Cambodia Overview – Historic Temples, Lessons in History and a Paradise Island
As part of our South East Asia trip we spent nine days exploring Cambodia. Below is a roundup of my itinerary, where we stayed and how we got around.
Currency = Cambodian Riel and US Dollars
Capital City = Phnom Penh
Biggest Tourist Attraction = Angkor Wat
Beer Drunk= Klang, Angkor or Cambodia
Best Food Eaten = Red curry with coconut milk
Cambodia is a very rural country, the roads are terrible, the sunsets are beautiful, the people are so friendly and there is so much history and struggle to learn about.
We crossed the border at Hat Lek/Cham Yeam and stayed in Koh Rong for the first night. Koh Rong is a tiny town in very rural Cambodia with the most beautiful sunset over the river.
Day Two & Three
A little island off the coast of Sihanoukville, it took over two hours on the most unsafe ferry I have ever seen, but once we were there none of that mattered. Gorgeous white sandy beaches and turquoise water surrounded you everywhere. Only a handful of bar and accommodation options greet you but there’s something to suit everyone. The island is full of activity options from diving and snorkelling to walking over the rocks and finding beaches with only a few others on. The only downside to this island is the sand-flies, oh and we heard it was full of snakes.
We left Koh Rong to spend a night in Sihanoukville. We chose to stay right out of the town centre at Otres Beach 2 – be careful about the ‘2’ part as tuk-tuk drivers get confused between the two beaches and charge you more to travel the half a mile extra to Otres Beach 2. A lovely quiet and deserted area compared to the hustle and bustle of Serendipity Beach.
Bus to Siem Reap
Spending the night before in Sihanoukville enabled us to catch the 7am bus to Siem Reap. Despite being a 12 hour journey I refused to take the night bus after hearing horror stories of how horrific the driving is. Instead we opted to do this journey in the day time, unfortunately wasting a whole day but getting to see some of Cambodia’s beautiful countryside made up for it.
Siem Reap and Angkor Temples
Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s most famous tourist attraction and hundreds of people flock there every day to see the temple. However as I discovered there is more to the Angkor Temples than just Angkor Wat. With a short circle and a long circle around the area and then other temples dotted further out you could spend at least a week here. Short on time we chose to spend just one day exploring the temples.
Bus to Phnom Penh
Cambodia doesn’t have a lot of main roads and consequently we drove along the same road to Phnom Penh as we did on the way to Siem Reap. It was another long journey before arriving in to the capital. Phnom Penh is crazy, people everywhere hassling you – tuk-tuks, shopping, hotel rooms – you name it and they tried to sell it to you.
Our mission in Phnom Penh was to be educated about the Khmer Rouge of the ‘70s. This started with a film on the first evening and then a trip to the Killing Fields and S-21 the following day. It was a harrowing trip. I have never seen so many bones and skulls in my life. By the end of the day I could not take any more information in but I am so glad I took the time to understand their history.
Bus to Saigon
After nine days in Cambodia we took a bus across the Bavet/Moc Bai border and got stamped in to Vietnam.
Where To Stay
Koh Kong – Paddy’s Guesthouse 3/5 – nothing special but Paddy is genuine and so helpful with booking stuff up for you.
Koh Rong – Coco’s 4/5 – cute little bungalows set back from the beach. There are a lot of steps but the rooms are huge with hammocks and a view of the sea from your window.
Otres Beach 2 – Footprints 3/5 – tucked away on Otres beach 2, friendly staff and lovely communal area but lacking in atmosphere.
Siem Reap – Downtown Hostel 3/5 – away from the main town area but only a short walk to the famous pub street, a lovely swimming pool but disorganised staff.
Phnom Penh – Sunday Guesthouse 4/5 – a lovely small family run place, you really felt like they were inviting you in to their home, however it was tucked away from the main city.
How to Get Around
Buses – Cheap and easy, however there are so many different companies! I will be writing about the different companies I used and what I thought in the coming weeks. Also road safety in Cambodia is very poor, because of this I wouldn’t recommend taking a night bus.
Boat – We used a ferry to get to and from Koh Rong for a mere US$5 each way. There was also a boat from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh but it was not a cheap option compared to the bus price.
Taxis – Tuk-tuks and motorbikes are available everywhere, any time. All you need to do is head out in to the street and wait a few seconds for someone to spot you; alternatively most hostels and guesthouses can book them for you.