Mini destinations (II): Cambodia with children
Perhaps the country that hosts the wonderful temples of Angkor or the fascinating and tragic history of the Khmer Rouge is not among the natural options of those traveling with children. But precisely because of that, because of its cultural, artistic and historical richness, together with the generosity and cheerful character of Cambodians, this country in Southeast Asia It is absolutely recommended for a family trip. Here we give you the keys to discover how to do it.
Among the many World Heritage temples that are concentrated in Siem Reap, there are some especially attractive for children. The history of Angkor's civilization, the struggles of its kings and its impressive ruins in the middle of the jungle will surely capture the attention of the little ones. The key is to select the temples, respect their attention span and move in a fun way and they get tired little. For that, nothing like rent a tuk-tuk to get to Angkor, enjoying the jungle landscape and its many monkeys along the way, and combining it with elephant paths and walking between the temples, running between the paths that link one temple to the next.
Among all the temples of Siem Reap, there are two that are especially suitable for the little ones, for their phantasmagoric air and their figures carved in the rock.
Start by Angkor Thom. The one that translates as "Great City" was the last capital of the Khmer Empire and at its height it reached more than one million inhabitants, when in Europe the cities were more like small villages. Their stories of demons, gods and kings will blow the children's imagination. Of the fortified city that it was, only the ruins in stone are conserved today, but they are sufficient to give us an idea of the magnificence that Angkor Thom should have represented in the thirteenth century. In each of the entrance towers, a row of 54 demons and stone gods guarding them, with expressions that reveal their identity. In the towers, the four faces carved in stone, each looking at a cardinal point, are among the most photographed images of Angkor. And if this were not enough, the Terrace of the Elephants will have them entertained for a long time, counting how many of them are listed in their base.
Angkor temples will blow the imagination of children © Corbis
Continue with Tha Phrom, the most photogenic of Angkor temples. As if it were The Jungle Book, the little ones will marvel at the tree roots protruding between the stones, as if they wanted to swallow parts of the temple. The not so small will remember Lara Croft and her adventures in this same temple. Some travel agencies organize games for families based on the film, a sort of treasure hunt with a map included that will certainly entertain everyone. And don't forget to look for the sculpted figure in stegosaurus shaped rock, no doubt the result of the creativity of Khmer artisans towards rhinos, which can lead to stories of creatures lost in time.
Tha Phrom's roots will delight the little ones © Corbis
When they get tired of temples, take a break and get them to know the floating village of Tonlé Sap lake. Children will be amazed to see other children who make their lives on the water, including going to school which, of course, is also floating.
For the more adventurous, give them something they will not forget: contemplate the temples of Angkor from a hot air balloon, which for 20 minutes stays in the air over the temples. The balloon is tied to the ground, and the 20 minutes up there seem much more.
A hotel: el Sofitel it has adjoining connecting rooms, babysitting service and a room with video games to keep the children entertained in the hottest hours. In most cases, a large pool like the one in the Pavillion d'Orient It is enough to recover from temples and recharge energy.
A restaurant: Visit the Night Market and eat in its simple outdoor restaurants. If you still have strength, dare with a fish foot massage.
An advice: avoid the hottest hours and don't spend more than half a day to see the temples. Make frequent stops and take some stuffing to make sandwiches with the baguettes they sell at the entrance of the temples.
It is best not to spend more than half a day visiting the temples © Corbis
Take a boat to travel to Battambang and spend a couple of nights in This city in the north-west of the country very little visited is worth it if you travel with children. Visit the Phare Ponleu Selpak circus, a cultural organization that offers Cambodian youth a way out of poverty by teaching them to be professional artists, with shows on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. Or go to the Apostolic Prefecture of the Spanish bishop Kike Figaredo, where the Jesuit and his team carry out reintegration and rehabilitation of young people affected by the antipersonnel mines that populate the area. Thanks to the work of Kike and the Spanish volunteers, many children who host the center speak Spanish, and their stories of overcoming will make the visit a wonderful educational opportunity.
A hotel: Located between the rice fields, the Battambang Resort It is an oasis of tranquility with saltwater pool.
A restaurant: go to Gecko Café to rest from the Spicy Khmer food. Burgers, pizzas and even quesadillas in this place near the night market.
An advice: Do not miss your Bamboo Train, unique in the world. A wooden platform with removable bamboo slats, which travels on the ramshackle rails on a 7-kilometer road between Battambang and the village of O Sra Lav.
The Phare Ponleu Selpak circus in Battambang © Phare Ponleu Selpak
The Cambodian capital is known for the Death Fields or the S-21 prison, both examples of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. Unless you travel with teenagers, it is not advisable to visit these historical places with minors. However, Phnom Penh has a lot to offer families with children.
- Walk along the river at sunset. The walk is encouraged at night, and brings together many families walking at the end of the day and fishermen returning home with their fishing. Crowd of Local food stands and popcorn line the sides, and is the ideal place to interact with local children, who play ball and run along the promenade.
- Visit the National Museum and feeds his giant fish. The Museum exhibits photographs and artifacts from all over the country, and is an ideal introduction to the temples of Siem Reap. But what children will most like will undoubtedly feed the koi giants that crowd in the garden ponds.
- Go to a shadow puppet theater. The Souvanna Phoum art association offers performances on Fridays and Saturdays from 7:30 in the afternoon. You can also visit the association during the day to see how puppets are made.
- Receive a music lesson at the Royal Palace. For a small donation, the Royal Palace musicians will let your children taste the traditional Cambodian music instruments, and even give them a musical lesson. The gardens of the Palace also offer a multitude of opportunities for play and release of the little ones.
The pool of Villa Paradiso © Villa Paradiso
- A hotel: Villa Paradiso, for its swimming pool, its tranquility and its friendly service staff. The Balinese Suite has a raised platform with a mattress that can serve as an extra bed for two children.
- A restaurant: Friends, for its fusion menu that allows you to find something for all tastes, and for the work it has been doing since 1994, picking up young people from the street and offering them a professional future.
- An advice: The best time to enjoy Cambodia is between november and february, when temperatures are milder and it doesn't rain. But this is also the time that most tourists visit it, which in the temples of Siem Reap can ruin the experience.