Cambodia was absolutely my favourite and there is no doubt in my mind that I will return in the future. There is still so much to see, to find out. It is not lush, nor green. It is brown and dusty and parts are so filthy that I had flash backs of India. I couldn't quite put my finger on exactly what it was, there was just something about it that I loved. It gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling in my belly. The people were the most friendly of all South East Asia and we didn't encounter anybody who was rude, even the bus drivers and conductors were lovely and no one seemed to have an ulterior motive. The hawkers and tuk tuk drivers were polite and mostly unobtrusive too. I felt safe and calm everywhere and even in the bigger cities it felt laid back and less busy than cities in other countries. The way the Cambodian People have dealt with and bounced back from their heartbreaking past and the atrocities inflicted on them by the Khmer Rouge, just made me love them even more.
Read about this here.
Few of the places we visited made me gasp in wonder and amazement, but collectively they all added up to a wonderful experience. When I left Cambodia I left a little piece of my heart.
Ha Tien/Kep border crossing from Vietnam to Cambodia
Friday 24th April - Day 132 - Kep
Today we left Phu Quoc by ferry, spent a few hours in Ha Tien and then crossed the border into Cambodia. The scenery although beautiful (think wooden houses on stilts and traditional farming) is blighted by rubbish everywhere. In India we just got used to the rubbish and the dirt but as we've travelled South East Asia it's got cleaner, Vietnam the cleanest of all. Then to see again this inability to deal with plastic, it shocked me all over again. We are staying at Botanica Guesthouse in Kep for three nights. It's perfect and it has a pool so Mat has nothing to dislike thus far.
The famous Kep Crab!
Lovely views over Kep
Tasty salad at Botanica Guesthouse
Tuesday 28th April - Day 135 - Kampot/Sihanoukville
Kep really grew on me. It was quiet and had a real seaside town feel and we spent time riding around the countryside just looking at things and enjoying being there. There wasn't very much to do so I didn't feel too guilty for lounging around by the pool some days.
On the third day I got sick with a bloated belly and nausea again. We got a local bus to Kampot which luckily was less than an hour away and I threw up as soon as we got to our guesthouse. I was shivery and achey and I had to send Mat out on a bicycle in a thunderstorm to get me some painkillers and when he got back he was absolutely drenched. He looked so sweet and I was so grateful I just burst into tears. So Kampot was a write off.
Then we went to Sihanoukville which was a bit of a laid back party town with just as much party as we can manage these days. We had dinner at a pizza place but then I felt sick again so we went back to the guesthouse. I should never have boasted about how healthy I felt in India because since Laos I've felt pretty sicky on and off. We're on Ko Rong Samloem now. At one time it would have been absolute paradise where you wouldn't see another soul for miles, but again with everywhere in South East Asia there's development all over the island. It didn't used to have electricity or running water and still doesn't have wifi or hot water so it's still pretty basic. The sea is clear and calm and the sand is super white but probably still not as nice as Sao Beach on Phu Quoc Island, though it's definitely one of my favourite places we've been. It's Cameo and Rob's wedding today so it's a good job I don't have wifi or I'd be crying my eyes out all day and liking every single picture that goes up.
Another frog picture
Best scooter we had all trip. We'd been given some right shite prior to this, with no wing mirrors, broken speedometers, broken petrol gauge, brakes not working, could barely get up hills etc
Love it when your pano shot makes you look like Nigel from The Wild Thornberry's
Carrot, orange and ginger smoothie
Saturday 2nd May - Day 140 - Siem Reap
We're in Siem Reap now. We got the night bus from Phnom Penh and ended up next to the bogs again so the smell kept waking me up, but other than that it might have been the best sleeper we've been on yet. As far as big touristy cities go, I quite like Siem Reap. It's not too busy and even the infamous Pub Street isn't that offensive.
