Cambodia, Vietnam · 7 Days · 18 Moments · June 2017

The travelling two's adventure in Cambodia

26 June 2017

Anyway we made it back to the hostel safe and sound, even stopping in the bookshop to buy my next read. It was 9pm. Then we realised that A) we needed to buy bus tickets for the morning as B) we needed cash with which to do so. The cash point was, again, not as far as my inebriated wandering might have led you to believe. Finally, after hours looking for this ATM and trying to book the bus tickets with the non-English speaking 13 year old who worked at reception, we succeeded and climbed the 4 storeys to our room and got to bed. We were exhausted. The day had killed us, struggling to get home only to find we had another mission on our hands to find cash had kept us up hours longer than we'd have liked. It was 9:05pm.
I think over probably 3 or 4 bars, we both had a fair bit to drink and I was beginning to realise that Laura was drunk. Using my quick thinking and judgement, I acted quickly and fed her pizza. It was a 'happy pizza' from 'Mr Herbs Pizza' and after having another drink in a bar elsewhere, found ourselves rather far from sobertown. Somehow, and the details are still quite blurry even now, I navigated the two of us through Phnom Penh at night. It was a good half hour walk bak anyway, God knows how long the route we took was but I feel it was longer than it should have been...
We only had a coffee and a pastry each as we'd jumped the gun and got breakfast beforehand but very glad to have visited 'The Shop' cafe. A couple of doors down we found a book shop, perfect timing for me as I'd just finished another whole book! Rather than getting too caught up there before we'd actually reached our destination of the river, we opted to come back on the way home. The riverside was busy, it was by the palaces and there were plenty of street vendors - some selling handfuls of live birds which I really couldn't get my head around, I hoped they weren't for food because I swear they were just little street sparrow things: dirty! Then there was a public gym thing that we had a little play on. We discovered that Laura can barely hold her own weight whilst I still have the upper body of an Olympic gymnast. No surprises there. After some monkey bars it was definitely time for me find somewhere with cheap beer. Fortunately, most places had $0.50 happy hour prices 👌🍺
I've given this topic as 'nightlife' however it was really more of a daytime affair. As Phnom Penh seemed to have nothing to do except palaces (we've seen millions) and killing fields (depressing and expensive tours) we pretty much put this day aside for just having a bit of food and some drinks around by the river. In doing so, we discovered a bit of a food culture in the Capitol. Stopping in a french boulangerie for breakfast was pleasant. There was some sort of photography class being held in there with an awkward looking model being hounded by about 10 students, none of whom had cameras, just their iPhones. Weird but funny to watch. Then on the street that we were aiming for, that had a cafe recommended in our tour book, we discovered quite a few points of interest. The main one being that there was a half decent street in the city, we did not expect that from what we'd seen previously! The cafe in question was also brilliant, more expensive than what we would usually pay though.

25 June 2017

Phnom Penh is really not what we were expecting. Is so over populated and busy it's ridiculous, very dirty and smelly with vehicle fumes and sewage. We checked into our hostel this is the first time we're staying somewhere in a big dorm sharing with lots of people. So far non of them speak English but the beds are comfy and big it has aircon but for the bargain price of 8 dollars for the both of us for two nights (2 dollars each a night?!) you can't complain! We tried to get our bearings (impossible so many little streets)and see what was around (nothing) after getting food we just came home. After looking at what there is to do here, it really is limited outside of genocide...Killing fields, genocide museum, more temples and monuments which we don't really want to do. Especially with regards to the killing fields we understand its the main thing to see but we don't want to pay the entrance fee to the corrupt government to be depressed! Bit of a Google tonight!
After seeing what Kratie had to offer we moved on early the next day to Phnom Penh which is the capital of Cambodia. This time we were travelling the 4 hours in a minivan that had more than the legal amount of passengers in for sure. This journey was rather terrifying, the driver drove at scary speeds beeping, swerving, slamming on constantly and the worst of it....WE RAN OVER A DOG!!!!! And he just kept driving. Horrendous. The road situation in Cambodia is an experience in itself...if you're lucky enough to be on a normal tarmac Road it's so full of pot holes and no vehicle seems to have suspension so you end up with whiplash or youre on a dirttrack which is the same but probably flooded. There doesn't seem to be any driving laws, eg right of way, wrong side of the road, over taking its absolutely mental. Either way we arrived into Phnom Penh safely.
After breakfast in the hotel, we set off and organised for a tuk tuk to take us to some of the sights around Kratie starting with the main attraction The Irrawaddy dolphin. It's an endangered specie of dolphin that are located in the Mekong River. The boat took us out to where they ate usually based and lo and behold we saw quite a few. We had to turn the engine off to not scare them away but we saw a few pods of dolphins. They come out of the water very quick (too quick to get a good photo) but we saw them quite a lot. Apparently if you head there first thing you see loads of them but what we saw was good enough! We had a quick tour round the other main sights including a temple and a floating village (the poorest of the Cambodians build their house on stilts in the river so they dont have to pay tax). The rest of the afternoon was chilled Josh had fallen asleep with his arm in the tuk tuk and had gotten quite sunburnt...really not sure how he managed to fall asleep!

