Cambodia

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Siem Reap, by day looks completely different to night.

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We spent day 1 exploring the War museum- a massive paddock filled to the brim with everything from real land mines to tanks and planes. Of course Shaun was in his element so we didn’t get a guide and he told me a detailed description of everything. An eye opener into the history of Cambodia and how far they have come from those terrible times. We checked out one of the memorial sites (a killing field) quite small and nothing compared to the one in Phnom Penh.

 

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A spur of the moment booking led us to ‘Phare the Cambodian circus’ $25NZD per person and it was so much better than i anticipated and all for a wonderful cause- taking in under privileged street kids and giving them free education in performance. Whether it be music, dance or acrobatics so they can make a living and support their families.

 

I convinced Shaun that Day 2 should start with an early wake up (4am) to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. It was stunning even if there were hundreds of people swarming the temple. Shaun got roped into buying long pants (no exposed shoulders or knees inside the temples) as a sign of respect and paying far too much for them($3). We paid $50NZD for a day pass, you had the option to get a three day pass but not only was this blowing our daily budget just on entrance fees, it was ALOT of the same thing and we get bored easy. By the end of the temple tour everyone in our tour van was over it. 6 of the many temples was enough for us. It was HOT. Definitely an experience to remember and incredible how grand these ruins are in person.

 

Day 3 spent being lazy by the pool, eating street food and getting massages. We hung out on Pub street and watched the crazy teens dance to horrible music. We’ve decided we have become pretty tame/boring and would rather spend our budget on other things that we will actually remember. We left Siem Reap feeling like we’d seen and done enough and carried fond memories.

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Off to Phnom Penh… 6 and a half hours on the bus, we booked with Giant ibis ($20NZD) and they were great! The bus was relatively new and they gave us chocolate danishes, water and wet wipes -love the wet wipes…We chose the front two seats, great start to the trip but then it happened…

ibis2 and a half hours in and we pull in at a rest stop, a chance for everyone to relieve themselves and grab a bite to eat. The restaurant was really nice and the food was delicious. 30 minutes up we jump back on the bus, we’ve just set off everyones settling in. I’m looking for my charger to plug in and i feel a thud, the bus shudders the driver lets out a yelp and i look to Shaun. A shocked look on his face… we had just run over a poor dog! Shaun had seen it run out and braced himself knowing what would come next. It took me a long time to relax after that. (RIP PUPPY)

We checked into the hostel that Shaun had booked…(he’s rolling his eyes as I’m writing this) 19 Happy house $10NZ per night, which we later found was happy because they sold weed -no mum i didn’t smoke it. Basically it wasn’t very good, we had a private room if you could even call it that -you couldn’t swing a cat in there…this is now our system for gauging the size of every room we arrive into…

“how many cats could you swing in here?”.

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The door (which had a hole in it) opened straight onto the bed and behind it was a small bathroom with a door that didn’t close which wasn’t good because from the toilet you could look out from the bathroom and out the window into the main corridor so everyone had a great view of you showering.

Shaun did his best to cheer me up with “its not that bad” and “we won’t even be in the room that much”…then a bug ran out of the bed…it was at this point that he resigned himself from booking any accommodation.

Phnom Penh wasn’t a city we felt we wanted to spend a lot of time in and so we crammed everything we came here to do all in one day…the history museum was the first stop we spent about 2 hours wandering around all the different exhibits then went to a restaurant that we had read about… ‘Friends’ basically its an organisation that educates former street kids in all the various roles in the hospitality industry and they operate all over the world..long story short the food was amazing a must for anyone going to Phnom Penh…

 

Next was a tuk tuk ride out to the killing fields and it was here that it got very real…we paid a little extra for the audio tour that guided us around the fields, I won’t go into detail what we saw and heard about during our tour because it wouldn’t make for pleasant reading. I will say that it was common to see people stand at specific sites on the tour with tears flooding from their eyes and i was no exception…

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The tour ended by walking though a memorial monument with all the skulls and bones found in the field. Emotionally exhausted we headed for the S21 prison and again here we opted for the audio tour. It was really well put together as you get to hear first hand accounts from those that suffered through the horrors that happened during those terrible times. Standing in the cells or torture rooms that they themselves where in sends chills up your spine.

