7 Unique Cambodia Experiences You’ve Never Heard Of

10 Apr, 2024 | Travel Experience

Discover unique things to do in Cambodia in our travel guide, including jungle tent camping, bamboo trains, bioluminescent plankton, and more.

If you’ve always wanted to visit Cambodia, it is probably the ancient and majestic site of Angkor Wat that you spend time dreaming about. But this country offers so many other fascinating adventures that take you off the beaten path. To ensure you do not miss out on any of these unforgettable experiences, here are some unique things to do in Cambodia. 

1. Stay overnight in jungle tents (+activities offered at the tents)

Imagine a glamping adventure in the heart of the Cambodian jungle. You wake up each morning to fresh air, verdant foliage, and the sounds of birds and wildlife. At the same time, you are surrounded by sumptuous comforts and amenities. Three of our favorite jungle tent camping resorts in Cambodia include Shinta Mani Wild, Cardamon Tented Camp, and Canvas & Orchids Retreat.

Shinta Mani Wild

Camp on the bank of a beautiful river in any of 15 private tents at Shinta Mani Wild Glamping Resort. Each individual tent is unique, featuring designs that make the most of their natural surroundings. While staying at Shinta Mani Wild,  you can go ziplining, eat a picnic at the waterfalls, ride on an expedition boat, go mountain biking, and so much more.

Cardamom Tented Camp

For a jungle tent stay in the Cardamom Mountains, head to Cardamom Tented Camp. What sets this 9-tent glamping resort apart is not only its comfort and beauty but also its eco-friendly mission. Wildlife Alliance, YANA Ventures, and Minor Group bought this 18,000-hectare plot specifically to ensure that it would not be purchased by poachers, loggers, or sand dredging operators. 

Just by staying here, you are supporting the conservation of Cambodia’s jungle. Eco-hiking and kayaking give you the opportunity to explore this special area. Guests can even go on patrol with rangers for additional educational insights into the region. 

Canvas & Orchids Retreat

Also in the Cardamom jungle is the Canvas & Orchids Retreat. The most distinctive feature of this resort is that the jungle tents are floating on pontoons. Private sundecks at each of the tents offer space to lounge around or jump into the river for a swim. 

Hop on a boat to Tatai Waterfall, kayak through the mangroves among the fireflies, or visit Koh Andet Island to meet the local villagers—there is so much to explore. 

2. Watch bioluminescent plankton in Koh Rong

One of the most unique Cambodia experiences (and one of the most extraordinary experiences you can have anywhere) is to behold the natural marvel of bioluminescent plankton.

The plankton is prevalent in this area, but in most regions, the bioluminescence is too faint to detect due to light pollution. But if you are visiting Koh Rong, you can head out on a boat tour from Koh Touch which will take you away from the lights of the resorts and out under the night skies. Out here, the sparkling blue light of the plankton is easy to see, inviting you to take a splash in the luminous waves.

In fact, many bioluminescent plankton tours allow you to swim or even snorkel in the glowing blue waters. Best of all, this magical, otherworldly experience will only run you around $5-$7. 

3. Visit the spider market 

Believe it or not, the “spider market” of Phnom Penh is exactly what it sounds like—a place to buy arachnids. Its proper name is the “Skun Market,” and it has been around since 1820. 

Why does this market sell spiders? Because in Cambodia, many people consider these eight-legged critters to be a delicious fried snack. Tarantulas are particularly coveted. If you do not find yourself craving fried spiders, perhaps you will prefer to indulge in the popular spider soups. 

If you find the idea of eating spiders bizarre or alarming, consider that it is really not all that different from eating crustaceans at a seafood restaurant. 

Along with spider-based cuisine, you can find live spiders for sale at this market as well; as for whether you can transport one back to your home country to keep as a pet, well, you have to check into your local import laws. 

If you don’t want to buy spiders at all, don’t worry; there are plenty of other exciting goods for sale at the Spider Market, including wood carvings, scarves, jewelry, and other handcrafted goods. So, while you watch the locals and tourists enjoying their spider snacks, you can pick out some amazing souvenirs. 

