Welcome to our first Hugely Subjective Flashpacker Guide – it’s our not so comprehensive or objective, short guide to some of the countries that we have visited.
Today it’s all about Cambodia: “the most dangerous country you’ll ever visit, because you’ll fall in love with it…and then it will break your heart” (Joseph Mussomeli, former US Ambassador to Cambodia).
We invite you to explore our Hugely Subjective Flashpacker Guide to CAMBODIA 🙂
Stunning or painful?
Cambodia is a bitter sweet beautiful country with a lot to offer. It was one of the poorest countries that we have visited and it was one of the first places on our list so we had to adjust a bit before we’ve learnt to love this place. However once you get to know it a bit you will fall in love with its marvellous landscapes, temples and it’s amazing, warm and resilient people. Painful as its history is and with its KTV’s everywhere (karaoke clubs that are fronts for child brothels), Cambodia is much more than it seems and it is a stunning place worth exploring.
Here it is our list of top things to do/go/see in Cambodia:
- The border – we crossed the border from Thailand to Cambodia close to Aranyaprathet but wherever you cross it, be prepared to be scammed. There are so many fake border points with soldiers in uniforms lying to your face and charging you more than you should pay. Don’t despair. It happens, you can’t do much about it and it’s just a few more pounds. Annoying as it is, it is what it is. Move on.
Never get bored
- Siem Reap – is the closest town that allows you to see Angkor Wat, so most of the people stay here. It is a lovely and vibrant town with plethora of choices.
- Pub Street – it’s Cambodia’s version of Khao San Road – but less annoying 🙂 Open air pubs are great and plentiful. Same goes for restaurants. Make your pick but don’t forget to try Amok and maybe some frog thighs too.
- Night Market – awesome treat for all your senses. Visit countless stalls with cloths, coconut bowls, paper cards, jewellery, liquor with snakes inside and anything else imaginable. Get some delicious food, exotic fruits, fresh juices or just go for reflexology or full body massage.
- Art in Siem Reap – now, I’m not good with what is art and what is Art, I either like it or not but there were so many talented people and lovely paintings! One in particular drawn our attention and we had to buy it. We were carrying it in our backpacks for 4 months after that! Well worth it! 🙂
Take a day trip
- Tonle Sap Lake – go for a half day or one day trip to see the floating villages, it is an incredible experience, go to see: schools, churches, shops and petrol stations all floating on the lake. Amazing!
- Visit Angkor Wat (‘City of Temples’) – Angkor, Bayon & Ta Prohm Temples – where our most favourite but there is plenty to see there! For us 1 day visit was enough but if you are temples fanatic you can spend even a week there! After all Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and constructed in the early 12th century it is the largest religious monument in the world.
- Go zipplining – Flight of the Gibbon guys are the best, it’s not cheap but it’s safe and unforgettable!
Some good advice
- Roads? Let’s just say that roads are not very good in Cambodia, the main cross-country road has been in development for years and 1/3 of it wasn’t even covered by asphalt so night busses… not such a good idea. If you do have to travel by a night bus make sure you travel with the best provider in the country. We can honestly recommend Giant Ibis. Believe me night busses in Europe suck in comparison!
- Royal D – saved our lives on few occasions! The heat and humidity are a bit of a pain if you are not used to it. You do sweat profusely! We had to get in a habit of drinking plenty of water but sometimes that wasn’t enough. All your electrolytes and minerals won’t be replaced fast enough so the Royal D comes to the rescue. It has near-mythical powers as a hangover cure, and is perfect for hot weather replenishment. Check tips on how to stay healthy from Travelfish and stay hydrated on the road!
- Don’t miss a haggle but don’t be cheap – haggling is going to be your daily entertainment, it’s a national sport pretty much everywhere in Southeast Asia so get used to it. Haggle with a smile but only if you want to buy otherwise just go with: No, thank you! and eventually they will leave you alone. Remember that it is a couple of pounds for you but might be a daily budget for the seller and his family so don’t be cheap! Cambodia is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Be firm but kind.
It’s not just Siem Reap
- Phnom Penh at sunrise is stunning, if you happen to be there, go for a walk, enjoy the peaceful and quiet riverside before the city wakes up to its normal hectic self. Go for a good coffee if you miss your Costa and see the royal palace.
- Learn how to pronounce Sihanoukville and go to Otres 2 beach. It is nice, remote and much cleaner than Otres.
- Eat out – we craved for some home-like sandwiches so we did shopping and thought for a second that maybe instead of eating out we should save up and cook our own food – no, don’t do that. Eating out is actually cheaper, way more delicious and is part of the experience. Try the street food it’s fantastic! And definitely go for the Amok! It’s Cambodia’s signature curry, typically prepared with fish, however, variants with chicken can be found. The meat is prepared in banana leaves and then seasoned with a blend of spices. We loved it!
- Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia – if you have a week to spare and would like to do some volunteering with elephants do visit this place. We have visited the other branch of it in Chiang Mai the Elephant Nature Park and it was one of the best things that we have done during our trip.
Where to stay?
Lastly, can we recommend any places to stay? There are so many great places but we loved these:
- Tanei Boutique Villa in Siem Reap – mid-range, about 20$, clean, great staff and pool
- Otres Marina in Sihanoukville – lower range, about 15$, fan only but lovely b’fast on a barge looking over the lake
- Moon Julie Hotel in Sihanoukville – upper range, about 40$, very good standard, lovely b’fast and swimming pool