After another night in the worst hostel room in the world we made an early exit out of Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville on PSD Xpress we paid $12.50NZD each for a 4 and a half hour bus to our final stop in Cambodia…the easiest way to describe Sihanoukville would be… A little, laid back city by the sea…we booked to stay at Spayhiti, a hotel about 10minutes out of town right on the beach (although the beach wasn’t very picturesque Cambodia really isn’t famous for its beaches).

What it did have tho was a nice relaxing atmosphere and some rustic beach side bars/shacks where we met a crack up english guy and a well travelled bar tender. We drank for hours. Mojitos and beer and our bill was no more that $10NZD. Elle got hammered and spent the night by the toilet.

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Our hotel was run by a german couple, nice to us but on occasion it got a little awkward when they would shout at their Cambodian staff in front of us and they would then look at us smiling like don’t you agree?…AWKWARD… There wasn’t much to do here except relax and… relax. We spent our days looking through the markets, going to the gym (Golden Lion Gym) getting massages from the blind (seeing hands) which was INCREDIBLE and driving around on the scooter we rented. We spent longer than we had intended due to the fact we had to acquire our Vietnamese visas here before making the trip over and they took longer than anticipated. Being forced to relax isn’t a bad thing though, traveling can take it out of you 😛 If we had the time we would have gone to the islands off the coast. Seems to be the place to go and tickets are easily acquired from any transport shops. We used Motto transport for our visas and bus tickets.

Visas in hand we headed for the Vietnamese boarder on a tiny bus… the back seats available we sat…BAD MOVE. Never take the back seats in Cambodia, bad roads and bad suspension = hitting your head every 2 mins.

You live and learn.

Elle & Shaun x

Pricing overview:

  • Cambodia is best done with USD. All small change (less than $1) is given in Riel.
  • Bottle of water $1
  • Cambodia Beer $0.75 – $1.50
  • Scooter Rental in Sihanoukville $6 through our hotel
  • Gym entry $1
  • Dinner on the street $2-5
  • Fruit shakes $1
  • Cocktails $2-4
  • Massage from the blind $7 per hour
  • Visa $32 + thai baht fee ( have extra on you as they charge extra if they can)

 

One week in…

IMG_0845   It was a hectic week in Asia, it doesn’t feel like its going too fast and we have seen a lot.

Starting in Bangkok:

  After a full day of travel we arrived at ‘Mybed’ hotel at 3am. We slept until 8.30am before we got up to explore. Our hotel was nice but nothing fancy. 3 nights for 100NZD – pretty good price and it was clean with a free breakfast of toast and tiny bananas. 

 We soon figured out we…okay, me….had picked a hotel half an hour out of town. OOPS. We stayed in Sathorn, the business district. Our first taxi ride into Kho San Road was full of traffic. I thought Auckland was bad but they have nothing on Bangkok. We didn’t ask for the meter so we were charged 200B for the trip. We later found out we got ripped off as it should have been around 150B but hey, now we know. 

 

Upon arrival into town we found out it was national buddha day and all the temples and attractions are free for that one day! Even the tuk tuk prices were 40B for the whole day ( thats about $1.60NZD). The government gives them fuel vouchers if they take tourists to see specific tailors and attractions. We lucked out big time and saved some dosh.DSC02250

Thank you Thailand.

 

Our first driver tried to get us to pay 80USD to go on the floating market water ride which we weren’t keen on and didn’t want to blow the budget for a dirty water ride. Instead we found a little restaurant on the pier and told the driver we would eat there instead, He packed a shitty and we later realised we had been ditched! Served by a very handsome lady (if you get what i mean) we drank beers and Shaun had curry- as usual. I just had ice-cream which she thought was very weird and made a point of telling me. We found another driver and continued on our way. Shaun found a tailor who is making him a cashmere suit and two cotton dress shirts for the equivalent of 240NZD.suit

We spent the following days eating street food, getting massages and walking markets. 

Sadly it was time to leave,which brings me to the HARDEST DAY SO FAR!

 We caught a taxi to the sky train, to a taxi to the bus station where we arrived an hour and a half early. I spotted a massage place so we went there. The massage went on so long that we missed our bus… After the first lot of tears, and the silent treatment we were on a new bus to the boarder of Cambodia (5hr trip).

We reached the bus station and everyone was ushered off to get in the back of a pickup truck with seats. Nearly at the boarder crossing Shaun realises he doesn’t have his passport- We had to pull them out numerous times on the way for them to check. 

