The DEPARTURES Guide to Cambodia

Traveling through the Southeast Asian country reveals a nation developing an identity for itself beyond its well-trod temples. Here, we take you through the cities to know—Siem Reap, Phnom Pen, and Kep—plus an in-depth look at Cambodia's first private island resort, and tips for touring the country. 

Aaron Joel Santos
OF 6

Change is afoot in Cambodia, located between Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, and bordering the Gulf of Thailand. “It’s more of a rebirth than a birth,” says Lim Muy Theam, an artist and designer based in Siem Reap, the country’s cultural capital. Cambodia’s history was practically erased during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, from 1975 to 1979, which was responsible for the genocide of nearly 2 million Cambodian people and, along with it, the dismantling of the country’s heritage. Political unrest followed until 1998, when Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party came solely into power (they remain there today). Because 68 percent of the country’s population is under the age of 30, the older generation is trying desperately to instill a sense of tradition in the younger one, which is eager to move on from the past and catch up with the rest of Asia. This creates a palpable melting pot of emotions: hope mixed with heartbreak. DEPARTURES travels to the cities of Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and Kep, and to the island-resort Song Saa, and discovers that it’s this dichotomy that is paving the way for Cambodia’s future.