Cambodia the ‘Kingdom of wonder’

Siam Reap: 04/11/16 – 08/11/16

Despite being worried about crossing the infamous Poipet border into Cambodia, which did prove to be completely chaotic, we eventually made it into Siem Reap. Our hotel was pleasant and very centrally located – so we were off to a good start.

The local area, however, was very hectic and completely different to the paradise that we had found in Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The roads – and pavements – were full of scooters, and with no real pedestrian crossings we soon had to learn how to cross the road Cambodian style – which basically meant keeping at a consistent pace whilst the traffic swerved around you.  The pushy tuk-tuk drivers added further to this hectic environment. One driver mimicked Karis after she said no thank you, and later in the evening another driver punched his tuk-tuk after Adam said we did not need a ride.

Despite the chaos, our favourite place and haven within the city was pub street – a central hub that was full of western pubs, restaurants and bars. Here you could buy a meal for under £5 and a pint for 40p – we were in heaven. A local stall even offered Adam the opportunity to have his feet massaged and cleaned by a tank full of fish. It’s just a shame that the offer was proposed by the gentleman shouting “give me some of that dead skin” whilst pointing at Adam’s feet.

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Through our hotel we booked to explore Angkor Watt and the surrounding temples. Our first day started at a previously unseen hour to us both, 4am. We met our tuk-tuk  driver in the hotel lobby and headed to Angkor Watt to experience the sunrise with what felt like the rest of Cambodia’s tourists – as illustrated in the images below:

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We spent two days in total exploring all the temples that we could gain access too, which included a temple completely surrounded by water, one that was used in the first Tomb Raider film and another that involved climbing vertical steps that may as well have been a ladder. 

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 But in this time, we disappointingly only saw THREE monkeys?! One of these monkeys, which many websites labelled as dangerous, patiently sat there as a Chinese tourist extended her selfie stick and positioned her phone in front of its face. Whilst this hilariously brave woman strived for the perfect selfie, a crowd of western tourists gathered around awaiting the moment that the monkey would fight back – a moment however that sadly never came. 

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After many early mornings, on our last day we planned to have a lie in. But at 4am – yes FOUR AM – we were woken by what can only be described as weird chanting with a funky drum beat, Not even ear plugs could keep out the noise! Adam’s face perfectly sums up our reaction.

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However, we later discovered that the music was in fact for a local wedding that the entire neighbourhood (if not Siem Reap) seemed to have been invited too.

Therefore slightly sleep deprived we headed to our next stop, the capital of Cambodia – Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh: 08/11/16 – 11/11/16

Our journey, as always, was far from straight forward.

We booked our coach tickets through the hotel as we hoped that this would guarantee a good journey… How wrong we were.

We were picked up late by a crazy – non-English speaking – man in a tuk-tuk, who took us to the coach station. Here we loaded our luggage and boarded the coach. But, after getting ourselves comfortable and ready for the pilgrimage to Phnom Penh we were told that we were in fact on the wrong bus. Not one staff member spoke English so we were just pointed back to our original  tuk-tuk and its crazy driver who drove us to the opposite side of Siem reap to a different bus station. 

Once there, we were shoved onto another dodgy looking bus that was headed for Phnom Penh, although neither of us felt it was quite the standard we had paid for. The journey ended up taking eight hours but felt much longer, as the driver kindly kept us entertained with his traditional music that blared from the speakers for the entire journey.

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But if the music wasn’t enough, he honked his horn every ten seconds to make everyone aware of his presence on the road – aka sleep was far from an option. Our rest stop consisted of stopping in a very remote location that had sheds for toilets and only traditional food and drink. We were the only western people on the bus, so due to the language barrier we had no clue where we were, how long we would be and most importantly whether we were in fact on the correct bus. Not only this, but we were made to feel like zoo animals by the passenger opposite, who repeatedly took photos of us. However, most importantly we made it safely to Phnom Penh and it’s fair to say we were extremely happy to get off of the bus. 

Phnom Penh, turned out to be our least favourite location so far. As a city it was very hectic, with taxi drivers that would physically follow you on foot in an attempt to make some money.

However, our stay was made both educational and depressing by our visit to the genocide museum and the killing fields – where we learnt about the communist Pol Pot, who as a revolutionary led the Khmer Rouge in a bloody massacre that resulted in 1/4 of Cambodia’s population being brutally murdered. 

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We also toured the national museum, where in an attempt to save money, we decided against paying for an audio tour and instead wandered around rather blind and unable to decipher the various information boards. Despite this minor set back the museum was interesting, cheap and a great way to escape the midday sun. To continue our day of typical tourist activities, we visited the royal palace and explored the grounds. 

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However, the major spectacle of our visit was the firework celebrations for Independence Day in front of the palace.

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Our hotel, considering it was £3 a night, can not really be faulted. Although, being woken up once by a cockroach climbing up your arm and then again by a drunkard rattling the door handle trying to force entry in a bid to find the bathroom left us very glad to check out and head to Vietnam. 

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