I was so sad to leave Cambodia, I had such an amazing time. I was able to tick an item off my bucket list by seeing the beautiful Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and even got to see its beauty revealed at sunset. I learned of the difficult past suffered by the Cambodian people in Phnom Penh and sunbathed on the beautiful beaches of Sihanoukville and Koh Rong. I shared these memorable moments and also partied with some great people.
I was confused with the currency to begin with but it is quite simple once you know. I took US Dollars which was accepted everywhere. Most things are labelled in dollars. You are given change in dollars but also in Riel, so your purse will contain both currencies and both can be used everywhere. 4000 Riel = 1USD. When it was obvious I was confused the Cambodian people were very helpful and very honest!
I found myself eating quite a lot of western food as it is on offer pretty much everywhere. The Cambodian dishes were very similar to Thailand and so I did taste a few stir-fry dishes. The street stalls sell the best pancakes and other desserts.
Phnom Penh was very dusty and polluted due to the amount of bikes on the road together with a lot of buliding works and some very kind tuk tuk drivers buy masks for their passengers.
I grew very fond of the Cambodians and found them so friendly and helpful. The children are adorable and I truly hope Cambodia continues to develop so that they have a good future.
I was so excited to be seeing this magnificant place that despite my long tiring journey and beers with new friends, I was awake at 4am waiting for a Moto (tuk tuk) to take me to the temple.
Standing in the dark with a huge famous sillohette just across the water from me I made sure I savoured the memory. Crowds of people were lined along the waters edge, cameras at the ready waiting patiently in the early hours for the sun to rise from behind the temple and reveal its beauty. And it was beautiful.
Angkor Wat is now a world heritage site and so there was an entry fee of $20 for a 1 day pass. This gives you a ticket with your photo on and enables you to come and go as you please. Because the city of temples is so vast this is a welcome idea. If you pay a tuk tuk driver about $15 you hire him for the day and so for example you can see Angkor Wat at sunrise, walk around, go back to your hostel for lunch and then head back to see the other temples all at your leisure.
Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. It extends over approximately 400 square kilometres and although Angkor Wat is the most well known, there are many other amazing temples and structures to see. My favourite being the temples that have been overtaken by nature and the setting of a scene from Tomb Raider.
Cambodia is building itself back up following its difficult past and Siem Reap appears to be doing quite well. The awful roads I was once warned about are now easily accessible, although it is clear to see how easily the roads can flood, and the developing towns obviously thrive on tourism. The local people are so friendly, helpful and cheerful and I have instantly become very fond of them. There is still a lot of poverty and this is obvious from the amputees and children begging and selling. It is heartbreaking to see these adorable children who should be at school, sent onto the streets to earn money. A bracelet, a postcard an inscent stick, mean nothing to us but that couple of pence means a lot to them.
For 2 nights I stayed at Mad Monkey Hostel which was a great place to stay. In a good location, about 20 minute drive from Angkor Wat, on a main street and close to the bars! It was a lively hostel with clean dorms, a pool, a rooftop bar and was a constant party. Halloween was a fabulous night and it is amazing what costumes backpackers on a budget can create. My favourite was the ‘spring roll’. A girl wrapped herself in cling film and stuffed it with veg from the local market. Brilliant! I purchased some toy guns for $2, got some black tape from a room mate and went as Lara Croft. I was surprised at how much people liked my cheap & cheerful costume.
The hostel was fully booked on my third night and so I found another hostel around the corner. I had to pay for a private room and at an expensive $6 I had the privilage of no water whatsoever. I feel sorry for the person sitting next to me on this 6 hour bus journey to Phnom Penh!
15 hours on 2 buses and I was back in Bangkok. My journey to Cambodia needed to start there as I had decided not to visit Laos as originally planned. I resisted the temptations of Koh San Road and had an early night – very wise decision! The following day turned out to be the most challenging of my travels so far:
Starting the day at 4.45am me and Katie jumped in a taxi to take us to Bangkok train station. We purchased our 50bht (£1 approx) tickets for the 3rd class train to take us to Aranyaprathet, the border of Thailand. The journey was supposedly 6 hours but it took 7. The train was clean and all the windows wound down so there was a nice breeze with nice views, just very uncomfortable after sitting on a train seat for 7 hours. Once off the train it was then an 80bht tuk tuk drive to the border. Once at the border we had to go through Passport Control and then it was a 10 minute walk to get our Visas. This cost $20 as expected but then there was a surprise 100bht to be paid, for what? No one that day was actually able to find out! Once the Visa was stapled into the passport it was then a further 5 minute walk to another Passport Control where yet another form was to be completed and finger prints and photo taken. This border crossing on foot took approximately an hour. Finally we were through to Cambodia, but it didnt stop there; it was then an official free bus ride to the bus station. For $10 we bought our bus ticket to Siem Reap and 3 hours later we arrived, but only in the town, it was then another tuk tuk journey to our pre-booked hostel, Mad Monkey. Time of arrival 6.15pm!! The journey ran smoothly thanks to some internet research we did, it was just made tough due to the uncomfortable transport, heat and heavy backpacks.
It’s times like this that make travelling alone rewarding. I treasure and appreciate experiences, whether good or bad and am able to deal with the bad. Travelling alone means you do not have your treasured experiences ruined by someone elses grumbling.