One of Cambodia’s most alluring characteristics is its people, and the rustic rural communities in which they live. Despite the fact that most of Cambodia is made up of agrarian communities, these unique communities are usually far enough outside of the tourist track that many visitors will leave Cambodia without having ever experienced what life in rural Cambodia is really like. Don’t make the same mistake – even a dedicated day to get off of the beaten track is worthwhile to get a more accurate sense of how spirituality, history and culture informs the lifestyles of most Cambodians.
A vast majority of Cambodia is made up of rural villages and little-developed countryside, but the best experiences with enough tourism infrastructure to make a visit possible are just outside of the major cities, including Siem Reap and Battambang. One village just outside of Siem Reap, Chansor Village, is equal parts a village experience and a feat of community-based tourism. A visit here means the chance to learn from locals the tricks of farming and fishing, while also supporting the sustainable income of an entire community.
Nearly any time of year is a great time to visit a local community, but if you plan to stay overnight in a homestay, milder weather will make the absence of creature comforts more bearable. Cambodia’s monsoon season from May to October means cooler weather but also the likelihood of rainfall. Aim for a time outside of its heaviest rainfall in the months between July and September to avoid the highest precipitation. To see much of the village’s rice crop just before harvest, aim for late September and October when most harvests take place.
If you’re keen to avoid the rain rather than the heat, a visit between November and March means drier weather but often soaring temperatures accompanied by draught, which can leave villages dustier than usual. Like everywhere in Southeast Asia, weather is unpredictable and you can be either pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised by unexpected changes in the skies.
Though visiting a local village through a reputable travel company has a profoundly positive effect on local income and sustainable tourism, you will likely experience some level of poverty up-close and personal during some of your visits. This often leads visitors to feeling obligated to give gifts like money or candy to children. Fight the urge and instead commit your energy to building connections with the locals. Community-based tourism projects promote self-reliance, and short-sighted handouts are a detriment to this ultimate goal.