Cambodia

9th January

Ok so this was a joke of a day but I guess its all part of the backpacker experience. This is a map just to show you what little distance we needed to cover, less than 200 km.

 

We woke up at 6 am for a bus transfer to the port which was smooth sailing apart from waiting 20 mins to get a ferry ticket that we had already paid for and everyone else had already been given but we were special and had to wait. a very pleasant journey back to the mainland to Ha Tien with comfy seats and an English movie on the big screen, we thought that this would be an alright day of travelling!

We arrived at the port to a lady holding our names up and were told to wait, thinking our bus will be arriving soon. we were all herded to a local family run cafe where we waited 3 HOURS for our “bus” and the women took our passports and charged extra $2 if we didn’t have our vaccination booklet ( i did 😉) or an extra passport photo (i left mine in the taxi 😬).

Finally, we thought we were on our way when the bus arrived but after 15 mins we had to get out and wait at the Cambodian border for another hour with no sign of our ladies with our passports but they luckily arrived with our visas sorted. we then walked to our next bus where we were all packed into a very hot bus and began our journey with an Israeli girl who started chatting to us and kept close to us in the midst of uncertainty.

After a drop off in Kep and what we thought would be a drop off in Kampot, the driver took a “well-deserved break” after only an hour driving and we sat on the side of a very smelly road – not helped by the fact that the bin men had just been and one girl on the bus vommed when we arrived from car sickness (we know that’s my fave thing!!!) 2 hours pass and our driver comes back and we pile into another bus. it’s 4.30 pm by now and we were meant to be in Sihanoukville at 3 pm according to the company. hopefully, our 1hr40min journey will be what it says it’ll be but NO! Sihanoukville is what I can only describe as a disgusting version of Vegas – the rate of development is astonishing with no tarmac roads or sewage pipes. so much so, our incompetent driver drove us into the sand and we all had to get out to push at 7.30 pm. we arrived in the centre to 28-degree torrential rain and muddy roads. we were not impressed with Cambodia!

We were looking forward to a recommended Italian place but once we had arrived in the hostel and dropped our bags off we checked and it had closed! Losing almost all hope we picked the top place on TripAdvisor, no matter what the price. it was the sweetest place we’ve been to called Sandan – it was a school for hospitality teaching marginalised children with a gift shop run by the parents of students to earn them a living while they go to school. we were all on the brink of tears after such a long and draining day comforted by this ethical restaurant and sweet people. our view on Sihanoukville had changed and we were very excited to get to Koh Rong the next day for some more beaching and party scene!

 

13th January

Hello everyone!! So it has been a week since our terrible journey to Shitsville and it was well worth it! we got a ferry to Koh Rong island which was absolutely stunning to then get another boat to our bit of the island on Long Set Beach (or 4k beach). we walked lugging our backpacks for around 15 mins down the beach thinking we still had another 10 mins or so to go and passed this hostel that had a swamp next to it and rubbish everywhere – I was about to say how lucky we were that we weren’t staying there to Gee saying, “this is us – The Nest!”. we were not expecting this! checked in and then got shown our 10 dorm which was NOT like the pictures whatsoever… it stank of eggs with litter in sewage with a toilet that didn’t work and overflowing toilet paper bins.

 

The next morning we gathered our feelings together – underwhelmed, disappointed, confused. it was a beautiful beach but the photos lied quite badly this time and the backpacker vibe was a bit older than us – around 25-year old and older so not particularly friendly to us young ‘uns. at least we were all being honest and getting everything out in the open and that this will happen a lot but we are ok with that and we can work on our tans! we hit the well known Police Beach party on Saturday night which was SUPER fun. met 2 guys, one of which said he lived in Singapore for 2 years scamming rich people in England… and another 2 guys who were good fun and bought us shots. we called it a night and walked the 40 mins back to the hostel at around 4.30 am. 2 hours later I am hugging – no, clinging – to the big white telephone and remain in bed all day with a cramping stomach, nice sick feeling, achy limbs and a temperature! Welcome to Cambodia! we have now deduced that the dodgy water bottle I got on my way back from the party with a mix of a lot of foreign vodka may have been the culprit 😬 the next day I was right as rain and my new diet ended unfortunately with my appetite coming back and eating marmite on toast. thank god it had though as I would not have made our next journey!


