My visa was about to expire, so I needed to go out of the country and get another one for 3 months. Temples of Angkor is definitely a place to see in Southeast Asia. However, to visit Cambodia sounded as a great idea to do all in once.
As we started our trip to Cambodia from Ho Chi Minh city, we decided to take a bus as a cheapest option. That time we didn’t know the real reason of the high price of the flights to Siem Reap, but we realized it very soon. According to information provided in tourist office – we were supposed to have a direct bus from HCMC to Siem Reap (city right next to Angkor temples), it should have taken 16 hrs. In reality we had 1,5 hrs stop in Phnom Penh and got to our destination 5,5 hrs later. Fun even continued when our tuk tuk driver announced us that hostel that we booked for unbelievable 2 $ is under reconstruction and nobody knows where they moved. We knew that driver was trying to make some money on us and get us somewhere else so we insisted to go to the address provided by Agoda. Unfortunately, driver was true and the hostel was under renovation. As it was already very late and nobody was answering our phone we accommodated in hostel in the city center for 5 $ a night in dorm with big beds and AC (Drop In Hostel) with some profit for tuk tuk driver…
After few hours of sleep we got up to see sunrise over the most famous temple Angkor Watt. Despite the crowds of tourists, area was big and we enjoyed it. The rest of the day we spent in Angkor- we visited 3 more temples – Angkor Thom – Byon, Prasat Ta Prum, Ta Prohm a.k.a. Tomb Rider Temple. All of them had special atmosphere and incredible views. The trees growing from the Ta Promh temple were incredible as well as the rocky faces in Byon. Besides backpackers and pilgrims from surrounding countries, there were a lot of kids trying to sell souvenirs. It was hard to resist and not buy postcards from these cutely desperate eyes of not even six years vendor. All kids were selling different goods for the same price – “1 dala”. As it was a sunny, hot day even with tuk tuk we got tired very fast. We finished early afternoon and went to local market to buy some souvenirs. We ended up the day on Pub Street with 0.50 $ beer and 1.50 $ Long Island Iced tea…
Following day, we decided to rent bicycles and go around the village. It was definitely worth it We passed farm for alligators, we had incredible views of Buddhist temples, lotus fields, we saw wooden houses and poor life of the locals, kids playing on the streets. We haven´t seen a single toy, except a lizard on a lace which kids treated as a pet J Kids were usually just playing in dust without any supervisors. As it was very hot, some of them were swimming in dirty river next to floating trash that probably their parents have just thrown away. Others took a bath in a small bucket right next to a well J On the way back home we couldn´t skip trying local happy pizza. Surprisingly we were very happy. Even though nobody knows if it was thanks to happy ingredient or thanks to being in the company of crazy Thai people that were sitting by our table…
The same evening we took a bus to south – to Sihanoukville. We decided to pay more for a hotel bus as our last experience wasn´t very good. But nobody expected that it would get even worse: hotel bus took us just to Phnom Penh and the second bus we took crashed into a minibus. Drivers didn´t even try to break. The worst spot had Jules that was sitting in the middle of the last five seats. Luckily we didn’t drive fast but even tho he flew a few meters…. The most disappointing for me was that nobody asked us if we were all right or inform us what was going to happen.
However, we got to Sihanoukville and found a cool accommodation (Utopia hostel and bar). We had a chance to experience a few bars by the beach with great promotions – we got free drinks in each and danced on the beach until early morning. Next day we took a slow boat to Koh Rong (10 $ return ticket – practical info – be careful and check from which port is a boat leaving, as there is a port in the center and then one far away so u have to take a tuk tuk to get there.)
Koh Rong island is definitely a place to see. There are no roads on the Island, however there are a few motorbikes for some crazy reason. Thus, all the restaurants, bars and hostels are literally on the beach. As there is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world on the island (Long Beach), we decided to spend there a night in tent. We took a trail through the jungle – first got lost and instead of getting to Long beach we got back to place where we started. We heard that we weren´t the first ones and trails are not marked very well. Thanks to advice of a local tourist officer we followed black pipes in the ground and found the beach after an hour of walking. The views were incredible. Water was crystal clear and sky blue. We enjoyed swimming so much. The beach was around 7 kilometers long and we had the whole afternoon ahead so we walked till the end of the beach. We saw a few people camping there. Just before we got to Koh Rong, we heard that they are filming american TV show– Survivors and apparently it was true as we saw a big area for filming. We set a tent and fire before sunset. However, Jules had birthday that day so it was a perfect place to celebrate it. Chilling by the fire we noticed that something was shining in water. When we got closer we realized that it´s luminescent plankton that was coming and disappearing with each wave. Amazing experience! J In a few minutes we saw that a storm was coming so we hid in tents. Apparently we weren´t alone there as next morning we woke up with hundreds of bites that were visible very long time after we got back to Hanoi. Unfortunately, bites weren’t the worst part of waking up. As the water rose up during the night, all the trash was much more visible. Beach was covered by glass bottles from redbull and other garbage brought by irresponsible tourists. I am so disappointed that Cambodian government can´t take care of such an incredible place. I guess that it is one of the things that make me angry here in Asia. People are not educated about protection of environment and they are littering not just in big cities but even in such an untouched places as Koh Rong island is.
Nevertheless, the last night in Koh Rong was the night of Khmer New Year’s celebration (for some of us this was the third celebration of NYE in 2015). And what were the particularities? Locals were pouring water on each other and during the evening everybody got a baby powder and smashed in the faces of people around for luck. Khmers love music so there was a party the whole night. Basically they danced around a big bucket using the same steps for each song and drinking beers and Mekong whiskey. It was a perfect ending of our trip.
The next day we took a boat and bus back to Ho Chi Minh and the same evening flew back to Hanoi.
Other useful information:
Places visited> Phnom Penn, Siem Reap, Temples of Agkor, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong
Survivors of the trip> Marta, Klara, David, Jules
Buses – HCMC – SR (24$); SR-SIhanoukville (24$), Sihanoukville – HCMC (27$)
Tuk tuk in Angkor for a day – 15 $
Bicycles/a day – 2$
Motorbike/a day – 8-10$
Boat to Koh Rong – 10$ for return slow boat; 20$ for return fast boat
5 $ /dorm in centre of Siem Reap with AC
2 $/dorm with a fan in Sihanoukville
15$/the whole room / originally for 2 but there were 4 of us in KLoh Rong
5$/ night / tent for 2 persons in Koh Rong
Food-Cheapest alternatives are around 1-2 $ for friend rice or noodles with vegetable/chicken…
Drinks– water – 0.50$-1$, beer-0.50$-1$
Entrances – Angkor temples – 20$ one day/ 40 $ three days ticket
Cambodian visa for 1 month – 35$
Number of bites from all kinds of insects> uncountable
Number of buses that arrived on time> 0
Average age of street vendors> 3+
„Best” Cambodian dish> dried larva
Cambodian dishes worthy to try> Cambodian noodles, fruit shakes, happy pizza