23 June 2017

... They grabbed sick bags at the start of the journey (this was clearly premeditated) and at every opportunity bought and consumed massive amounts of food, only to throw them all up afterwards. I don't think they were bulimic, just weird and wholly inconsiderate of the delicately stomached northerner sat nearby (me 😟). Thankfully, we eventually change coaches, after about 6 hours. The next leg of the journey was bliss. Even better bus (beat the South Elmsall 195 any day) and tons of space plus all English people, not to sound too xenophobic. This allowed me to make some good headway on my book, despite the crazy bumpy roads and the odd emergency stop for a stray dog, loose cow or chickens, toddler driving a scooter erratically etc. Needless to say we were ecstatic to arrive after about 10 hours of journeying. And we were in walking distance to the hostel from the coach drop off, great success!
Travelling from siem reap to kratie. What a naff day. Early start again at around 5:45 then waiting a good hour for the pick up to catch our first bus. We were a little sad to leave our siem reap hostel too as it was a good room and the only hostel so far that had its own pool and a good bar downstairs, but the place had been explored as much as we were ever go big to without staying much longer so we packed up and moved on. At first it all looked promising, the coach was good condition with nice aircon as it was quiet so we could sprawl out over two seats each. Then we picked up a heap of locals and the enjoyability quickly deteriorated. I don't feel that this journey gave us a fair picture of the Cambodian demographic, I think it was a bus full of weirdos. Two people in the groups sitting in our close vicinity regularly threw up. That is acceptable, I wouldn't begrudge someone for travel sickness, I'm sure it's awful. However they showed no signs of sickness...

