CAMBODIA - backpacking
Eleven days travelling in Cambodia during a backpacking trip around South-East Asia where I also visited Vietnam and Bangkok. These are the places we visited in Cambodia: Siem Reap and Angkor Temples, Phonm Penh, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong, and Kampot.
Important note before starting to read this, if you are considering to travel to Asia, make sure that you have:
- The right vaccines (check your government website)
- Mosquito repellent (I recommend Relec)
- A good backpack bag
- Passport updated and visas (check local government websites)
- Medicines for emergencies (talk to your doctor before traveling)
SIEM REAP & ANGKOR TEMPLES
Siem Reap is where we started the trip in Cambodia, we stayed there for 3 full days. It was the right time to see everything with no rush and enjoy the city as well apart from the temples. I think 2 - 3 days is good, as some people stay just 1 day to visit the main temples, but in my opinion is not enough.
We arrived in Siem Reap after 10 hours in a night bus coming from Bangkok. Since the first moment we arrived, we had a tuk-tuk driver, that drove us everywhere for the 3 days that we stayed. We made a deal with him, and we agreed on paying him 60$ (US dollars) for the 3 days of transportation (more than that is already expensive).
The driver is your tour guide as well, and shows you all the temples and explains the history of them. Ours was so so nice, taking us everywhere and waiting for us all the time we needed, and sometimes being even our photographer!
Our Tuk-Tuk in Angkor Temples, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor area is very big, and if you like jungle and nature, it is an amazing place to visit calmly. Angkor means “Capital city”, the city flourished from the 9th to 15th centuries, and it was a megacity supporting 0.1% of the global population during 1010–1220. The temples are one of the largest religious monuments in the world nowadays. Each temple is different and have different meanings and history.
The first day, we visited all the most popular temples and had lunch there, and it was more expensive than in the city and the food was not good, so I do not recommend you to have lunch in the Temple Area.
TIP I: I recommend you to eat in Siem Reap city or having lunch with you to have it in the temples.
The second day we were visiting more temples that were a bit further away and not that popular, there is one that I loved called Neak Pean Temple, that is surrounded by a lake. The water was very clear, it had a lot of plants and jungle around, and the sky reflected on it like a mirror.
Neak Peam Temple, Seam Reap, Cambodia
During the evenings there is a night market in Siem Reap that I personally loved. They sell many different things: clothes, jewellery, food, paintings, massages,... There is also a street full of bars called "The Pub Street" that it is nice with a good atmosphere to have a mojito, with very colorful lights and music.
The third day there, we woke up at 5am to see the sunrise in Angkor Wat. Something essential to do there. We watched the sunrise which was full of people, because is very popular for tourists, but still the view is amazing and the sky can be beautiful.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat at 5am
In the afternoon we went to: Tonle Sap, a floating. It was 25$ to get the boat and do the tour but it was very worth it in the end, we saw how local people truly live. We loved it and the sunset was very nice from the lake as well. I highly recommend to visit it because it is a different experience from the temples.
Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap, Cambodia
And.. before moving to the next location, something to highlight from Cambodia that I loved was the kids. I was surprised about how happy they are with such a simple life compared to the one we live in this part of the world. I really felt it was the place of the smiles and that we have lots to learn from them!
Kids from Cambodia, the best thing of the country: their smiles
We stayed for another 3 days in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. We went by bus from Siem Reap, and arrived early in the morning.
TIP II: In Asia I recommend to move around by bus. Night-buses are very comfortable, they usually give you blankets and pillows, you can sleep well and travel during the night, so you don't "waste" time on transportation during the day and also save a hotel night. All advantages!
To be honest, 3 days for Phnom Penh is too much. There aren't many things to see/do there and it is quite dirty, chaotic and expensive. The good thing about being there for so many days was that we learned a lot of history about the country that I had no idea about and it was very interesting.
The first day there we walked around the city center, and saw the main buildings and historic monuments. However, the city doesn't have that many things because they had a big civil war not so long ago (in the 70's), when most of the city was destroyed.
