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Since spotting it as a pit-stop prize on The Amazing Race, you’ve been wanting to try it right? Discovering the Golden Triangle via a Mekong Delta river cruise, that is. Erin Holmes of Explore With Erin has 5 things to do in Cambodia to help you make the most out of your visit before jumping on a river cruise.

More commonly referred to as Cambodia, but officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, this small country is located in the southern portion of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia, an empire of temples and an ancient kingdom colliding with the modern world.

History reveals the Khmer Empire ruled much of what is now Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. The remains of this Angkorian period can still be seen in the grand monuments and temples scattered throughout Cambodia. Couple this with friendly neighbors such as Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, and Cambodia makes the perfect place to commence a picturesque river cruise down the Mekong Delta.

Which is exactly where The Amazing Race contestants headed this season. A 7-night Mekong River Cruise aboard AmaWaterways 124-passenger ship, AmaDara, offers the opportunity to experience Cambodia’s rich countryside and traditional way of life from the comfort of luxury accommodations.

Cambodia, Vietnam, Roaming Gnome

Photo by Amelia Leicht

This 7-night cruise runs from Siem Reap, the Cambodia capital and follows the Mekong River to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The Mekong River originates in Tibet and tumbles through the Himalayas and Southern China, before traveling along the borders of Laos, Burma, Thailand and through the heart of the Golden Triangle into Cambodia before emptying into the South China Sea at the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. It is the longest river in Southeast Asia and the 12th longest in the world.

The AmaWaterways cruise will have you experiencing rural villages, gawking at colorful markets and admiring Cambodia’s history through its Royal Palace, national museums and monasteries, where you can receive a special Buddhist blessing by monks.

Sounds like an amazing cruise, right? Sign me up. But before you hop on the cruise, why not spend a few days getting to know Cambodia? Here are my top 5 favorite things to do in Cambodia before setting sail.

Eat a Tarantula

That’s right! The first thing you should do when getting to Cambodia is chow down on the local cuisine. And what better way to do that than trying a plate of tarantulas?

Michael from Time Travel Turtle says they taste “a lot like a prawn tail.” Until you get to the body, which tastes more like “digested insects… Not disgusting, but neither is it a particularly enjoyable sensation.”

See the Elephants of Cambodia

There are many places in Cambodia where you can be involved in a socially responsible community project and witness the beauty and majesty of these huge, lovable beasts. The Elephant Valley Project is the oldest Elephant Sanctuary in the region and when visiting you can be sure that your money is going towards caring for the captive elephant population in the province of Mondulkiri, as well as helping maintain wild elephant habitats.

If you are interested in a more active role in the care of these elephants, also check out Mondulkiri Project or Mondulkiri Elephant & Wildlife Sanctuary.

Witness Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia, and when combined with an orange sunset it’s downright mesmerizing. Stretching over some 400 km2, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the marvelous remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire. It’s stunning in its grand scale and its incredible details.

Unlike other Angkor monuments, Angkor Wat has never been abandoned and has been in virtually continuous use since it was built. It is the heart and soul of Cambodia and a source of national pride for its people. Dress respectfully during your visit. Cover upper arms and make sure the bottoms hang over the knees.

Plan at least three hours to explore the entire complex and if you want to take in the sunrise then make sure you arrive around 5:30 a.m.

Things To Do In Cambodia - Angkor Wat

Credit: TravelFreak

Stare in Awe at Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace

The gold Royal Palace sits right beside the Silver Pagoda and since its founding in 1866 has housed the king of Cambodia.

Tourists flock to the site to witness the gleaming gold palace and all its splendid architectural achievements like the Throne Hall, which boasts a 59-meter tower decoratively tiered with golden-colored tiles.

Again, make sure you are moderately dressed for this visit with bottoms that reach the knee and shirts that reach the elbow. If you forget, you can buy a sarong at the ticket booth.

Lose Yourself in the Tomb Raider Temple

Ta Prohm gained its fame through its spotlight in Angelina Jolie’s 2001 Hollywood blockbuster Tomb Raider. Visitors now flock to stand under “the tree” made famous when Jolie snapped the Angkor Wat sunrise underneath it.

A UNESCO site, Ta Prohm is the ultimate Indiana Jones-style adventure through crumbling towers and jungle ruins. Undoubtedly the most atmospheric ruin at Angkor, Ta Prohm’s appeal lies in the fact that it has been swallowed by the jungle.

Main Image Credit: TravelFreak 

Erin Holmes of Explore With Erin is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. 

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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