Here’s a summary of my Cambodian trip:
I left Saigon (Vietnam) by bus to cross the Cambodian border. First destination: capital city Phnom Penh. Arrived at destination, I jumped on a motorbike to get to a hostel where I was planning on staying. Unfortunately, it was booked out. I met there two French girls, Margaux and Noella, who were also looking for accommodation. I joined them in search of another hostel. They were really nice so I ended up going to the market and having dinner with them as well. I had originally planned to stay in Phnom Penh another day to go visit a historical site before heading south, but as the girls were heading south the next day and I quite liked the idea of having travel companions for a few days, I decided to follow them.
Kampot & Kep
Another bus took us to Kampot the next morning. We stayed at a villa on the river, a place owned by an Aussie. It was lovely and really relaxing! That afternoon, we hired scooters to have a look around town and we found a nice temple to visit. There were a few young monks outside and one of them was really keen to practice his English with us. Tel, the monk, was 20 years old. He decided to become a monk at the adult age of 15 so he could study English. We had a nice long chat with him… such a lovely encounter!
Our villa had live music that night so we were getting ready for a nice evening, but what had to happen at some point during my travels happened… I got sick! I spent the night and following day in bed. Lucky I had medications so I was back on track after a day.
The following day, we headed to Rabbit Island, an island in front of Kep, a 35-minute tuk tuk drive from Kampot. Rabbit Island is a 2km square island with bungalows on the beach. It’s a small piece of heaven! We spent the day on the beach, swimming in the beautiful warm water and eating the local specialty: crab! Yum! I said goodbye to the girls that night as I was heading back to Phnom Penh the next morning.
Back in the capital city, I headed towards the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. You can read my blog A lesson in gratitude to know more about it. A tuk tuk driver told me that he was 4 years old when the Khmer Rouge episode happened and his baby sister died of hunger because his mum didn’t have enough to eat to be able to produce breast milk. He had people killed before his very own eyes (and not with a gun, bullets were too expensive! It was with whatever tools they could find!). He slept under the trees… It was such a horrific time for Cambodia and one still very close to the people. What a touching, sad but important visit for me.
The next morning, I headed west of the country on a bus, where I met Filippo, an Italian guy also travelling alone. So I had just found my next travel companion! Awesome! Once in Battambang, we walked around town and met a French guy who teaches French in Phnom Penh. He joined us for dinner.
The next day, we jumped on a tuk tuk to go visit three temples outside of the city. We drove through beautiful country villages with little concrete and bamboo houses, rice fields and plenty of kids so happy to wave at us on the way. The temples were nice, especially the second one with was on top of a mountain (and a few hundred steps later…) with an amazing view. As for the last site, we had to do a bit of 4-wheel driving with our tuk tuk! There was so much thick mud at some point that we had to get off and our driver and two local people pushed the tuk tuk with both their feet in thick red sticky mud! What an adventure! It was a beautiful day and I was really happy to be able to share it with someone. Travelling alone is fine, but it’s good to be able to exchange comments and thoughts with someone else.
We jumped on board of a boat to Siem Reap, the second biggest city in Cambodia and home to Angkor Wat, a historical site with temples from the 12th century (and where Tomb Raider was filmed!). The first hour on our little boat was beautiful: water and plants all around us with only a little canal for us to navigate through, floating villages, exotic birds… and even a snake that decided to visit our boat, much to the disagreement of a passenger who got the snake on her and started screaming! 6 hours later, we finally arrived in Siem Reap.
We spent the next two days visiting the Angkor Wat temples with a tuk tuk. It was absolutely phenomenal and I’ll have photos to prove it!
Sunday: rest day! We got up late, had breakky, spoke to a few tourists (including someone from Quebec!), went to the internet cafe and the market for souvenir shopping. We also did a cooking class (my aim is to do a cooking class in every country I go to!). Beautiful food (and so much of it!)!
Monday, we went to Preah Vihear, a 9th century temple on the border of Cambodia and Thailand. They were still fighting for the land only in April 2011, but it’s officially in Cambodian land. Located at 625m, the view was absolutely phenomenal: Thailand on one side, Cambodia on the other. Superb!
I said goodbye to Filippo and headed to a local school where I had organised to volunteer for two days. You can check out my blog about it here. It was such a memorable experience… one of the best in my life!
Next destination: Laos! 🙂