Mat's Dad, James has come out to see us for 4 days. He's pretty much a genius, read about this HERE. On the first day we visited the Temples of Angkor. We got there at 05:30 to watch the sunrise and then did a 1 day tour which was more than enough. It was about 38 degrees, really busy and if I'm honest, I don't have a huge interest in ancient architecture so I spent the whole day uncomfortably hot and dare I say it, found it a bit underwhelming. I feel like an absolute uncultured heathen saying that. I'll probably put half of my disinterest down to the heat though because it just saps all your energy and your enthusiasm for anything except sitting on your arse drinking cold water.
We also went to the 'Phare Circus' which was awesome, and then yesterday we visited a museum all about Angkor, which I think Mat enjoyed even less than the National Museum of Bangkok. We just can't seem to get overly excited about 'this man built this building in year X....' We prefer museums about people, things they did and their experiences. Other than that we've been at James' hotel and it is stunning! I had it in my head that James was going to want to rough it but this is about as far away from roughing it as you can get. Naturally we've booked ourselves a night there too because this far into our trip we definitely have the money to be blowing on swanky hotels....
I think the Khmer People are the friendliest yet. Despite all the tragedy of the rule of the Khmer Rouge, they seem determined to make their country great again and they are just so smiley, I love it here.
First bath in 5 months
James' hotel - Tresor D'Angkor
One minute it was blazing sun, the next a massive storm hit
We had to cycle back to our hotel in the storm and we'd never seen lightning like it before! It hit the ground about 20 metres in front of us at one point
Pool area at Tresor
Lady weaving scarves at Siem Reap Night Market
Mat's black pudding ice cream bleurghhh
The most interesting thing at the Angkor Museum
Passing the time at the museum by mostly pissing about
Mat and his Dad at Angkor Wat
This is the Temple of Ta Prohm which was used as a location in the film Tomb Raider
Mat and James watching comedy in the pool. They kept chuckling every few minutes, proper made me smile :-)
Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Phare Circus. All performers in Phare The Cambodian Circus learn their skills through Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), an Association providing arts education in Battambang, Cambodia. Young people from the streets, orphanages and struggling families in the community come to PPS to learn, express and heal themselves through the arts.
PPS formed 20 years ago by 9 children and their art teacher when they returned home from a refugee camp after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. As survivors of the war, empowered by the creative self-expression learned through their art-making, the group wanted to share this gift of the arts with the underprivileged children of Battambang
They founded an art school and a public school quickly followed to offer free education. A music school and theatre school were next, and finally, the circus school. Today more than 1,200 pupils attend the public school daily and 500 attend the alternative schools.
In 2013 Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE) was founded in Siem Reap to offer visitors and locals alike Phare The Cambodian Circus. This offers PPS students and graduates somewhere to hone their skills and a place to earn a living wage. Operating in Siem Reap for over a year now, we hope to soon be making enough money to increase their artist’s compensation and generate real revenue to support ongoing PPS social and educational programming
Pre circus pizza
Don't be a slag, grab a snag!
Wednesday 6th May - Phnom Penh
Visited the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields yesterday. There really are no words to explain or describe what happened to these poor people and I've thought about it constantly since we came to Cambodia. If you want to know more about these specific places, please read about it HERE.
We're in Battambang now for 2 nights. It's a bit scruffy but there aren't too many tourists which is nice.
I've fallen a little bit in love with Cambodia. Do you remember that advert about the soup that felt like a hug? It was a fluffy, purple, monster thing that snuggled you as you ate your soup? That's what Cambodia feels like to me. I think it's a combination of the people, the fact that even though the cities are busy, they're not too busy, and perhaps my determination to live every minute because we only have a few weeks left of our trip. I started to cry in the tuk tuk earlier. I was emotional about the Killing Fields anyway, but it started to dawn on me how much I don't want to go back to real life, especially when I don't even know if I have a job to come back to now. So it'll be real life, but even shittier. I started thinking about what I could do for work in Cambodia to help people in some way, but I wouldn't even know where to start.
