Category Archives: CAMBODIA

The Beauty Of Angkor Wat

Jess & Sam had recommended that we try a ‘hotel bus’ where have our own double bed. We thought we would give it a go because what is there to lose? The bus arrived and we made ourselves comfortable. We were given blankets and I must say James’ ‘Hello Kitty’ blanket really suited him – he looked very at home. The bed itself was pretty comfortable (although not as comfy as our beds at home which we miss dearly). The journey took us 11 hours which is a reasonable amount of time, and we both managed to get a fair amount of sleep which was a result. Throughout the journey, we did quite a few toilet stops. When we arrived, we were obviously in such a deep sleep the bus driver had to wake us up to let us know we had arrived – always a sign of good sleep. We stumbled off the bus all bleary eyed and was greeted by our tuk-tuk driver.

Our journey from the bus stop to the hotel was complimentary so at this point in time, we were happy bunnies. The journey cost us $13 per person which is a good rate considering how far we travelled. We walked into our hotel and we already loved it! We have an actual swimming pool rather than sea water, we feel like we were living luxury.

It didn’t even cost us a lot of money only £11 per night for 2 of us and the swimming pool was definitely worth every penny. Our room was also extremely comfortable although we were greeted by a Gecko and then a millipede when we arrived. We had 2 double beds and we were for sure going to have our own bed each.

We enjoyed our first few days in Siem Reap just relaxing and enjoying the swimming pool whilst we attempted to play volleyball.

It is fair to say that the Spanish group were a lot better than us, but then I’m sure they were just showing off! Our first few days in Siem Reap were pretty much just repeated – just consisting of sitting in cafes, swimming in the pool, occasionally walking around the town and of course mostly eating. Although, our first evening we did check out the ‘pub street’ where we agreed we would do our own 2-man bar crawl. We started off really well getting free drinks in different places, but then the happy hour was over and we had to actually start buying drinks which kind of sucked!

It was incredible but I can only say we are so very jealous of the travellers who get to experience pub street on Khmer New Year. The pub street isn’t very big but it is an amazing experience and if you are in the area you must check it out. So, there we were, bar hopping on free (if not free, then cheap) drinks & photo-bombing peoples’ photos. We were loving every minute of the experience.

Jess & Sam recommended a cafe called Hill Street Cafe and we spent most of our days here. The food was ridiculously cheap and it was only a 5-minute walk from our hotel! We would definitely recommend anyone visiting Siem Reap to visit this cafe. It was an enjoyable few days just relaxing, just to be able to unwind and remove ourselves from the busy backpacking lifestyle for a little while. We checked out the Night Market on the second night which was great, again, hosting a great atmosphere. We managed to grab a few bargains which are always a winner.

Our fourth day in Siem Reap we went to go and see the Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious monument in the world and I must say it was breath-taking. We were unsure whether to visit because it was very expensive costing us $37 per person! What was more annoying was that they recently increased the cost from $20 pp. We thought we would suck it up and just pay it because we might never get that opportunity ever again. We are so glad we got to see it and would say to anyone thinking about it to just do it!

Angkor Wat is the main attraction, however, there are many other temples surrounding the area. We organised a small circuit tour with our hotel which is where we paid another $15 (for both of us) for the tuk-tuk to take us to all the temples. It was an expensive day out, but as you can tell from the photos it was so worth it. Our favourite temple was actually the Ta Prohm which is where the trees were growing around the temple. I’m sitting here trying to think of ways to describe these amazing temples but words just do not describe it properly and the photos do not do it justice.

We began our tour at 8 am and got back to our hotel about 1 pm. 5 hours was more than enough time for us and gave us the afternoon to just chill in the pool and get some rest.

Our fifth day in Siem Reap and we were due to leave. We booked a flight ticket to get to Bangkok but that in itself is a story to tell. So, we researched thoroughly (before we came out travelling and briefly when we were looking at booking) and discovered that if we travelled into Thailand via land then we only get a free 15-day visa, however, if we travelled via air then we get a free 30-day visa. It took a few days for us to make the decision and to weigh up what would be more beneficial and cost efficient. We researched that if we went by land then to extend our visa it would cost us around 2,000THB (£45 pp) and then for the bus ticket it was about £15/£20. Or to fly and get our free 30-day visa then it would cost us about £55. We decided we would fly as it would save us time and not much difference in price. It was all booked and we were excited to step foot on a plane and not a 7-hour-long bus journey. We were happy and glad it was all sorted! Happiness soon changed to frustration. We were sat there and I thought I’d just check on Gov.uk Thailand Visa and I saw the writing I did not want to see ‘free 30-day visa when travelling by air or land’. This rule had obviously changed since we had been out travelling. Annoyed is an understatement because a lot of websites haven’t updated their information. But it was too late now and unfortunately, we just had to crack on with it, still a least we would get there quicker. We checked out of our hotel (which we were going to miss). The hotel we stayed at was called Angkor Pal Boutique. – If you are travelling as a couple and can afford to spend a little more on accommodation then definitely check it out.

