reliefs on display here are fantastically preserved. Head to the libraries to see the ornamental details at their very best: pediments portraying Shiva atop Mount Kailasa and the 10-headed demon king Ravana are simply stunning, masterpieces of faith, storytelling and technique.

See the lot on our 6-day Classic Cambodia tour. Get in touch on Twitter or Facebook. You can find our contacts list here or contact us by email.

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