4. Have an entire island to yourself

Cambodia is famous for its beautiful islands—but can you imagine having one all to yourself? One of the most unique things to do in Cambodia is to stay at a private island resort. The one we recommend is Song Saa Private Island. 

Song Saa Private Island 

This resort is located on a small private island that is just off the shore of Koh Rong. On the island, you can enjoy the best of what Koh Rong has to offer, without all the crowds on the main island. It will just be you, the hotel staff, and the other guests. 

There is plenty to do at Song Saa Private Island. Relax in your room, lounge around on the beach, or book a guided activity such as sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, meditation, or yoga. 

To get to Song Saa Private Island, you need to take a half-hour drive and a 45-minute boat ride from Sihanoukville. The drive from Phnom Penh is longer at two and a half hours. 

5. Marvel at the ‘River of a Thousand Lingas’ 

If you are in search of unique Cambodia experiences with archaeological significance, you may be interested in the unusual Kbal Spean (Bridge Head), also called the “River of a Thousand Lingas” or “Valley of a Thousand Lingas.” 

The Bridge Head is located in Siem Reap Province in the Kulen Hills in Phnom Kulen National Park. From a distance, you could mistake it for a regular riverbed with large sandstone rocks. But close up, you will see that the rocks have been carved with symbols called lingams. 

What exactly lingams represent depends on who you ask. Many sources say that the symbol is inherently phallic. Others contest this claim. In any case, the symbol is associated with Shiva, making this a holy site. 

While these lingam symbols are the most prominent feature of the engravings, you can also find carvings here of Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, Rama, Lakshmi, and Hanuman. There are some additional carvings depicting frogs and cows as well. 

If the water is low enough when you visit, you may also get to see some inscriptions that are otherwise hidden. 

While you are in Phnom Kulen National Park, you may be searching for other unique things to do in Cambodia. Drop by the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity. Here, you can see animals that were illegally bought and sold by traffickers being restored to health. 

6. Hop on a bamboo train in Battambang 

After you have explored Phnom Kulen National Park, there is still much to see and do in Cambodia. For an intriguing ride and a glimpse into the country’s history, you can board the old bamboo train in Battambang.

We need to clarify here that there is both an “old train” and a “new train” operating in Battambang. We are talking about the old train, which is still running, not the new one. 

The old train’s history dates back to the end of the Khmer Rouge regime. The Khmer Rouge attacked the country’s infrastructure, destroying the existing railways. Once the Khmer Rouge was defeated at last, the villagers decided to begin restoring the railways themselves to a usable state.

This project entailed making some simple repairs to the railways using salvaged materials, and placing moveable bamboo platforms on them to serve as “trains.” 

When you ride on this open platform, it will only be moving at about 25 mph, as the motors for these “trains” have also been salvaged, generally from motorbikes and similar vehicles. But you get a great look at the scenery passing you by since there is nothing between you and your surroundings. It is definitely among the most unique Cambodia experiences in terms of how to get around. 

7. Swim in the volcanic Lake Yeak Laom 

Just 10 minutes from Banlung town by tuk-tuk, find Lake Yeak Laom. Like a perfectly round jewel, this volcanic crater lake beckons with clear water. All around the shores, forest screens off the outside world, enclosing you in a secluded slice of paradise.

The walk around the entire lake is under 2 miles. As you circumnavigate the perimeter, you can shop for souvenirs crafted by the local villagers and even visit a museum dedicated to the Tampuan ethnic group. If you get hungry, you can purchase wild fruit or dried beef from the tribes. Be sure to also get some local rice wine and honey. Next, take a swim in this gorgeous crater lake. 

The best time of the year to visit is between December and February, which is the dry season. April is warmer, but that is also the wet season. Of course, there is nothing wrong with swimming in the rain; but the water may feel more refreshing and satisfying on a dry day. 

From jungle tent camping to staying on a private island to riding a bamboo train, there are many unique things to do in Cambodia. Exotic Voyages can help you design a personalized tour incorporating Cambodia’s most one-of-a-kind destinations and activities. Contact us to get started. 

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