22 June 2017

Our evening meal was somewhat more entertaining than we've had previously. We went to quite a fancy restaurant called Bugs cafe which was owned by a French man who also with a well known Cambodian chef had created the menu with all sorts of creepy crawlies. The menu was rather extensive, and we weren't sure what to choose so we opted for the discover platter which included spinach feta tarantula samosa, black and red ant sweet potato spring rolls, red ant pastry swirl with pesto, wok fried silk worms and crickets in green curry sauce, and finally a kebab skewer with tarantula, water beetle, various crickets and worms! I have to say it was all very delicious and we were happy to find out that the insects actually do have distinct flavours, the French owner also explained a lot of about the delicacy. It was definitely a new experience, quite expensive for Cambodia but well worth it!
Also helps to fund conservation sites and supports poverty stricken families in the local area. So not only was it a thoroughly pleasant way to spend time but goes to a great cause too.
After quite a few early starts recently, we took today at a leisurely pace. We decided we wanted to get away from the hubbub of the town centre and see a bit more of the area. After doing some research we thought spending some time at the Banteay Srei Butterfly centre (BBC) would be a good way to see a bit of nature and for Josh to get his geek on. We hired a tuk tuk to take us there and back which was a good hour away, and then he waited and brought us back afterwards. He took us through the countryside (and some precarious routes) but it gave us a chance to see a bit more of the local life, rice fields and agriculture. The BBC is apparently the largest enclosed butterfly centre in the whole of southeast Asia. You get to see the different life cycles from egg, caterpillar, cocoon and butterfly. The beautiful massive butterflies are all just fluttering about, we also got to release some newly hatched butterflies into the enclosure for their first flights. The money we paid also...
It would have been possible to stay for a full day, we could have stopped and had lunch to recover and head back out exploring. To be honest though, to our untrained eyes, seeing more temples would have been seeing much of the same. Adding to this the ridiculous prices for food and drink there (Laura spent $5 on eggs for breakfast, that is all I'll say), it was the right call to head back when we did. We had lunch in a decent little place next to our hostel, cheap and well rated online, it was a good relaxed meal before I had to nap when we returned to home. Laura chilled by the pool while I slept and later on we grabbed some.quick dinner. Finding another cheap street food place, we did our best to make up for the expensive morning and eat for as little cost as possible. An early night was welcomed by us both as we looked forward to a slower paced day to follow.
... Tickets of up to a week were available. People prepared to look more rigorously, perhaps with a studious eye could spend a lifetime there. Constant restoration and preservation attempts are being made all over the site and even though it is still way too expensive for entry, it is a huge, huge area with many temples, each one with impressively intricate carvings to maintain. One of the more notable temples is called Ta Prohm, made famous by the 'Tomb Raider' movie. This temple was in more ruin that m any of the others however because of this, and because the jungle around it had begun to take over, it had a very cool aesthetic. Trees have grown up and literally engulfed some walls with their trunks and vines run over the temple, sometimes leaving small gaps where carved faces can be seen peeping through. We had our tickets for the day, however after the 4:30am start and the usual baking heat mixed with a fair bit of walking and climbing ruined stairs, we were done in by midday.
Ankor Wat. One of the the principal reasons for a visit to Cambodia, this site containing numerous temples if different ages, different sizes and styles and with different degrees of preservation; it is the largest historical religious compound in the world. Advised that sunrise over Angkor Wat is something not to be missed, we began our trip at 4:30am. However by the time we had bought tickets and arrived at the site, we had missed a large proportion of the sunrise, however still caught some spectacular views and decent photographs. Speaking of tickets, the entry fee is extortionate and sadly, from speaking to locals, we realised that it is a profit turner for the government rather than benefitting the people. As Cambodia's biggest tourist attraction, its sheer size meant that finding quiet spots and peaceful times to think about its history is actually possible, which pleasantly surprised me. We did the 'small tour' because we only went for a day...

20 June 2017

We were appalled by the price of drinks...$1.50 for a gin and tonic?! as and had a good old catch up with an old friend before our early start of 4am (again...I must be mad) to go to Ankor Wat for sunrise. First impressions of Cambodia?? I love it. Such a refreshing change from the scamming Thai's,it's evidently a lot poorer but therefore a lot cheaper too and more of what we were expecting to pay before we came away. One thing to note about what makes it lovely is that the Cambodians are just genuinely heartwarming and friendly, and can't do enough to help you. They've been to hell and back but still find the time to smile and wave at you especially the kids. There's still a lot of evidence of the Khmer Rouge regime with a lot of people with missing limbs from landmines. Positive to see a lot of support for the local businesses/communities to Thrive as the government is still corrupt so it's encouraged for them to be self sufficient and make their own means of survival.
Eating out in Cambodia is delicious and so cheap! Draft beer is 50 cent! And most meals are about €2-3 dollars and there is so much to choose from. Opted for a family run Kymer kitchen restaurant, Josh even ordered a veggie meal and made the comment that he might try and be veggie for the rest of the trip...I highly doubt it but there you go. We met up with an old school friend of mine who happened to be in Siem Reap and went to the very popular 'pub street'. It's extremely lively as the name would suggest with an abundance of bars, clubs and pubs promoting happy hours '7am until 7pm' (lots of responsible drinking of course) bar crawls and the like. Walking through the streets you are harassed by the locals for tuk Tuks,local goods...including the offer of drugs with every promoted taxi ride...only offered to Josh though not myself he must look dodgy. We went to a few establishments on named "Ankor what???" which is a pun on the main attraction to Siem Reap The Temple of Ankor Wat.
We flew from Phuket to Siem Reap with ease, airline is very impressive to say it's budget I was expecting a little plane with propellers or something! We paid our 30 dollars for our visa and waited in line whilst they read each name out and you went and collected your passport on an individual basis...for a quite a lot of people off the flight this took some time.😴😴 Our accommodation is amazing, they sent a little tuk tuk driver to come and pick us up free of charge and the standard is very high more like a hotel then a hostel...comes with pool too YES! After a well deserved nap after our 4am start we set off to explore Siem Reap. Bustling town, lots of taxi drivers wanting to show you round the city (charging a dollar an hour very cheap). We came back and made the most of our pool with some ball games in the water.