Why you need travel insurance in Cambodia and what to look for

Whether you’re a short-term expat or just visiting, having travel insurance in Cambodia is crucial. (Long-term expat? More info on health insurance here). If you’ve read my friend’s horror story, you’re probably already convinced. If not, read on.

Here’s why you need travel insurance in Cambodia

Even healthy people get sick and have accidents

Just because you’re young and healthy doesn’t mean you won’t need medical care. Accidents (often of the traffic variety) happen with astonishing frequency. Last year, nearly a dozen of my friends in Siem Reap contracted dengue fever. I got bitten by an unvaccinated puppy and had to get rabies shots in Sihanoukville. Even if you’re a low-risk traveler, that’s no guarantee that you won’t get sick or hurt.

Cambodia medical care

The clinic in Sihanoukville where I had to get an overpriced rabies shot.

Medical care isn’t cheap

Many people traveling around Southeast Asia think that they don’t need to buy an insurance plan because medical care in the region is cheap; they figure they can just pay out of pocket if an emergency comes up. And that’s true for minor complaints, but if you need to stay overnight or have surgery, the cost can be in the thousands and even higher if you need to leave the country for care. Most expats familiar with the state of medicine in Cambodia wouldn’t dream of having even minor surgery here, and neither should you.
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Nature day trips from Siem Reap

Looking to escape the city for the day? Every so often you need some time away from the droves of tourists and the soundtrack of Khmer weddings for a little breath of fresh air. The following is a list of easy day trips from Siem Reap that will provide that bit of (relative) peace you’ve been craving.

Lotus flowers in lotus field

Lotus flowers as far as the eye can see.

Lotus farms and Phnom Krom

If a change of scenery is what you’re after, spend a day at the lotus farms before heading to Phnom Krom for sunset. Just a fifteen minute tuk-tuk ride (or easy bike ride) away from the center of town down route 63, where shops and local markets give way to green rice paddies and picturesque lotus farms. Choose one of these many hang-out spots, some with huts, others with a large deck and ample hammocks. If there is an entrance fee, it is usually only 2000 riel. Continue reading

Review: Nary Kitchen, Battambang

For travelers to Battambang, the chief attraction of Nary Kitchen is its namesake, Nary, and the kitchen, both for its cooking classes and reputation for safe food that doesn’t upset sensitive foreign tummies. The staff are happy to let you check out their gleaming kitchen, which makes for a reassuring start to a meal. The restaurant is also one of the few in Battambang with genuine vegetarian dishes (it can be hard to avoid fish and oyster sauce elsewhere!).

Nary Kitchen Battambang

Nary’s Kitchen in Battambang.

Located down a side street in Battambang, Nary’s has a quieter atmosphere than restaurants in the town center. The restaurant’s fare includes Khmer traditional food, as well as other typical Asian and Western dishes.  Fish amok is a specialty, and fresh spring rolls are always popular. On average, a main meal will cost you about three dollars.

Nary Kitchen is also Battambang’s original Khmer cooking school. It’s run by genial, talkative Doot, who is fluent in English and French, and his wife Nary, who oversees the cooking. Nary learned her recipes on the family farm as a child.

Nary Kitchen Cooking Classes

Nary herself, after whom the restaurant is named and who runs the cooking classes.

Classes, which cost $10, are preceded by a shopping trip to the market, to show you how to identify the freshest local ingredients. Classes teach you to cook four courses including a dessert. The class takes three hours and you get to eat what you make and a recipe book (in English and French) to take away.

When we visited, the menu they were making included fresh veggie spring rolls, fish amok, beef lok lak, and a banana and tapioca and coconut milk dessert.

Nary Kitchen Battambang

Sit down and stay for lunch!

Nary Kitchen is on Street 111, near the western end of Psar Nath (the main market). It’s easy enough to find, but you if needed your tuk tuk guy can phone for directions. Don’t let him mix it up with ‘The Kitchen,’ another eatery. The restaurant is open from breakfast until 10 p.m., or often later if everyone is having a good time.

Cooking classes are twice a day, in the morning  from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and in the afternoon from 3:30 until 6:30 p.m. and cost $10 per person. It’s best to book for the cooking school in advance ([email protected] or 012 763 950).

Nary’s Kitchen

Open daily, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Street 111, near Psar Nath, Battambang
T: 012 763 950

By John Macgregor

Kayaking the Green Cathedral in Kampot

Boasting one of the most beautiful rivers in Cambodia, Kampot has kayaking that is suited to both beginners and those looking for a challenge. For skilled kayakers, the Tuek Chhou Rapids located 10 kilometers from Kampot town offer a bit of a challenge. For those of us just starting out or preferring a more laid back experience, roughly 5 kilometers from Kampot town is a lazy offshoot of the Tuek Chhou River known as the Green Cathedral or Green Loop.