We said goodbye to Cambodia and jumped in our tuk-tuk on our way to the airport. Cambodia treated us well, but bring on Thailand.

Tip: If you are looking to cross over from Cambodia / Laos or any other country do your research on the best way to get to Thailand. As you can see we didn’t check the gov.uk website in regards to the Thai visa and ended up paying more for flights when we could have simply got a bus into Thailand and got the same 30-day visa.

What Could ‘Koh Rong’ In Paradise?

We booked a speedboat ticket from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong (Long Set Beach) where we paid $20 pp for a return journey. The boat journey went smoothly, other than one of the engines breaking down a few times, but we eventually made it and that’s all that matters, right? 40 minutes later and we arrived in what looked like paradise – quite literally!

We felt like we were living life inside a postcard. We made it to our resort which was a glorified beach hut, but it was so much fun. It had so much character and I felt like I was ‘glamping’.

We had a mosquito net and thank goodness for that because the inside of our hut was a mosquito festival – they saw their prey and they were ready to feed on us, already. We dropped our bags and went straight to the beach, and if you know me (Sarah) then I usually would avoid the sea, but this was just something else – I felt like I was in a bath…until I kicked a fish then I was back to reality. We literally just chilled out all day on the beach occasionally changing the scenery for food (obviously).

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The evening came around and we thought it was a great idea to walk 30 minutes along the beach & forest to the ‘village’. The village was very small, but our main aim was FOOD! We stopped for a delicious dinner & then suddenly it got incredibly windy and the clouds above us were horrendous. We rushed our meals and thought we should really hurry back to our hut before it was too late. We paid our bill, stopped in a shop to get a few soft drinks & began our speedy walk back. But it certainly was too late. A few spits of rain and then it hammered it down, we ran so fast and found a hut where there was what looked like shelter, but it was a see-through roof. We were attempting to shelter ourselves outside a man’s’ shop/home and he saw us and invited us in. That was where we spent our next hour or so, surrounded by home essentials & sat on a tiny stool, but what a kind man for letting us shelter ourselves. We couldn’t believe that we got caught in storms AGAIN – when would we ever learn?

The man in the shop brought out a selection of different rain macs which we reluctantly paid out for. We took a fast walk back and eventually made it back to the bug hut where we were greeted by mosquitos, lizards & sand flies- but yet we have never been so relieved. Our adventure out was laughable, although not at the time.

The following day we pretty much repeated the previous day’s routine, up for breakfast, go to the beach and only changing the scenery for food breaks. That evening we got talking to a lovely couple from Southampton. They were very similar to us where we both have the same sense of humour often finding ourselves quoting ‘The Inbetweeners’. We played a game of pool – embarrassingly they beat us and I’m still unsure how because Sam was shockingly awful (sorry Sam – we love you really. Although admittedly I wasn’t much better). We sat talking to them for the rest of the evening whilst our ankles were being hacked by mosquitos and agreed that we would meet them for breakfast the next day and challenge them again to a game of pool (we were determined to win).

We woke up and went for breakfast where we played our second game of pool which we won! We obviously had to play another round to decide the overall winners – that would be us by the way, we were the proud winners! Sam and Jess moved accommodation further along the beach, so we joined them and this was our first experience of life in a dorm. We arrived at the hostel called ‘The Nest’ and it was so chilled out. We got an ice cold soft drink and laid in the hammock until our room was ready.

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Overlooking the beach enjoying our views just chilling with great company – we were loving life. We were taken around to our dorm and it wasn’t bad considering. We put our bags in our lockers and then all 4 of us wandered to the village and got some lunch. After spending a little while at the village we began to walk back, and as usual, it began to rain. We were really quite wet so we thought we may as well just get wetter and go in the sea. The sea was so warm and the rainwater was cold – but it felt strangely refreshing. The photos we stole from Sam because he had a GoPro.

(Photo’s coming soon)

We all had a shower (not together that’s just weird), although I can’t say that it was an enjoyable shower because there was no hot water, but as long as there was no seaweed on us we were happy. We chilled out at the bar area in the hostel and got some dinner whilst we played a game of cards. We all got on so well and it was crazy how lucky we were to have met people so very similar to us where we all enjoyed each other’s company.

