I’m not one to sit still so when the opportunity arose to spend a week visiting my sister in Cambodia I jumped on the intricate itinerary challenge. It would also be the first time we would see each other face to face in over a year and a half as we both fled the UK to seek a new life abroad; her in Bangkok and I in New Zealand – and what better place to catch up than Cambodia?!
In just 7 days we managed to squeeze in the sites, tastes and culture of Bangkok, Siem Riep, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Koh Rong Samloem.
Below is a short breakdown of my experience of each place, what there is to see and do and a general overview of my round-trip:
Home of structurally stunning abandoned temples including wonder of the world Angkor Wat and tree-invaded Ta Prohm, made famous by the Tomb Raider films.
Sleep was compromised to visit Angkor Wat at sunrise which really was a spectacle to behold and a good way to beat the crowds (and the midday heat).
We pre-arranged a Tuk Tuk tour to take us to the myriad of temples scattered around the city of Siem Riep, each just as impressive as the next.
We spent 2 nights in Siem Riep, and the more we explored the more I admired the city. There’s a wide array of cute cafes and shops to visit along with local markets to explore and embrace the Cambodian culture. Contrary to what I had heard, Siem Riep did not feel overrun by tourists. Perhaps a result of it undoubtedly being wet season, but we did not witness the rumoured rowdy crowds stumbling down the infamous Pub Street. Instead, we found a good selection of restaurants and friendly unique bars.
Bustling capital city full of life and creativity. One noticeable aspect of Phnom Penh for me was the abundance of art for show and for sale. Everywhere you look there are independent shops and stalls displaying original artwork. The city incorporates many different cultures and cuisines and again there was no shortage of restaurants and bars – the hardest part was deciding where to go!
Phnom Penh is the hub of Cambodia’s harrowing not-so-distant history. We visited the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre, or more commonly known as the Killing Fields, a mass grave site of the victims of the Khmer Rouge routine which was certainly an informative and humbling experience. We also went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21) which further highlighted the horrors that the Khmer Rouge routine presented. One thing I took away from these visits is that Cambodian’s seize the opportunity to educate visitors about the country’s dark past in order to prevent any possibility of a repeat the world over.
The heavens had well and truly opened by the time we arrived in Sihanoukville meaning we did not see as much as we had intended. However what we did see was not all that appealing. Sihanoukville has definitely evolved with the tourist industry at front of mind. It’s a small beach town booming with loud bars and cheap shops.
As we had an early boat to catch in the morning we didn’t check out the bar scene but instead went to Sandan – a fine-dining training restaurant that employs vulnerable young people – with some of the best service and food I have ever experienced. A must go, if not immediately lulled into the vibrant party scene Sihanoukville has to offer.
Paradise.A quieter, smaller version of neighbouring island Koh Rong. The most relaxed place I have been to with the most picture-perfect views you could dream of.
A quieter, smaller version of neighbouring island Koh Rong. The most relaxed place I have been to with the most picture-perfect views you could dream of.