Phnom Penh central market, Cambodia
The second day there, we went to visit the genocide museum and killing fields. It was quite impressive to know about the history of Cambodia and what happened in 1974-1979. The Cambodians wanted a communist country so they took everything from everyone and killed many people because "they were against the revolution". It was quite hard because it was something similar to nazis in Germany, we saw where they were killed and how they were tortured. For me, personally, was hard to see.
On the way to killing fields, a guy tried to stole my backpack from his motorcycle, thank god I was quick enough to hold it tight and he didn't take it.. apparently that is very common here in Phnom Penh.
TIP III: Always keep your backpack very close to you and hold it. Also, if you can put "the curtains" down in the tuk-tuk, I recommend you do so, so you avoid thieves from getting their hands inside of the tuk-tuk.
We planned to stay for 3 days in Sihanoukville, but we decided to leave before because... except for the beach, it is not a nice place. The city has nothing to do, everything is half built from Chinese companies that are building hotels and casinos there... so the city looks awful, and the roads were very bad.
The good thing is that our hostel (Boho Hostel) it that it was close to the beach, so we took those 2 days to relax, chill at the beach, and plan the next days in Koh Rong.
Something important to mention is that the second day we were at the beach from 10 am to 1pm, and even though it seems that the sun does not burn because it is early, believe me that IT DOES, a lot. I burnt my legs SO much... it was very painful, believe me. So...
TIP IV: Always put 50 sun protection cream, because it might seem that the sun is not that strong, but believe me, IT IS. I was two days in a lot of pain and could not really do certain things because my legs were very very bad.
The good memory that I keep from Sihanoukville, is that one of days at the beach, a group of monks came to swim at sunset time, and I could take some good pictures with them and the landscape, and also talked to them for a bit.
Monks at the beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia
KOH RONG ISLAND
If this place is not paradise, I do not know what other place could it be!
The initial plan was to stay in Koh Rong for just one night... I am so glad we decided to stay for two, and actually regret that we did not stay longer... because the island was amazing, completely wild and with things to do an explore! We were in the middle of the jungle in a virgin beach and very natural area that not many people knows.
We stayed in Palm Beach bungalows that cost us 14$/night splitted in three (very very cheap). This bungalows are very nice because are isolated and away from everything, so if you want to chill and enjoy nature, I recommend them.
The first day we got there around 2 pm, enjoyed a good lunch and then saw the sunset. Also, in the night time you can see the plancton in the water (when the water is shiny with blue lights). And it was an amazing experience, I have to say. It is sad that I do not have pictures from that because it was very dark and we were swimming in the water.
Photos of Koh Rong Island, Cambodia: Sunset and the beach.
The second day, I woke up for sunrise at 05:45 am. It is something you CAN'T miss if you are there, because it is very beautiful, and you probably won't see it again in your life!
Sunrise in Koh Rong Island at 6:00 am
Afterwards, we went for a hike into the jungle and ended up in a waterfall that was 15 meters high, what was also impressive. We went for a swim there and enjoyed the jungle. Although, you have to be very careful because there is a lot of mosquitos, insects, snakes,... and also drink a lot of water, due to the humidity and hot, mainly inside of the jungle.
Then we came back to the beach and were doing some snorkeling around the beach here and we saw some nice fishes.
The jungle of Koh Rong Island.
After Koh Rong, we went back to Sihanoukville by boat, to take a bus to head to Kampot. The ride to Kampot was 3 hours in a mini-van, it was the fastest thing we could find. In Kampot, we stayed for one day only, and it's a pity we couldn't stay longer.
Kampot has a big river with many boat-restaurants and bars with lights, which makes the river side lovely. It is surrounded by mountains and jungle, and there are many tours to see waterfalls and jungle but... we didn't have time for it.
Kampot cityscape at sunset time, Cambodia
The hotel we stayed it was really cheap and the room was really good, it was close to the local market.
We had some problems to find a way to go from Kampot to Ho Chi Minh (our next destination in Vietnam), because all the buses went back to Phonm Penh and we didn't want that. In the end, we got a bus that we were not sure about the company, but it was the only option we had (and it was all good in the end).
And... after eleven amazing days in Cambodia, we kept our trip in Vietnam, which was another adventure! Find more in the Vietnam post.
Thanks for reading. Do not hesitate to ask anything you want :)