Rooftop pool and bar at our hotel in Phnom Penh
Views from the rooftop
I shit you not, this kid was about 10
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
This is us with Bou Meng. He was one of only a handful of survivors from Tuol Sleng Prison where people were imprisoned and tortured before being executed at Choeung Ek Killing Fields under the horrific rule of the Khmer Rouge
Friday 10th May - Battambang
Yesterday we visited the Bamboo Train which was pretty cool. at the end of the track you stop, the driver dismantles the train and has a fag while the locals drag you in to their shops and mither you until you buy something you don't want. The little girls are so sweet that you can't say no, but then if you buy from one, the others get in a grump. One little girl wished me 'no good luck' when I wouldn't buy any bracelets from her because I had already bought three from one girl and three from another. Cute.
Later on we went to see the bat cave. As the sun sets a gazillion bats fly out of this cave. It's absolutely incredible to see but we had to cut our visit short because the sky clouded over. One thing we've learnt out here is that it can go from blistering sun to torrential rain and the scariest of storms in a matter of minutes. We set off back to the hotel but before we'd even got half way, the sky ahead of us cracked with lightning and the heavens opened. We were on a scooter, riding into the rain which was like millions of needles on our skin. It was so heavy that Mat couldn't see to drive and we were drenched within seconds and so scared that we had no choice but to pull over. Luckily there was a stall at the side of the road owned by a lovely Khmer family who ushered us in, sat us down and then tried to stop their stall blowing away. Within minutes they'd tied it all down, scooped up their grilled bush rats and motioned for us to come to their house with them. One guy helped Mat drag the scooter through the mud while the lady slipped off my shoes for me and half dragged, half carried me down a steep, slippery slope. Then when we were under the shelter, she washed my flip flops off before I could tell her it didn't matter. The thunder was so loud that every time it rumbled, they would all cover their ears, squeeze their eyes shut and drop to the floor in terror. they asked us to sleep over a couple of times which was so sweet but all I could think about was a hot shower and a comfy bed. We politely declined and forced them to take a few dollars for helping us which they refused to take until Mat left it on a chair and ran away. The rain finally eased up enough for us to ride back into town but it was still pretty scary with the lightning cracking in front of us. We made it back without injury and we're just packing our bags to go back to Thailand tomorrow.
This photo just doesn't do the storm justice at all!
The family trying to stop their stall blowing away
Called "norry" by the locals, the bamboo train is a unique and creative form of transport. It consists of a small motorcycle engine-powered bamboo platform that rides on the railway tracks picking up and dropping off passengers, cargo, animals and motorcycles along the way. When it meets another bamboo train coming the other way the least laden train can be disassembled and taken off the rails in a minute or two allowing the other to pass. It is then reassembled and the journey can continue. The rail tracks are in a pretty poor shape and there are very few "normal" trains operating these days. Virtually all visitors to Battambang have a go on the bamboo train - it is an unforgettable experience and best done in the early evening when the sun isn't so high. Catch it while you can as plans are afoot to upgrade the line and introduce a more conventional train service - Copyright bambuhotel.com
Locals at the end of the track who were happy enough to pose for a picture, probably because we'd just bought 2 drinks, 2 vests and a gazillion bracelets
Bears only, soz
Delux Villa in Battambang. Think the temp was about 40 degrees on this day
Saturday 9th May
Looks like the storm followed us to Ko Chang! Gutted. it is definitely our favourite Thai island though. It's covered in jungle and the beaches are beautiful. Plus its coming into low season now and its quiet so I'm looking forward to a relaxing week before we head over to Corfu for Nat and Damon's wedding. What a perfect way to end our trip.
Wakey wakey, eggs and bakey!
The most measly piece of bacon ever seen
Ten minutes after the downpour
This cat did not give a shit
Beautiful scenes on Ko Chang Island
Cringey scooter selfie
Mat getting a tattoo. Can of coke for when he almost passes out and needs some sugar
Bua from Gu Bay Ink
My map of Cambodia tattoo. Yes I know it looks a bit like a guinea pig...
Massaman curry at Paul's Restaurant
Getting giddy on our last few days in Bangkok