The panic set in… we needed to get back to the bus!  The driver of the pick up truck made everyone get out and took us back to the bus station. 

 The bus was gone…

 After many phone calls the guy said the driver of the bus couldn’t find it but we didn’t believe him. We asked to get taken to meet the bus. We paid 200B from what should have been a 5b ride to get there, money didn’t matter at that point, I was visualising being stuck in the town by the boarder that I didn’t know the name of and it smelt funny. We reached the bus, Shaun checked his chair pocket…nothing then checked mine… BAM its there. He’d put it in mine for some reason(obviously because he can’t be trusted). Feeling  relieved we made our way back to the border crossing.

 

Backpacks on the back, day packs on the front we walked..

 We made our way through scooters, people pulling carts of everything you can possibly think of, up the million stairs through the departure of Thailand another 200meters to an office where you pay for your arrival visa. We got scammed again but there isn’t anything you can do about it. They added money onto the visa, because they can… we left there and walked another distance to the arrival of Cambodia checkpoint. Waiting in the line, I went first, every thing went very smooth.. Shaun walks up and gets ushered to the back of the line because he wasn’t standing behind the red line ( or at least thats what we thought). He was losing his cool, after the day we had just had, this is the last thing we needed. I kept saying “be nice, just smile” it worked, he got through but was raging at this point. We stepped out into a swarm of people. Like mosquitos to my skin they wouldn’t f*** off.There was  a sign saying ‘free bus’ above us, we had read it was a scam. I pointed to it and out loud Shaun said the word “SCAM”… Hell broke loose, the Cambodian man standing in front of us let rip at Shaun..”you come to my country saying scam, all big and mighty, you use those words again , you will never speak again”. Im very proud that Shaun stayed calm and followed me out of the crowd. He ended up saying yes to a driver to take us to Siem Reap for $30USD(Yes that is a lot, but we needed out of the situation and an end to a hard travel day).

I have never seen anything like the driving in Cambodia. SOOOOO DANGEROUS, they overtake people with oncoming traffic, they use their horns a lot. Scary is an understatement but it seems to work for them. We made it to Pub street where we sat and had a beverage and used the wifi to look up hostels.shaun pub street ‘Onederz’ was close, we followed our map and arrived to a buzzing hostel. $22USD a night for a private room with an ensuite and aircon, the place had two pools and an awesome hangout area. Probably a tad expensive but we didn’t hesitate.

We made it. We slept. 

To read about Cambodia keep following, thanks for reading. 

Elle and Shaun ❤

The lead up..

So much for just booking a ticket and going… if only it were that easy! The to do list is huge, the budget is not :S

Here’s a few (too many) things to remember when booking adventures:

  • When entering most places they require visas. Most places you can pay upon arrival but some you need to acquire before you go, this all depends on what countries you are from as well. Don’t forget to factor in the price of visas when you’re planning a trip-It adds up quickly.
  • Ensure your passport is valid (shit i just noticed I have less than 6 months on mine) for the amount of time required by the countries you are traveling through.  A lot of countries require you to have 6 months remaining  on your New Zealand passport now. Lucky NZ has upped their game and given us 10 year passports!
  • Travel insurance, nobody likes to think that bad things may happen, but its a fact that they do. Make sure you do your research, most countries have websites to compare. Our trip is costing us around 500 NZ dollars for the both of us, this includes medical, travel, even if we get our cash stolen.
  • Flights… I do a ton of research before booking any flights. skyscanner is my go-to, you can change the dates if you’re flexible, it has an ‘everywhere’ function if you just want the cheapest fares to explore. write all the details you’ve found down. We actually went to Flight Centre with our research and they matched our price with better routes (it pays to second guess them even if they are just doing their job).
  • Transport and accommodation, on a long trip like ours we have chosen to travel through Asia first because it is so affordable. Do your research on the approximate cost of the areas you will be visiting… then add a little extra on to account for any spending money and any mishaps you have along the way.should i .jpgThis will determine your budget. You have to be realistic about this, not everyone has a family member that can afford to bail them out when they get stuck! Use sites like Agoda and Air Bnb to determine the prices and styles of accommodation you might find. Read blogs from experienced travellers, you can never be too informed. Asia has a ton of over night sleeper trains and buses that can count for some of the accommodation during our trip, travel and accommodation all in one is always handy.
  • Vaccinations, speak to your doctor and find out what you need for the countries you’re visiting. It is always better to be prepared! These also cost money so factor that in.

