- Length of stay: 31 days.
- Period: May/June 2016.
Let’s say that our trip in Cambodia didn’t start exactly with the right foot. Once we easily crossed the border from Vietnam, we started hitchhiking on the way to Phnom Penh, our first stop in the country, and we had no luck at all. But anyway, we better leave this story for the Cambodian hitchhiking post. The fact is that in the end our first city was Bavet, the border itself! Luckily just few kilometers away from our hitchhiking spot there was a temple and the monks let us pass the night in one of their classrooms.
Fortunately, our second day in Cambodia got better and we could get to the first city. Even if Phnom Penh is the capital is not so busy, and the best thing is that all the major attractions to visit are at walking distance. It’s possible to find budget accommodation near the city center and by causality we stayed in a guesthouse so close to the museum that we really recommend to visit: Toul Sleng Genocide Museum. It’s about the darkest period of Cambodia, when Khmer Rouge were ruling the country. The nowadays museum was a school they turned into prison and interrogation center. So here you will see the atrocities committed by them to the civilians detained. Definitely a piece of the Cambodian history to know about.
Besides this museum you can also visit the Killing fields (Choeung Ek Museum), about the same topic, located a little outside of the city. After that, is up to you what else to do in the capital. We spent the rest of our time in the city walking along the riverside, checking out local markets and stepping inside some temples. Among them also one of the most known, since the city is named after it, is Wat Phnom, located up to a hill.
Kampot & Kep
Our second stop was Kampot and we have to say that we really loved the place. It is a really quiet city where the best option is to rent a bicycle and move around the little villages nearby. And so we did! It was awesome cycling up and down the narrow and pitted streets of the countryside, where locals are still living a quiet rural life. Happy and intrigued every time they see tourists passing by, with the children that shyly wave their hands saying “Hi!” and smiling at you.
Kampot is famous because of its production of pepper. So another day we rented a motorbike to get to Kep, passing on the way by some temples, caves, a lake and of course by La Plantation. It’s the most famous producer of pepper in the area, and there you can have a free guided tour where they will explain you all about the cultivation and production process of the so known Kampot pepper.
So after some sightseeing on the way we finally reached Kep. We grabbed something to eat and we headed directly to the national park. The entrance fee is 1$, but since there wasn’t any guard at the entrance we just crossed the toll and started our short trekking to the sunset point. The trail was easy and the view was really beautiful. And from up the mountain we could see the beautiful sunset all over the sea.
Unlucky after this we couldn’t visit much more of Kep, since it started raining like crazy and when it stopped it was already dark so we decided to head back to the hotel. By the way, if you have the possibility in Kampot we really suggest to take an accommodation by the bank river, so you can enjoy a nice bath in it! And even better if it’s out of town, so not only it will be cheaper but way quieter.
Going always hitchhiking we never know exactly when we will get to a place and this time we got to Sihanoukville quite late. Actually our plan was not to stop there since we had read that there was not much more than parties and it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. So we just stopped by for one night, since there were no ferries to the island of Koh Rong until the next day.
We spent the night there in one of the bars along the beach near to the pier. We helped out the staff working there, cleaning and closing the bar in exchange of a place inside where to stay for the night. They were so friendly and hospitable that even if their boss was not there they let us sleep inside, take a shower and eat some dinner with them, promising them we would leave early in the morning before their boss would arrive at work.
In the morning, since the cheap ferry (5$ per way) was not available till couple of days later because of bad weather conditions, we ended up taking the speed boat (10$ per way) to Koh Rong.
In the end we have to say that we liked the island a lot more than expected. So we decided to stay some days more! Most probably what helped the situation was that we got there during low season, so it was not as crowded as we were expecting. Added to this, we found great that even if there is a lot of nightlife and parties, at the same time doesn’t affect at all the ones who only want to relax.
So chilling and resting in the beautiful beaches is what we did during our stay. We had our accommodation near the pier, the most alive part of Koh Rong. But surely not the one with the best beaches. In fact, on the other side of the island there is a long strip of total wild beach, with so white sand and clear blue water where to swim. It was paradise: just us and the nature.
To reach it you can take a boat, but definitely we preferred to do the little trekking. It’s more or less half an hour walking in the middle of the forest. A tip not to get lost is to follow the abandoned flip-flops along the way!
Last but not least, we visited Siem Reap. Probably the most known among all the Cambodian cities, because of the archaeological site of Angkor Wat. Since in the end we decided to take the three-day ticket to properly visit these famous temples, we ended up spending a week in the city. The first night we were kindly hosted in the Pagoda Preah Promaeath near the river, that actually we discovered that works also as a school, giving English lessons at really affordable prices.
Even if sometimes we found Siem Reap a little overwhelming, due to the massive tourism and the tuktuks constantly trying to get you on tour with them, in general we liked the city. It’s always full of life and at anytime there is something going on, moreover around Pub Street.
Of course the highlight is still Angkor Wat and we decided to visit all by ourselves following the so well done and free guide that they have at the tourism office. We moved around using bicycles the first two days and with a motorbike the last day to visit the further ones. Way more tiring than simply hiring a tuktuk but definitely worth it, and of course way cheaper. And even if we were not that much in shape, we could go until the end of the day because we were feeling so proud of ourselves!
Overall, Cambodia surprised us a lot and even if after the first bad day we wanted to leave the country as soon as possible, we ended up spending the full month visa that we had. We left definitely loving the country and wishing to come back soon!