We all started to lag and decided we would go and get some sleep ready for our next day of kayaking! The following day we got up nice and early and went down to the beach to rent some kayaks. We paid $6 per kayak for half a day. It seemed like a great idea at the time and it certainly was a laugh. The waves weren’t choppy but the wind current was fairly strong so it required a lot of muscle and energy (which I didn’t have much of). We kayaked to a small island which was actually where people lived, but they welcomed us and let us go and see the small buddha statues and the wonderful views from the top.

(Photo’s coming soon)

Again, we stole the photos from Sam because he was the chief photographer for the day (it was actually because of his GoPro). We struggled to paddle our way back to shore, but eventually made it and it was a huge relief. We were both due to take a boat back to Sihanoukville in the afternoon, but as we both booked a return journey we both had different boat companies. Their journey was at 3 pm, and ours should have been 3:30 pm. Jess & Sam agreed they would wait for us at a particular bar as we should only arrive a little while after them – just if things went to plan in Asia.

As we waited around it got to 4:00 pm and still no sign of our boat, by which we were told by a staff member it will be here at 4:30 pm. 4:30 pm came around and STILL no boat. It wasn’t until 5 pm that a boat arrived – although it wasn’t our boat, we were told to jump on it. 15 minutes into the journey we then realised that we in fact were not heading to the correct port (there are 2 ports in this particular area of Sihanoukville) – as we watched other people start to clock on as well, an angry Australian man enquired by which he was told that we will be greeted by a shuttle bus which will take us to the correct port and that we couldn’t get the boat there because the waves are too choppy. The man was talking rubbish, there were no waves that side of the water whatsoever and it was just easier and quicker for them.

We got off the boat and got on our shuttle which felt like more like safari adventure about to begin.

20 minutes later and we had arrived at the correct location. The time was 6:30 pm and we walked to the bar we agreed to meet. Sam & Jess were still waiting – top friends right there. So, our boat was 1.5 hours late, the wrong company picked us up and dropped us at the wrong port – so we weren’t overly happy at this point. We were starving as I’m sure you can imagine. We instantly went to our hotel, dropped the bags, freshened up and went for some dinner.

We went to a lovely restaurant near the beach with Sam & Jess. We all seemed pretty tired from the kayaking that day so we didn’t make it a late one. We went back to our hotel and got a good night sleep. If you are travelling to Sihanoukville then check out the Zana Beach Guesthouse. It was lovely and very comfortable costing us £12 per night for 2 of us.

The next day we were both due to leave, we were getting a sleeper bus from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap. That day we didn’t do a lot, we chilled around and enjoyed our final few hours with Sam & Jess before they were off to Bangkok. We went and got some breakfast on the beachfront and then played some more pool. We played pool in a strip club which was strange but it seemed to be the only place open with a pool table.

We waited around, killing some time by playing another game of cards and when it was time, we said our goodbyes. Our sleeper bus picked us up from the hotel at about 7:00 pm and we were off to Siem Reap feeling lonely.

 

Leaving Phnom Penh Making Our Way To Sihanoukville

We were quite sad to say goodbye to Phnom Penh, it was a fantastic first destination for Cambodia and welcomed us perfectly. We had great accommodation called B52 hostel. It was in a great location and the staff were so very helpful and welcoming. With plenty of bars and restaurants, we were spoilt for choice for food.

The day we left Phnom Penh we booked a bus ticket via our hostel for $9 per person, the receptionist offered us to travel VIP – but being on a budget and being typical backpackers, we opted for the cheapest form of travel. It really was the cheapest bus ticket we could have gotten, it was awful! What should have been a 4.5-hour journey actually took us about 7 hours. The driver stopped every 30/45 minutes, picking up his friends on the way. It got to the point the bus was so full that there were people just sitting on the floor of the bus, and children had to sit on strangers’ laps – luckily, we had a seat to ourselves and we didn’t have to sit on anyone’s laps.

We finally arrived and it was raining very hard, typical. We sat in a cafe and got an ice cream and had a drink. The hostel was a 30-minute walk, we attempted to walk it but after carrying our heavy bags, it slightly raining & then uphill, we gave up and said that we would jump in a tuk-tuk for $2 for both of us. We arrived at our hostel and it gave off an extreme ‘backpacking’ vibe – it was great! It was full of a variety of different nationalities and I’d say we managed to fit in quite well.