Next one down – Gee is ill all night ready for our hour ferry boat to the other island in the morning and I’m itching all over from before bugs, yay!! Once we arrive at Koh Rong Samloem we all get an instant feeling that we’re going to like it here. Saracen Bay is idyllic and looked after a lot better than Koh Rong.

We then wait for our ferry boat to Mad Monkeys Hostel and OMG we had so much fun!! They didn’t have any wifi which was so nice to disconnect and just leave your phone all day as well as the hostel being only accessible by boat and there is nothing else. The demographic was more our age with a lot of English people too so we made lots of friends along with the staff who were so friendly and made such an effort. We worked on our tans during the day, hit the pier for happy hour – there was a Geordie rep who literally put half a bottle of vodka in each of our buckets!! – then showered for dinner and partied. All of our bowels are in complete turmoil with our new lifestyle so a lot of the time we are running to the loo or commenting on how close the bathroom is from our dorms – Mad Monkeys was a 50m walk away so we have had a few close calls (*disclaimer: I think I can call myself a backpacker two weeks in now and a very good way of breaking the ice with fellow backpackers is mentioning your activity with the toilet because this is the way of life and everyone has the shits). We extended our stay for another 2 nights there because we were having so much fun and meeting so many lovely people from everywhere around the world – Norway, Germany, India, Australia. We have come across some questionable characters too. Blue hair lady who slept underneath my bunk caused absolute havoc on the first night by locking a guy in a toilet for 10 mins and then accusing him of all sorts, Ruislip guy who was a very good looking twenty years old and proceeded to ask us where we were from 3 times (I changed it up a bit every time he asked) or what there was to do in the day 3 times and our names endless amounts but still trying it on with Cici who was having NONE of it, he then did some very questionable yoga on the beach the next day which made us laugh.

Another thing at this hostel was they did DEEP FRIED MARS BARS. I had never tried one but these were almost in a doughnut batter which really hit the spot in our hungover hazes – we will be doing the cultural part of Cambodia next, it’s not all beaches and parties but for the time being 😉

We are now back at Saracen Bay for 3 nights to hopefully get our tummies under control before we have our long bus journeys to Kampot and Phnom Penh but it’s a bit hit and miss!

 

Saracen Bay was idyllic with lie ins, tanning and eating stodgy food to make ourselves feel better. We didn’t do much but that really other than going on a 30 min trek through the jungle to the other side of the island to watch the sunset on Lazy Beach (that’s me!)

 

21st January

Arrived in Kampot after the worst speed ferry ride – super choppy and never ending we all felt a bit queasy once we hit Shitsville again. We then haggled our way to get our own taxi that was only $3 more than the big bus that would’ve taken twice the amount of time #winning. Arrived in Kampot which was swelteringly hot (our first bit of our travels without the luxury of the sea to cool us down) and chilled in our dorm of 4 until we were hungry and wanted to explore. Kampot is quite the expat destination so we had two days of boujee vegetarian cafes with falafels and salads to put some nutrients back in our broken digestive systems. We had one full day in Kampot so went to a Pepper plantation around 1 hour tuk tuk journey into the countryside. It was lovely to see the countryside of Cambodia from the luxury of a tuk tuk (they are way nicer than a mini bus we agreed) and then a guided tour of La Plantation. Our driver stopped at the Secret Lake which we learnt is a secret mass grave of prisoners and villagers that died building the man made lake during the Khmer Rouge rule in the 1970s.

We had a pepper tasting at the farm and then Gee needed some lunch so we sat and had juices and curry all grown on the farm. Would highly recommend going as it is run by a french couple that wanted to give something back to the community so built a school and the plantation which accommodates families and gives scholarships to the smartest 3 students in Year 3 that pays for all their future education at the Kampot private school and university. We also learnt how black pepper is made!

We watched the sunset and got an early night for our bus journey the next day to Phnom Penh.

 

23rd January

Phnom Penh was a lot of fun but also very hard where we learnt about the Killing Fields and the Khmer Rouge.

