Siem Reap, by day looks completely different to night.
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.
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.
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…
2 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?”.
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…
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.
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
- 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)