Located between Vietnam, Thailand and Laos, the small kingdom of Cambodia has many treasures. Of course, the fabulous Angkor temples nestled in the jungle in Siem Reap, the witnesses of a glorious history, beautiful scenery of rice fields, palm trees or mountains, and also the extremely kind Khmer population. The painful recent history, the genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, has destroyed one fifth of the Cambodians, leaving a very young population. While the first Gay Pride took place in 2003, the LGBT are generally well integrated and there are many gay-friendly establishments. You will fully enjoy this kingdom of kindness.
When to go? The best season is from November to February as it is the dry season and temperatures are reasonable. From March to the end of May, it is still in the dry season but it's terribly hot (up to 40 °) and the vegetation is much damaged. However, in April is the Cambodian New Year, which is quite festive and mid-May, the gay pride. So why not! The low season also coincides with the rainy season from June to October. It should rather be avoided even if locals say rice paddies are very green and rains is only intermittent.
What to see. Phnom Penh, the capital is much more charming than its reputation suggests. There is a provincial atmosphere, many tuk-tuks, beautiful buildings, interesting tours and a lively gay community. Battambang is the second largest city and is also nice. In the surroundings you will discover rural Cambodia, quiet and authentic. On the coast, in Sihanoukville you can enjoy fine beaches. But the most important trip is Siem Reap and the fabulous temples of Angkor. The iconic Angkor Wat of course, Bayon with its giant Buddha heads, Ta Prohm, covered with vegetation and many others really interesting to visit. There is much to do and even if the city has no particular charm and Siem Reap has beautiful gay or gay friendly establishments. Nearby, Tonle Sap Lake and its floating villages are worth the visit, the waterfall in Phnom Kulen during weekend is an opportunity you to mingle with locals and cool off a bit.
What to do. After exploring the temples at sunrise (which is often magnificent particularly in Angkor Wat), you will need a massage. With two or four hands, they part of Khmer’s culture for our greatest joy. They are often very professional and time flies quickly. Do not hesitate to opt for 1h30 or 2h especially as it is not expensive ($ 10/15 per hour)! There is no sexual connotation in a massage even if there is necessarily a lot of sensuality. All hotels offer the services and Channy is a massage expert at the Men's Resort in Siem Reap, but there are also specialized institutions such as Hatha Khmet in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap.
Gastronomy. You need to love rice as you are served some in every meal, mainly with fish, seafood or chicken. The influence of neighbouring countries (Vietnam, Thailand and China) is obvious, but there are still traces of the French presence with bread and frog legs. Amok is the national dish. It is fish cooked in coconut milk in banana leaves. Simply delicious! As for drinks, excellent fresh juices and especially beer, including Angkor Beer, produced in Sihanoukville. In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap there are excellent creative and gourmet restaurants (especially Chanrey Tree, Cuisine Wat Damnak or Viroth's in design and / or lush environments that will be fine memories. They are not necessarily very expensive but there are also many small, simple and delicious other addresses.
Nightlife. Dancing is part of the Khmer’s soul and at nightfall, you will see groups forming in parks and public spaces to dance together. It's very festive and you will easily integrate. There are also more and more gay establishments and the atmosphere is very friendly even though local people may look reserved. This barrier is quickly crossed if you make the first step. Remember that the evenings end early... On week days, do not plan to go out after 10.00pm.
In Phnom Penh's, a special mention goes to the team at the 2 Colours at 225 13th Street near the National Museum. The drag show on Thursday and Sunday night is the best in town. Arthur & Paul Males Bar is the gay bar of the resort (see accommodation). Blue Chili Bar also has drag shows but on Fridays and Saturdays.
In Siem Reap, Pub Street is where you should go at night. Miss Wong Cocktail Bar is an hetero-friendly gay bar with a Shanghai atmosphere. The owner, Dean, is one of the local figures. Other possible stops in the evening are the Linga Bar or the Station Wine Bar. Attending a performance of "Phare, the Cambodian Circus" is a must. It is modern circus with incredible energy and very friendly stories. We love it literally! There are shows every night at 7.30. The circus can also be seen in the city of Battambang with a less-experienced team although equally energetic.
Where to stay.
In Phnom Penh. Arthur and Paul is the first boutique hotel reserved for gays. 70 large design bedrooms in a building dating from the 30’s, a spa with a hammam, also open to non-residents and of course massage services. Among gay-friendly accommodations are Manor House, Villa Anise, Bougainvillier Hotel, and The Pavillion which is well located just behind the Royal Palace and the Rambutan Resort. The latter is in a modern building very well arranged with a pool, patio and restaurant which serves excellent food. Really friendly.
In Siem Reap. Our favourite is Men's Resort which is only for gays with 14 bedrooms, an 18 meter swimming pool, a spa and a sauna which is also opened for locals. The staff is really very caring and the place is very well run. The masseurs (including Channy) hold the best reputation in the city. Other addresses are friendly as the Golden Banana Boutique Hotel or Resort, The Cockatoo Resort or Shinta Mani Resort.
How to organize your trip.
It is really not difficult to organize your stay in Cambodia. Book your plane ticket and hotel before you leave. Locally, it will be easy to organise your travel and tours while at your hotel. Nothing’s very expensive and everyone is very caring. Being driven in a tuk-tuk but is very pleasant but you might get the impression that the temples are all the same or lack historical information if you are not accompanied by a guide to some temples. Similarly, the visit to the Khmer Rouge prison in Phnom Penh will be very moving when you are with a local guide. There are a lot of gay or gay friendly guides like Affinity Angkor or Gold Tuk-Tuk in Siem Reap.