Our hostel was the chain of Mad Monkey party hostels so our first night we felt looked after – especially as one of the reps we became friends with on Koh Rong S turned up out the blue! Gee was knackered but Ceec and I were up for the party and went clubbing which was good fun.

The next day we went to the Killing Fields which was harrowing to learn about. We had the guided audio which went into the details of the horrors that occurred only 45 years ago. What made it so real was the fabric of clothes of the innocent people in the mass graves are still being uncovered by weathering so you can see it all as you walk around. You can also see bones around and all the skulls of the dead in the monument.

This is a mass grave of just children with a tree next to it used for beating them to death.

This is a lake with thousands of bodies underneath but has been left untouched to leave the bodies in peace.

We thought it couldn’t get much worse but we then went to the Genocide Museum and we felt sick with the photographs and torture equipment on show. Innocent men, women and children tortured for no reason other than suspicion of them knowing things against the Khmer Rouge and when you are walking through the rooms the eeriness and injustice in the air makes you feel light headed.

After quite the day we were knackered but decided to hit the club again for Chinese New Year – we didn’t stay long tho, bed was calling and we had a 6 hour bus the next day!

 

25th January

We arrived in Siem Reap on Saturday after a sweaty bus journey to a very cheap, £2.50 a night party hostel. We checked in and dropped our bags off in our dorm of 18 to go for some dinner at a beautiful vegetarian restaurant. Tired we then went to bed but did not have the most quiet of nights as there was some noise going on in our room, I’ll leave that to your imagination…

Checked out of there pretty quickly to our beloved Mad Monkey hostel that has a pool!! Chilled there all day and decided to go out and hit Pub Street. SO MUCH FUN! Met lots of nice people and didn’t get to bed till 7am… Didn’t do anything the next day either and went out as a three to then getting back at 3am with a 4am start to get to Ankor Wat for sunrise. Gee and I resurrected but Cici’s alter ego said she wasn’t coming so we got our tuk tuk with our driver Hin (amazing guy, we love Hin) to watch the stunning sunrise over Ankor Wat. We got there super early and beat the queues so I had nice nap on the steps while Gee did a few loo visits.

As Gee wasn’t feeling great and with the absence of our dear Ceec we decided it best to go back and go to sleep. Hin found it hillarious!! Went to bed to then being woken up at 12pm to Cici asking us what time were we leaving for sunrise. She had no recollection of turning down the opportunity 8 hours beforehand. After some brunch we met Hin again to do the tour of the 3 main temples and watch sunset (this was part of the plan as recommended by uncle James!). A couple of highlights of our tour was getting a Buddhist blessing with a bracelet and a monkey attacking me before I threw my water bottle at it and the unimpressed guard giving it back to me.. 🙄😂

Ceec and I thought it best to go out again but this time we became friends with one of the barman Punloch who gave us a ride on the back of his motorbike to Pub Street instead of walking.

Safe to say Cici and I were very tired the next day but there is no rest for the wicked! We went to the floating village in Tonsap with Hin where, as warned, we got scammed left right and centre. Online tickets were $20 but here they were $25 as I got passed a $2 note with my change (they don’t exist but I was clever enough to realise this and demanded it to be changed 🥳) to then getting on our own boat with our guide Jon who was a little creepy but meant well. From extra $15 tours to $3 to pay for gas we saw the village, a terrifying crocodile farm and tried to watch the sunset but we were too tired, ill and hot so headed back to a girl trying to sell us little plates. We walked passed and said no but Cici took a closer look to see they had each of our faces printed on them!! We were so shocked and realised they had filmed us as we were going down the pier!! We managed to get the sunset tho on our way back to an average dinner and a shocking nights sleep for no reason other than a very uncomfortable bed.

Our last day of Cambodia was recovering from feeling ill during the night for Ceec and I, getting a well needed haircut and a cuddle with the dog while I got it, and visiting our fave restaurants for brunch and dinner. We finally managed to find some decent masks for the next 24 hours of travelling to Bangkok and then Surat Thani for island hopping in Thailand. We are taking extra precaution against Coronavirus for our 8 hour stop over in Bangkok and two plane journeys!!