Feb 10 2012
With Cambodia’s colourful history and tales of red rebels, kidnappings, landmines, corruption and dodgy roads, it’s unsurprising that parents might think that, say, Brussels or the local petshop might be better options when planning a trip with their kids. Yet Cambodia is child friendly, and a large number of parents are making the journey here with their children, and thoroughly enjoying it too. It’s a lot cheaper than Disneyworld, that’s for sure, and there really is plenty to keep kids entertained so you won’t need to hear too many sweet strains of “Awwww, Mum!! Not another temple! Temples are stoopid.”
Moreover, you’re in a country where a devoted temporary babysitter is never more than a few yards away. Cambodians love kids, and if you’re in the right restaurant and play your cards right, you’ll easily find a waitress (provided she’s not run off her feet, of course) who will take your toddler and make faces at them while you eat a meal in peace. This, obviously, is not to be expected or asked for. Maybe it’s like karma: it’ll happen if you’ve been good too.
With a huge thank you to Siem Reap’s very own child survivors for all of their top tips, here are the highlights of some of the things that they do to keep their monst, err, oops, darlings’ energy levels down to something manageable.
Horse-riding through paddy and villages, and down dusty, red-earth lanes is a great way to introduce kids to the Cambodian countryside, and run off some of that energy. The Happy Ranch caters to kids as young as young as six.
If getting into a saddle isn’t quite their thing, try the Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre. Did you know that caterpillars are liquefied in their cocoons before re-forming as butterflies? Me neither until I went here. Not far from the Banteay Srei temple, the Butterfly Centre is a small, exquisite jungle garden just thronging with thousands of beautiful butterflies of every colour imaginable. Their aerial ballets are beautiful, and guides are on hand to provide additional information.
At Kbal Spean, near Banteay Srei, the first dedicated conservation centre in Cambodia, the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity, is home to a range of rescued animals including palm civets, gibbons, leopard cats, and the highly eccentric, and endangered, pangolin. Daily tours are held at 13:00, for which early arrival is recommended.
Rock climbing at Krorma Yamato has proved very popular with locals’ kids. A dedicated eight-metre climbing wall with all the equipment costs only $2 for half an hour or $4 for the whole day. At your own risk.
Stay tuned for part 2.
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