The Kingdom of Cambodia is a nation located in the Indochina Region of South-East Asia, bordering Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. There are approximately 15 million people in Cambodia, with over 97% being Khmer. The Capital and Largest City is Phnom Penh, located in the South. The largest religion in Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism, which is practiced by over 90% of the population. Cambodia has a tropical wet and dry climate, with the daily maximum temperature consistently sitting around 32.9 degrees, with an average of 77% humidity. The wet season usually lasts from July until November, with the dry season typically beginning in December and ending in June.
Cambodia does have a dark past, as the nation was occupied by the oppressive Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 to 1978. During this time, approximately one to three million were killed as part of a large-scale genocide against ethnic minorities and ‘professionals’ such as doctors, lawyers and teachers. Whilst this period is now over and Cambodia is safe once again, the influence of this period can still be felt today. Cambodia is a poor and underdeveloped nation, with the second lowest per-capita GDP in South-East Asia.
Cambodia has an emerging tourism industry, partly due to it being the home of Angkor Wat – the world-famous temple located in Siem Reap. This structure is the largest religious monument in the world. However, there is more to Cambodia than just Angkor Wat. It is a large and diverse nation with much to see including Virachey National Park, the Killing Fields, Tuol Seng Genocide Museum, and a number of ancient temples, beaches, markets and caves.
1) Siem Reap
Located in the North-West, Siem Reap is a popular resort town and gateway to the Angkor region. Siem Reap has an abundance of colonial and Chinese style architecture. Things to see in Siem Reap include visiting the Cambodian Cultural Centre, the Landmine Museum, the silk farms, the markets and the Chong Kneas Floating Village. However, the main tourist attraction in Siem Reap is Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is increasingly becoming a major worldwide tourist attraction, therefore it is important to be respectful of the locals, the structure and its significance when visiting.
2) Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Phnom Penh is a bustling hub and is the economic, industrial and cultural centre of Cambodia. There are many things to do in Phnom Penh, including visiting an abundance of museums (including the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum), checking out the large and opulent Royal Palace, shopping at the Central Market, Russian Market and the large shopping malls, and seeing the breathtaking pagodas and temples, such as Tonle Bati.
Kampot is located in the South-West and is the 10th largest city in Cambodia. Unlike other Cambodian cities, Kampot has an abundance of French colonial architecture. Kampot is also famous for their high-quality pepper, fish sauce and durians – there is even a giant durian statue in the town centre! Some things do whilst visiting Kampot include visiting the large pepper plantations, visiting the picturesque Bokor National Park, seeing the spiritual Phnom Chhngok Cave Temple and shopping at the night markets.
Cambodia is one of the safest countries for Australians to visit. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises tourists to exercise normal safety precautions as you would in Australia. However as with all travel, visitors should consider their personal safety when out and about, and be vigilant and avoid any protests or demonstrations.
Unlike many neighbours, same-sex activity is legal in Cambodia, making it one of the safest destinations for LGBTIQ+ travellers in Asia. However, public opinion is much more traditional compared to Australia, and PDA should be avoided for both LGBTIQ+ and straight travellers.
Travellers should also be careful about travelling in rural areas, as road conditions are very poor and travelling at night on roads should be avoided due to the high incidence of car and motorbike accidents at this time. Be careful of severe storms and flash flooding during the wet season.
Development Together offers a variety of experiences in Cambodia. We have placements open to Architecture, Engineering, Environmental Science and Urban Planning students and professionals working alongside a rural not-for-profit community group and village chiefs with a focus on bringing clean water and safe hygiene and sanitation to a small rural school. Volunteer’s work collaboratively, in a small team, alongside local staff to review existing water and sanitation facilities, using a human centred design focus. These placements are run in partnership with Stitches of Hope (NGO) who run a children’s centre for 24 homeless children, two sewing centres that provide employment for 8-10 people in Phnom Penh, a community development centre in the north of the country and, in two poor rural villages, they assist with the provision of care and dignity for those living with HIV/ADIS, and encouraging micro-economic development in farming enterprises.
Development Together also offer placements for Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology and Prosthetic & Orthotic students and professionals. Volunteers have the opportunity to work at a large rehabilitation centre for infants, children and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities focusing on empowering and enabling their clients to be the best they can be. Clients present with conditions such as; amputations (upper and lower limbs), cerebral palsy, arthrogryposis, femoral head necrosis, neurological disorders, spinal injuries, torticollis, and congenital deformities.
Marketing and Physiotherapy Placements are also available, with volunteers matched to work with a small Community Physiotherapy Clinic serving private clients in the capital city Phnom Penh with the proceeds from this clinic going towards the running of the not-for-profit Cambodia Physical therapy Association. Marketing volunteers develop marketing strategies to increase client numbers attending the clinic, and provide education and training to local staff to allow them to apply this knowledge in the future. Physiotherapy volunteers work in partnership with local staff on the diagnosis, planning and treatment for local clients, and provides education and training to local staff.
These placements may be used as university credit, depending on your host university. Students may accrue between 160 to 320 Professional Practicum/Work Experience Hours. Australian Students may be eligible for New Colombo Plan Scholarships and/or OS HELP Funding for up to $8,149.