Last month, I had the pleasure of exploring my first new country in a while: Cambodia!
I had heard such mixed views of Cambodia, from horrid to fantastic, so I just had to see for myself. There is no doubt this country has a deep and dreadful history and the impacts are still very evident today.
However, I can see that it has picked itself up in many ways and I found it a very safe and likeable place to visit. It has a lot of similarities to Thailand and it is a very tourist friendly place.
Siem Reap 20-27 July
Starting in Siem Reap, being the rainy season it actually rained 5/7 days I was there!
So most of the photos you see with a blue sky were just from two or so days.
Fun fact: when it rains (which is often) the streets turn into a mud bath! I quite often walked back from town in the rain and I had mud flicked half way up my back. Then when it dried, it was incredibly dusty.
|The street I was staying down|
The Tuk Tuk drivers were the most, uh, persistent I had ever come across (getting asked "Tuk Tuk" literally 1000 times in half an hour) but the people in general were very friendly and helpful. Though like many other Southeast Asian countries, they try and get as much money out of you as they can.
I quite often ate at two cafes: Sister Srey
, both had glowing reviews and healthy and vegan options. After 10 weeks of eating whatever I wanted, I was really craving something fresh and healthy! Siem Reap has a lot of fantastic cafes and I highly recommend these two.
Don't worry of course I still ate local food! I especially loved Fish Amok and Lo Lak (they just aren't so pretty to photograph).
|A Bodia bowl at Sister Srey|
On my first evening, I was invited to see Phare the Cambodian Circus
. The talent of the artists are astonishing, it was a truly incredible show of theatre, dance, live music and modern circus arts.
I was totally drawn in by the compelling story they told and their energy, enthusiasm and emotions were highly infectious.
Every ticket purchased helps to support and transform the lives of Cambodian youth, so it's a wonderful cause as well. Highly recommended!
It had always been a big dream of mine to see Angkor Wat
, the largest religious monumental site in the world. I eagerly booked a full day with sunrise tour for my third day there. During the rainy season (as I found out on the day) it is unfortunately extremely unlikely to see a sunrise or sunset at Angkor Wat.
|Angkor Wat at sunrise|
I wondered why they still offer it as a sunrise tour then, but oh well. I was a tad disappointed because I guess it was something I had built up in my head - taking a nice time-lapse of the sun rising in the majestic setting. The reality was that I was standing in mud, pushed around by crowds and I had to tippy toe and raise my camera as high as I could just to not get other people in my photos.
|I had to wait for 10 minutes for people to move out of this shot!|
Despite that, I still had an INCREDIBLE day, one of my favourite
days from my whole trip. You don't only see Angkor Wat (which is very impressive) but loads of other equally as awesome ancient temples including Bayon, Baphuon and Ta Prohm. The latter was my favourite, also known as the Tomb Raider Temple!
I just loved how nestled in nature it was with giant trees growing out of the tops, vines coiling around, the intricate carvings and moss on the crumbled rocks. It was so so cool to see in real life and such a highlight.
|The Bayon temple|
|Ta Prohm 'Tomb Raider' Temple|
I hope everyone can visit once in their lifetime, they are truly marvellous sites - I took 470 photos just on that tour! It was a hot day walking 11 km in 38 degrees, so I wasn't looking the best in the ones with me in them!
|Central Siem Reap|
|Pub Street by day|
|My first Acai bowl at Vibe cafe|
|A temple downtown|
|Pub street by night! It was the only night that it didn't rain so I could finally venture out!|
|Delectable treats to try! ;)|
|Fun fact: you have to pay to take photos|
|Cool umbrella sky in an alleyway off Pub Street|
On my final day, I went on a half day Floating Village tour
where we got to visit a local school and witness such a different way of life. It wasn't touristic at all, they weren't selling anything and it is genuinely how the people live. The guide is from there and all proceeds go straight back to the school. It was really interesting and the children were oh so friendly and happy! It was a wonderful day.
|We started by trying bamboo smoked sticky rice on the way there |
|Wearing my new handmade in Cambodia dress I had bought that day|
|A happy fisherman|
|A local community|
|The school where 60 children sit|
|View from the school|
I really enjoyed my time in Siem Reap. I had a whole week there and I felt that was plenty of time. During the rain, I stayed in and did a lot of catching up on blog posts. It was a tad more expensive coming from Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam but still very affordable.
I took a VIP Ibis bus to Phnom Penh for $15 USD. It was only a six-hour ride and there were three stops along the way so it was pretty good.
Phnom Penh 27-30 July
In Phnom Penh, I booked an Airbnb straight across the road from the National Museum
which had a great view of it from the balcony. I got really lucky in Phnom Penh - it didn't rain once!
|Front of the National Museum|
|Typical street: Monk, Tuk Tuk, motorbike and rubbish|
|Walking to the Royal Palace|
Only a ten-minute walk from where I was staying was the Royal Palace. It reminded me quite a lot of the Royal Palace in Bangkok, although definitely not as grand! Still really worth a visit though.
|I loved that fern tree/plant|
|The Silver Pagoda|
|Sometimes, you just gotta take your own photos|
|The park in front of the palace|
|The pretty riverfront|
I am still SO so sad about this, but I lost all of my photos from an entire day in Phnom Penh and three days worth of videos from Siem Reap (including the Floating Village tour and Pub Street at night nooo). Basically my SD card was wiped due to a formatting error. I spent so long trying to recover them to no avail.
What I lost was a really big day for me. I did the S21 Prison and Killing Fields Tour
It was really important for me to learn fully about the (scarily recent) history of Cambodia to understand what the people have been through. It was a heartbreaking day seeing and learning about their horrific past first hand and I'm mostly sad about losing the photos because I was planning on writing a whole blog post on it. I only have two photos I took on my phone:
|A pamphlet guide|
|Memorial at the Killing Fields|
Nevermind, what's done is done. I can highly recommend doing the Hop On Hop Off
tour which includes pick up and drop off for only $15 USD. They take you to both places in a bus and you can hire audio guides there and go through yourself. I was glad to have done that because I couldn't imagine having to have a conversation with a guide about what I was being told... I needed to take it in in silence.
|A street around the corner from me|
|My local convenience store|
|On the way to the airport|
|The Independence Monument|
|My ride :)|
I liked Phnom Penh. I definitely think it's worth going to learn about the history at least. Three nights was the perfect amount for me. I did really want to head south to Sihanoukville but alas I had run out of time. I still had Laos and Myanmar to explore in only a few weeks so I had to prioritise.
I'm really glad I went and I had an awesome time. Next time I would love to head out of the bigger cities and see more of the authentic rural Cambodia. There is so much more to see and do in this incredible country, I barely scratched the surface.
I know I'll be back to see more one day for sure. For now I think I hit the highlights!
|Pin it :)|
Coming up soon will be photo diaries from Laos and Myanmar and of course plenty of tips and travel guides when I have the time!