Our final week in South East Asia was spent in Cambodia, where we met the most friendly people of our Asian travels, the most incredible man-made architecture and also the hottest country we’ve been to. We arrived in the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, following an 8 hour bus ride from Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, which involved a surprisingly easy border crossing.
Phnom Penh is a bustling, fast-moving city of traffic and smells. Our tuk tuk ride on arrival, from the bus station to our homestay on the edge of the city, seemed like an array of back alleys in the dark dodging mopeds, dogs and children. After settling into our friendly homestay, we walked around the south of the city taking in what we could in the dark, on search for dinner. We found a noodle bar, and tucked into some incredible beef, sesame seed ramen!
We planned to spend our first full day in Phnom Penh exploring the city, and visiting a museum which focused on the genocide Cambodia went through in the 1970s. The museum is an old school in the heart of the city, which was turned into a prison known as S21, following a revolution in Cambodia. The revolution involved the army taking control of the country, which although was welcomed at first, quickly turned into 3 years of grueling suffering where over 3 million people were killed (one third of the whole population). The prison was used to house and tortune anyone who was thought to be against the regime, before they were taken to the killing fields. Of the 20,000 men, women and children that passed through the prison in 3 years, only 12 people survived. Although a somber and moving place, it also shows an incredible testiment to the Cambodian people, who are easily the most amazingly friendly people we have come across in our travels.
In the afternoon, we embraced the 40 degree heat and walked for 6 hours around the city, visiting palaces, temples, gardens and monuments. Lu did break at one point and demanded a sit down and a cold drink… thankfully we found one and continued on the day.
Knowing we would come back to Phnom Penh at the end of our week to fly to India, we hopped on a bus to travel to Siem Reap, which is internationally known for the Angkor Temples. A dusty bus ride travelling close to 100mph for 6 hours (no exageration), and we were setup in our hostel. Our accomodation was a dindgy, lime green room, run by a hostel with the least enthusiastics hosts of all time. Fortunately, we have taken the tactic of booking a maximum of 2 nights at any accomodation in case the photos online are deceiving, and luckily, this was the case here and we promptly booked another hostel for the rest of our stay.
After admiring the empty ‘hot tubs’ / baths on the roof of our hostel, which we couldn’t image using in the late afternoon heat of 38 degrees, we headed out to the local town in search of food. Coincidentally, a friend we had made in Laos, and subsequently dined with and had a night out with (bowling in Laos), was also in Siem Reap, so he joined us with his friend for dinner, and thus we had a sponteneous double date. We ate delicious Cambodian curry and shared our latest travel stories over beer.
The next day, we planned to visit the Angkor City, home to one of the largest and most well known religious monuments in the world, Angor Wat. We hired a tuk tuk driver for the day, and agreed on a route around the massive complex of temples and ancient buildings which between 1010AD and 1220AD, home at the time to over a million people.
Our first stop was Angkor Wat, which is breathtakingly impressive due to its size, intricate detail, and the fact it’s over a thousand years old.We spent 3 hours in the raging heat wandering in and around Angkor Wat.
Following Angkor Wat, we rode into the heart of the ancient city to Angkor Thom, which we found even more breathtaking. The carved faces cutting through the sunlight provide a stunning spectacle! Walking around the city, we found a multitude of incredible ancient buildings. An amazing day ended with watching the sunset at a temple on the outskirts of the city.
That evening, our soul mission was to watch the England vs Wales 6 Nations match. If you know us well, you already know we are both rather competitive, espescially when it comes to this match… every year we’ve watched it, so we couldnt miss it now! The only bar we could find rugby on was an Irish pub, hidden in the back alleys and we only found it by a hand written poster. We seated ourselves with a beer and a cheap cocktail. Quickly realising that the pub had mainly Welsh supporters, it’s like the Welsh team knew we were cheering for them half way across the world. Obviously Wales won, and Josh may have got abit sour after being so confident. The night promptly ended there, Lu was only a little bit smug!
After another night in our shady hostel, for an extra £2, we upgrade to a hotel on the outskirts of Siem Reap which had a larger bedroom, cleaner bathroom and a swimming pool. We spent two luxurious days relaxing by the pool eating delicious food at a cafe down the road. One of the evenings, we found a restuarant which had a relaxing garden you could sit in and enjoy a collection of delicious, made-to-order spring rolls.
Our last evening in Siem Reap, we had dinner with our friends again, which ended on a tour of the local ‘Pub Street’ to find the cheapest cocktails. The best we found was $1.50 for all cocktails – which lead to us being rather tipsy and nursing some hangovers the next day.
For the end of our week in Cambodia, we travelled back to Phnom Penh, where we enjoyed another morning of walking around the city, before catching our flight first to Bangkok, and on to New Delhi, India! During our journey, we managed to use 5 different currencies, and speak 4 different languages in the space of 12 hours. Safely arriving – it’s time for us to embrace the chaos of India for 2 weeks!!