6 Tips For Taking A Toddler To Cambodia
We began to relax over our decision to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia with a 2YO the first time our hotel bellhop lifted Jude onto his shoulders for a ride (a treat that would be repeated many times). Cambodians love children and nearly all of them greeted ours with broad smiles. A woman at a barbecue restaurant where we ate one night even brought him across the street (in our full view) to dance.
Any visit to Cambodia is likely to start in Siem Reap. Here are our best six tips for visiting Cambodia and Siem Reap in particular with a preschooler. We offer some tips for a traveling with bigger kids, too.
6 Tips For Visiting Cambodia With
Two Things To Pack:
You’ll be in a lot of places where a stroller will do you no good, even in town. And we often didn’t want our toddler running loose. We got a lot mileage out of a good backpack carrier that offered him and us plenty of structure and support on long days.
Baby diapers are widely available but not larger sizes, so if you have toddler pack enough for the trip.
What To Do
People come to Siem Reap for the temples, but there are other activities. Particularly with kids, it’s a good idea to intersperse your temple
Night market: The night market in Siem Reap was less crowded and more spacious than others we visited in South-East Asia, which made it easier to navigate with a child. Our 2-year-old, Jude, was very interested in all the colors, sounds and items for sale. I found it a fun and easy place to stroll around and pick up souvenirs at good prices.
Waterfall hike: We took a day hike to the Kbal Spean waterfall, which had beautiful carvings believed to be about 1,000 years old on the rocks under and next to the water. We paid a local man who was milling around to show us the best carvings, which turned out to be downstream from the end of the hiking trail.
With older kids: The hotel staff suggested visiting the Cultural Village, which is absolutely made for tourists but could still be a good stop with school-age kids and tweens who are up for a little cultural immersion. We saw elephant rides and hot air balloon rides near the temples that could with fun for bigger kids.
The floating villages on Tonle Sap outside Siem Reap are a very popular day trip, but an older couple we met said the full round trip took them 14 hours. This was a particularly long day for this this trip, which varies greatly depending on how high or low the lake is. But still, some of the roads are poor quality and if there is a holiday the local traffic is insane. it seemed a too long and too unpredictable day for a young child and we weren’t sure how he would do riding in a small motor boat. So we decided to skip it.
What To Eat
Cambodian barbecue is a delicious and inexpensive meal option that can be fun for kids. You order fish or meat, which arrives with sides and broth. You cook the items on a skillet that slopes down into a trough at your table. As the meat and fish cook, you pour broth, mushrooms, tofu, noodles and water spinach in the trough. When it’s all done you spoon the soup into your bowl and add meat on top (or just eat it straight off the grill). There are hot sauces, black pepper and lime for dipping.
If you seek out a barbecue joint in downtown Siem Reap, you’ll likely be treated to some fantastic people watching. We stumbled onto a place that had live music just outside. Jude was thoroughly entertained the entire meal.
Despite the obvious hassles, we brought a car seat for Jude and hired a car through the hotel when we ventured to distant temples or to go to the airport.
We used tuks-tuks for short hops around Siem Reap, say to go into town for dinner or to Angkor Wat early in the morning. But we had the same tuk-tuk driver, hired through our hotel, for our ten-day stay. He had a two-year-old at home, too, and took it easy. While it probably wasn’t ideal, we felt reasonably comfortable doing it.
A Word About Hawkers
As soon as you jump out of your tuk-tuk, you’ll be approached by vendors selling souvenirs, drinks and guidebooks, which can be intimidating even for older kids who aren’t used to being approached this way . If you’re not interested, say “no” politely but firmly. Patrick offered a “maybe later” a few times to be polite, but quickly realized it was a bad strategy. When we didn’t buy anything on the way back we received guilt trips and even a few insults.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Pavillon d’Orient, halfway between Angkor Wat and Siem Reap. The staff was lovely and it’s very child-friendly. Another option is the Golden Banana, in downtown Siem Reap. We didn’t stay but heard good things from fellow travelers.
Nothing is perfect, but our Siem Reap sojourn turned out to be easier with a toddler and more fun than we could hoped. (Find out how to get a Cambodia e-visa.)
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Bliss Bernal and her husband, Patrick left Brooklyn in August 2011 to travel around the world with their two-year-old son, Jude. They now live in Vermont.