Kampot river Green Cathedral

Green Cathedral

The Green Cathedral is named for the foliage the lines the waterway. Along the way, you will pass through areas where the plants have grown to a size that allows them to touch leaves across the water, forming a peaceful canopy that filters out a bit of the blazing Cambodian sun. As Kampot grows, more guesthouses and residences are springing up and threatening the canopy. For now there is still a good amount of nature to enjoy, but don’t wait too long to make your trip. Continue reading

A visit to Anlong Veng, the last Khmer Rouge stronghold

The small town of Anlong Veng, along the Thai border, would not likely feature on many people’s Cambodia travel itineraries. But there are good reasons for the adventurous and the curious to make the 150-kilometer journey north from Siem Reap.

Pol Pot cremation site

One of Cambodia’s most alluring tourist attractions.

Nestled at the bottom of the Dangrek mountain range that forms a natural border between Cambodia and Thailand, modest Anlong Veng could easily be mistaken for countless other rural backwaters across the country. Like them, it has cheap guest houses, shops selling Chinese mobile phones, roadside BBQs, and seedy karaoke bars clustered near a covered market.

But there are also stunning mountain views to be enjoyed and an abundance of rustic tranquility. More important, Anglon Veng offers plenty of historic interest. This was one of the final strongholds the genocidal Khmer Rouge retreated to after their regime was overthrown in 1978. It was also the place where their leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998. Shortly thereafter, what remained of his army defected to the government troops they’d been fighting for two decades. Continue reading

Review: Mekong Express Siem Reap to Battambang (and vice versa)

I had the pleasure of traveling between Siem Reap and Battabang on Mekong Express recently, so I thought I’d give a much-needed bus review from the road. Now of course I  use the term “pleasure” loosely, as the road between Battambang and Siem Reap is not a pleasure by any stretch of the imagination (but don’t worry, the buses are completely acceptable).

Mekong Express minibus old sty

The Mekong Express mini-bus that plies the Siem Reap to Battambang route.

Mekong Express Siem Reap-Battambang at a glance…

Schedule: 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. (both directions)
Ticket price: $7
Trip duration: 3 to 4 hours
Vehicle type: bus or mini-bus

Buy a ticket now

Compare all buses between Siem Reap and Battambang or book a taxi!

There is no direct road from Battambang to Siem Reap, and all buses instead route through Sisophon and Banteay Meanchey province. National Road 5 has been under construction since 2017 and although it’s said to be finishing soon, in 2019, the current trip takes between 3 and 4 hours and parts are a bit bumpy. Once the resurfacing is complete the trip should take a little over 2 hours. 

Mekong Express is a foreigner favorite. They are known for safe driving, without the crazy lane changes and other ridiculous maneuvers that are commonly seen on the roads in Cambodia. Mekong Express has gotten a new fleet of buses for the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap bus trip, and if you wondered where the old buses went, well, they went to Battambang. Continue reading

The “hero rats” of Siem Reap

Looking for something to do in Siem Reap that’s just a little bit different? Consider going to visit the APOPO hero rats of Temple Town and see how these giant rats are trained to sniff out landmines in Cambodia.

hero rats Siem Reap
This bad boy hero rat is capable of sniffing out landmines across Cambodia.

The idea of a “hero rat” may sound strange, since rats are traditionally thought of as carriers of disease, laboratory subjects, or class pets fostered out to students on the weekend until being accidentally flushed down the toilet by a particularly hyperactive child. Yes, the humble rat is rarely given credit for being the intelligent mammal it really is, capable of both learning and altruistic behavior.

Those talents are being nurtured by APOPO, a nonprofit organization started in Antwerp in 1997 by Bart Weetjens and Christophe Cox, who had the idea of using rats’ ability as scent detectors to find landmines and other unexploded ordnance that remain buried in places recovering from war. APOPO’s first training facility for mine-detecting rats opened in 2000 in Tanzania.

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Spelunking in Kampot with Climbodia

While Kampot is generally known as a pleasantly sleepy town, popular for its happy pizza-seeking backpacker scene, it offers much more for those who are a bit more adventurous. You can drive a scooter on the long and winding road up Bokor Mountain, kayak around the Green Cathedral loop in the Preak Teuk Chhu river, or venture out to the salt flats or visit the famous pepper farms and salt flats. Or, you can climb and spelunk over, around, and through the caves of Phnom Kbal Romeas.

Climbing Kampot…for when sitting by the river just isn’t enough.

While it’s possible to visit the site on your own, we signed up with Kampot-based adventure company Climbodia, which offers half-day tours for everyone from novices to experienced climbers. We opted for their best-selling Discovery Tour, which includes a variety of activities, including via ferrata, abseiling, caving, and top rope climbing. It turned out to be a great choice for beginners who want to explore the mountain while getting to sample a variety of climbing activities.

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