We checked ourselves in and went into our room which was very basic, but it did the job. Although we had no hot water…again, we are getting quite used to cold showers now so it wasn’t a big deal. We settled ourselves in and then went out for some dinner – I tried my first Pad Thai dish and it was delightful, James, however, had Fish & Chips – not so adventurous it seems. We wandered around and explored our new ‘home’ for the next few days and we really liked it, it was a lovely beach just 5-minute walk away. When we were finished being Dora The Explorer’s we went back to our hotel and had a good night sleep.

Our First Full day in Sihanoukville we wandered down to the beach and found some sunbeds part of a restaurant, the worker came out and tried to charge us $4 for 2 sunbeds, we managed to barter with him and only got it down to $3 – but every little helps I suppose. When we were looking around for somewhere to lounge we got chatting to an American lady and she said that she paid $5 for 1 sunbed – she got totally scammed! Always be careful when searching for sunbeds, the prices aren’t competitive and completely vary, so don’t always just take the first one you see, and especially don’t accept the first price they offer.

We settled ourselves on our loungers and enjoyed our surroundings until there was a nasty black cloud above us. “Oh, it’s okay it will blow over” we said. We were so wrong, suddenly it just came down like there was no tomorrow, we ran for shelter but was more bothered that we just paid $3 to lay on sun loungers for about 30 minutes.

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Eventually, it died down but there was no chance of us getting any more sun that day so we ran to a cafe that we liked the look of and chilled in there with a smoothie each feeling totally sorry for ourselves. Despite being a failure of a day, time still went so quickly and it was still enjoyable.

The evening came around again and we went to get some dinner. After we had finished we went to see the ‘fireworks’ which were invisible. there were no fireworks. So instead we sat in a restaurant on the beach and enjoyed a happy hour beer for 75¢.

After indulging in a cheap beer we then headed back to the hostel where we decided to get some shut-eye ready for the following day of travel.

Hello, Cambodia!

Our First Impressions of Cambodia was that we love it! Everyone seemed so much friendlier and our first meal there was lovely. Unfortunately, I had a migraine and was unwell so we didn’t stay out for long and got an early night.

We woke up early and booked with our hotel a tuk-tuk tour which took us to the Tuol Sleng Genocide museum and then the killing fields. We paid $18 for 2 of us which seemed to be about the ‘normal going’ rate – never pay any more than $20 from the city to these attractions.

Just the tuk-tuk alone was great fun – we entertained ourselves during the journey by playing ‘yellow tuk-tuk’ instead of yellow car, and I’ve since learnt that I need to work on my reactions! Always be careful when travelling around in tuk-tuks because obnoxious individuals are renowned for driving past on their mopeds and stealing your belongings, so just hold onto them tightly and be aware of your surroundings all the time – and then everything will be fine!

We went to the museum first which was around a 20-minute journey and there’s only so much we can say about this, as I’m sure you can imagine some horrific crimes took place here and it is very traumatic, yet eye-opening. The torture houses were once a school, where they used some of the school equipment to torture people. Between 1975- 1979 many innocent men, women, children and even babies were horrifically tortured, treated like animals and locked in ‘cages’.

At the end of the tour, we were fortunate enough to meet a survivor and at that moment we realised that we are not grateful enough for the ‘luxury’ life we lead. It truly made us realise that you should always appreciate life and remember that no matter how bad a stage of your life may seem, it is nothing compared to what happened to these poor innocent people went through many years ago.

We opted for an audio tour which was $6 per person – we would definitely recommend doing this because you find out a lot more information rather than just walking around and looking at the information boards. We had finished our emotional visit at the museum and met our tuk-tuk driver where we drove for another 30 minutes and arrived at the killing fields.

I would definitely suggest going to the Sleng Genocide Museum first and then the killing fields afterwards. The Killing Fields are where the innocent population were taken from S-21 (the prison/torture house) where they were due to be murdered in a horrific way. There was one part which we found especially moving which they now called the killing tree. This was where young children would have their heads smashed against it until they died.

One part of the killing fields there is a building where we could see the skulls of only a handful of people that had tragically died, we could see the different ways that they had died e.g. shot, stabbed, skulls crushed etc.

We could not begin to imagine the horrendous crimes committed to these poor people – it was incredibly interesting and again, we would 100% recommend visiting. As we had already paid out for an audio tour that day we decided we would just walk around the killing fields so we only had to pay $3 pp for the entrance fee. After seeing more than enough for the day, we agreed that we would head back to the hostel. We got back, got ready and wandered around for somewhere to eat. We discovered that Cambodia seemed to be more expensive, but the food quality was a lot nicer. After having some food, we found a bar and went for some drinks as a way of settling ourselves into Cambodia (any excuse for a drink really!) We had a great night and got talking to some more people. We continued our evening playing pool and chatting to the people we had met until it was time to call it a night.