 

So, now that I’ve over loaded you with off putting information about the serious stuff.. lets keep saving for the fun stuff!!!

We’ve been super lucky with our backpack finds. I was checking out the local Op shop for a costume one day, when i came across a beauty of a pack…..  Kathmandu, 70L stunner of a thing. Guess how much…

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“its heavy”-Elle…..”there’s going to be a lot of complaining”-Shaun

$25!  WINNING!  Our second one wasn’t quite that much of a steal but similar pack for $80 from a lady on Trade Me. These packs retail anywhere between 400-700 new… so I’m pretty stoked. We are still on the lookout for a wicked electronics bag.. we have to fit in all the goodies to document our trip!

 

I get really frustrated when people say how LUCKY we are to be going on a four month trip. Its not luck mate, its dedication and hard work! Shaun and I  have been crazy busy at work, doing extra hours trying to make every penny before we go. Our weekends have consisted of mount walks, movie nights and life admin. No fancy dinners out, no partying, no fun really. This is the price you pay (in New Zealand) if you want to save.

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Our happy place – Mount Maunganui

 

 

Unfortunately we have been terrible friends and kids, skimping on Christmas presents, birthday presents and mothers day (Ireland) pressies because we literally can’t afford it. So, sorry everyone….. we are hoping a big hug in person is enough!

I’ve cancelled my gym membership, my wax appointments , my nails ( so I’m pretty much a soft, hairy, stubby nailed girl) Shaun has even cut down his protein intake so we can save more money.

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We keep telling ourselves its going to be worth it!!! We are fortunate that our work places want us back upon return… I actually cried when i told my boss i was leaving for a long holiday because i thought i would have to find a new job!

Funny side note: One of my clients cried when i said i was leaving for 4 months…. Her hair is more important than my life apparently…CRAZY HAIRDRESSERS ATTRACT CRAZY CLIENTS!

So thats it in a nutshell we have this amazing trip coming up, traveling through all these beautiful places and right now it just feels like a whole lot of stress. Its only on that 1 day off a week we get together that we can actually sit down switch off work mode and let the reality sink in… we are heading off on an epic adventure!

So to lighten the mood here’s our bucket list for the Asian countries so far…

  • Cruise Halong bay
  • Stay with the hill tribes -Northern Thailand
  • Get clothes made in Hoi An 😛
  • Cruise on the Mekong river and Floating markets
  • Angkor Wat and temples in Cambodia
  • Book our wedding venue in Koh Samui
  • Cooking class somewhere along the way
  • Grand Palace in Bangkok
  • Visit Phi Phi
  • The Genoside museum and killing fields (morbid but educational)
  • Visit Hellfire pass, bridge on the river Kwai and Thong Pha Phum National park
  • Kuang Si Falls, Laos

If anyone has any suggestions or just want to say hi, leave us a comment! We need some inspiration from others.

Elle and Shaun x

Here goes..

Hi all,

Welcome to our first blog 😀 Id like to begin with explaining why I’ve started this, so here’s a list (because I love a good list):

  • Life gets so overwhelming and the days, months and years race by leaving me feeling like the weeks are blurring together and I’ll forget what I’ve done along the way. I have a terrible memory.. and I can’t blame it on old age because I’m only 25!
  • I want to share my experiences, encourage and inspire people to do the things they dream of in life.
  • I always try starting a diary but forget to continue, and it’s no fun when you can’t show people.
  • If I go missing on our travels… maybe I’ll become famous 😛

So here’s a quick blurb about our journey so far…. Shaun and I met in Western Australia working in the mining industry. After 3 months of seeing each other Shaun’s visa was up and he was heading to New Zealand… we decided (I decided) that I was going to join him. So here we are, 2 years on in the sunny Bay of Plenty; where I grew up and now our home. In December we got engaged( that’s a whole new blog) and we are planning a wedding in Koh Samui, Thailand for December 2018. A few weeks ago we booked an adventure/ research trip leaving in June where we will cover Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos as backpackers and then make our way to Ireland where i’ll get to meet Shaun’s entire family   (shitting myself) and head to Croatia for his sister’s wedding. We will throw in a few weekends away; maybe London… undecided,  A quick stop in Dubai on the way back and return home in October.

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Follow us for a laugh, well take you on a journey…

Elle x