Flooded towns greeted us on our drive into Cambodia. They experienced very heavy rain during September and unfortunately left much of the country flooded, roads needing repair and people displaced from their homes. We only saw bits of the aftermath but our travel was not affected.
Boutique Cambo Hotel is where we stayed in Siem Reap, which was a lovely hotel with breakfast included, and overly friendly staff. We rented bikes to get us around the temples of Angkor Wat as we took a stand against tuk-tuk drivers. They are everywhere and ask you every 2 seconds if you want a tuk-tuk. They are just trying to make a living but are exhausting and after awhile you naturally just become rude to them. They even sell shirts that say on them ‘No tuk-tuk, today or tomorrow!’
Sunrise at Angkor Wat, the 8th Wonder of the World, was incredible. The history and ancient ruins of so many temples built from the 7th thru the12th century was a very unique to experience. It was great to have our little cruiser bikes rented for a $1/day to be on our own schedule and enjoy the quiet roads further away from the main temples.
Siem Reap has become quite touristy and is expensive but we enjoyed our time with runs along the river and trying out a fish massage. You stick your feet in a large tank of fish and they nibble and eat the dead sink off of your feet, while you enjoy a free malted beverage. It is the strangest feeling at first but ended up very enjoyable. Zane finally found a type of massage he likes.
A new experience for us was taking a night bus to Sihanoukville on the Southern coast of Cambodia. They have sleeper cabins for 2 people and provide blankets and pillows. It started as a fun experience before we realized how bumpy the roads were especially after the floods so little sleep was had. Our first night we stayed in the downtown area at a great place called The Small Hotel (Swedish-owned) in order to search out the best beach to stay on and to get our Vietnam visa. This is the best city to get your Vietnam visa as it is issued in 15 minutes and as opposed to taking a couple of days in other cities. The fees did just go up however and we had to pay $60 each for the visa.
Again, taking a stand against the tuk-tuk drivers, we rented a motorbike for the remaining 3 days. It was a sight to see the both of us with our backpacks and daypack driving to the bungalow we found on the beach, we looked like the locals who drive with amazing amounts items on motorbikes. There are 5 beaches that surround Sihanoukville and after touring a couple we decided on Otress Beach which is the furthest south from the city center and least touristy. It is a small beach lined with simple beach bungalows and we decided to pay a bit more for one right on the beach and in better condition. It was called Papa Pippos (Italian-owned) and was a great choice. Great seafood meals, a massage, mani/pedi on the beach, and starting each morning with a run on the beach were a great way to spend 3 days. The only downside is even though it has less people you still have people trying to sell you massages, sunglasses, bracelets and more every day. We would be enjoying breakfast on our porch and would be accosted by 3 different people at the same time.
The capital of Phnom Penh was our next destination. First impression was not great as it’s quite dirty city, smelly and again the damn tuk-tuk drivers make you want to go mad. We ran the riverfront in the morning and got asked if we wanted a ride as we were out exercising. The rest of the time there was educational but extremely dark to learn of the history of the Pol Pot regime. We visited the killing fields and the S21 museum to see firsthand the places where almost 20,000 Khmer people were massacred in the late 70’s. The Royal Palace was very interesting architecture and then we ended our day at the famous night market.
Cambodia was a great experience but we were ready to move on. Exhausted was our spirit (constantly getting asked to buy things) and empty was our pockets as it was expensive to travel there. The US dollar is the main currency accepted but they do have a local currency called the Riel. It is expensive to travel in Cambodia because of this reason. Everything is at least a dollar where other countries you can many things for less than a dollar.
From our visit to the capital we crossed the border to Ho Chi Min City in Vietnam. After only a few days here we love it! More to come on Vietnamese food, coffee and culture.