11.02.2013 - 17.02.2013 30 °C
Siem Reap (11th February - 13th February)
So, since we have had a lack of computer access and have gotten a little behind with the blog thought I would make try to cram all of our time in Cambodia into one post.
Had an epic journey into Cambodia from Pak Chong in Thailand – 3 buses to the border, then 3 hours at the border queuing for passport control each side and to get a Cambodian visa (which of course required us to pay unofficial ‘admin’ charges), then another bus from the border to Siem Reap which took 4.5 hours instead of the 3 it was meant to, and finally a tuk tuk from the bus station to our hostel. But we made it, after 16 hours! We both felt pretty rough by the end of this, but it was considerably worse for Duncan who had a dodgy stomach for the whole trip.
We spent a couple of days in Siem Reap. The first day we did very little, Duncan was still feeling ill and I had managed to mess up my feet with blisters and an allergic reaction to plasters and couldn’t walk very well. So we wandered around the town, found a pharmacy and bought me a different pair of flipflops. We decided to just get a one day pass to the temples, neither of us is that into temples that we felt the need to spend 3 days and a lot more money on them. However, the one day pass did include evening entry to see the sun set from the temples. So in the evening we jumped in our tuk tuk (fantastic way to travel!) and headed out to the temples. The ‘spot’ to watch the sun go down was from the top of one of the temples behind Angkor Wat, but neither of us was particularly impressed as the view was away from Angkor Wat and over some countryside and we had to queue for ages to get up there and stand with a million people all trying to get the perfect picture. I guess we can’t complain too much as we were also doing the same thing, but we hoped the other temples the next day would be a bit quieter.
Up early (5am) for our day at temples, starting with sunrise at Angkor Wat. It was very impressive, took hundreds of photos! Although this was probably as busy as the previous night we had seat with a good view and the area was a lot larger so seemed far more peaceful. We wandered around the Wat and went up to the top level to check out the views. I still think it is incredible that these fantastic temples were built and then forgotten about for so long. Next up on our itinerary was Angkor Thom, the walled city just North of Angkor Wat. There was another temple here called the Bayon, which although not as large as Angkor Wat was covered in huge carved stone heads which made it equally impressive.
I didn’t think the other areas of Angkor Thom were as interesting, partly as by this time we had already spent 5 hours walking around ruins and it had to be pretty amazing to beat Angkor Wat and the Bayon. We jumped in our tuk tuk for the final stop on our tour, Ta Phrom. We were both kind of tired and had seen a lot of ruins by this point, so weren’t expecting to spend long here…but it turned out to be my favourite temple of the tour. This one was particularly special as it had not been renovated and was still overgrown by huge trees and bushes (Tomb Raider was filmed here). This made it feel far more authentic, and I also now have a hundred photos of tree roots climbing over temple ruins! Last stop on our tour was another smaller temple, before we headed back home after what felt like a long day…it was only 1pm by this point! Spent the rest of the day napping and wandering round the market in town.
We weren't too impressed with Siem Reap - it is a town built up because it is near the ruins and there wasn't much else to see.
The next day we jumped on the bus to Phnom Pehn. Unfortunately the bus broke down halfway, so we sat on the side of the road in small town for a while as our 6hr journey turned into 10hrs. We were starting to realise that travel in Cambodia would almost certainly take longer than advertised!
Phnom Penh (14th February - 17th February)
We both really liked Phnom Pehn, it was a far smaller and more laid back city than any we have been to previously on our trip. We spent one day walking around the city centre, checked out the market, Wat Phnom, some monuments and the grand palace. Both were interesting, but after seeing the Wats and grand palace in Bangkok just a week before they fell a little short on the ornate decorations. The second day was far more sobering, a trip to the Killing Fields (Cheung Ek) outside Phnom Pehn and S21 the prison in Phnom Pehn used by the Khmer Rouge. Both were very interesting but very sad experiences. Particularly the Killing Fields which had a really good audio guide with narratives from the survivors and Khmer Rouge soldiers. Definitely a must see if you go to Phnom Pehn.
We had some great and very cheap food in Phnom Pehn. We were staying a Khmer neighbourhood so decided to check out the local restaurants. These were kitchens with plastic chairs and tables spilling out onto the street, where we got hot pot one night and a grill the next with a pitcher of beer each night, all for under $5 between us, fantastic value for money. They didn’t speak much/any English in these places though, so we had to point at other peoples food and the adverts on the wall. After this they obviously didn’t trust us to cook our own food at the table so we had our own chef, a young Cambodian girl no older than 10, stood at our table grilling our food for us, great service!
We both really enjoyed the bits of Cambodia we visited, although feel like we haven’t really seen much of this country. But we only had a limited amount of time and after our first experiences of public transport we realised that getting around in Cambodia was not a quick business, and it would take weeks rather than days to see the whole country. Instead we decided to move on to Vietnam and spend more of our time there as although it would have been nice to see other parts of Cambodia, they were not on our ‘must-see’ list of places.