Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Stop Seventeen, 25/07/2015 to 29/07/2015
We were certain Cambodia was going to be difficult, under developed, physically exhausting and the most challenging destination on our entire trip. Of course we were completely wrong! Like most places, we had dedicated more time than other tourists to the city of Phnom Penh. Usually a one or two day stopover, we stayed 5 days in an attempt to let this city get under our skin a little. Walking the streets of Phnom Penh there were bags of rubbish, empty plastic containers and of the trees we passed, many of the hollows were half full with household waste. However, the people were some of the nicest we've met on our entire trip.
Setting aside a couple of days to visit the Tuol Sleng Museum and Killing Fields, we took time to come to grips with the country's horrific recent past. It is surprising that the county is doing so well today. In addition to just simply soaking up the atmosphere of the city we visited a couple of Phnom Penh's numerous markets, enjoying joking and haggling with the locals. We also spent time in the National Museum and the Royal Palace where we took some of our best photos and even spent time chatting with some monks. Although more edgy than Siem Reap we would still recommend spending some time in this bustling city.
Stop Seventeen, 30/07/2015
We hired a car to take us the 6 hours from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap especially so that we could stop awhile in Skun. A tiny village in the Cambodian countryside, Skun is well known for its unusual delicacies of fried spiders, crickets and maggots. Our time in Skun was spent chatting to local children, tasting Cambodian fruit and giving out free bananas to young beggers. We stayed about an hour in this little backwater and its one of our more memorable experiences in Cambodia. Himself even got to hold a live spider (of the poisonous variety no less).
The scenery kept us entertained for the whole drive - watching children walk home from school, farmers feed their cows and people sit in stilt houses next to rice fields. Don't fly, take a car!
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Stop Eighteen, 31/07/2015 to 5/08/2015
Home to one of the Ancient Wonders of the World and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the temples of Angkor, we were well prepared for Siem Reap to be busy and touristy. In many ways we were pleasantly surprised. We found the touristy nature of the town simply improved our experience in that there were more markets, better quality hotels and restaurants to choose from, and plentiful transport options. We enjoyed a couple of days hanging around pub street before hitting the Temples of Angkor - which of course were the main reason we travelled to Siem Reap. We spent two full days exploring the most famous temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Phrom, along with about 5 or 6 of the lesser known temples in the area.
We were overwhelmed with the sheer volume of temples, particularly in the heat. Our tuk-tuk driver Mr. Mao was endlessly entertaining and really made the experience most enjoyable - even when sweating like someone who's got something to hide. On other days we visited the Angkor museum, the made-in-Cambodia market and attended a local squash game. On our down days we indulged in eating (nice French food), drinking $1 beer and doing some serious retail therapy. After 7 days in Siem Reap we really wanted to stay longer. Another month or maybe two would do it! Instead, we left with an overwhelming fondness for the country and its people and we vowed that we will return - watch this space!