Phnom Phen & Siem Reap
We travelled to Cambodia together in June 2012, Aida’s virgin visit and my second time. We had only 5 days but to see the major sights of Siem Reap and the capital Phnom Phen it is ample time.
On my previous visit I travelled over land from Bangkok obtaining my visa at the border before travelling onto Siem Reap. This time we flew into Phnom Phen from KL and started our adventure this way. Like most people, the main reason to visit Cambodia is to marvel at the sights of Siem Reap in particular that of Angkor Wat. With that in mind once we settled into our hotel we headed off to the travel agents to find out when we could make the journey to Siem Reap. The following morning was not available so we booked onto the bus that afternoon and arranged for a guide to meet up there that evening. This meant going back to the hotel and checking out. As in most places in Asia this is quite straight forward to do, we just arranged for the room to be ready for us on night 3 and 4. A quick tour of the area and then we set off on the 4 / 5 hour journey to Siem Reap. To say the roads in Cambodia are poor is an understatement! The airlines pay the Governments to keep the roads in poor condition so people prefer to fly. I don’t blame them and was fairly disappointed with myself for not booking the direct flight to Siem Reap from KL which was about $30 more.
Once we were there going through the lovely countryside, we were met by our tour guide and found a reasonable priced hotel right next to the main street aptly named ‘Pub Street’. Temple Bar is where I spent most of my evenings here last time so it was were we headed for food and 50 cent beers. The street is the main place in Siem Reap and is full of tourists with the same itinerary. A ladyboy street fight capped off an eventful day as we headed back ready for a very early start in the morning.
At 4.30am we woke up so that we could watch the sunset over Angkor Wat, the famous temple found only 5km away. It is meant to be the largest religious monument in the world so expect to spend a whole day seeing the whole area. Even though this was my second visit I still find the whole history of the place astounding and despite the searing temperatures another great day was had, Aida even got to see her very first elephant up close and personal. Personally, as good as Angkor Wat is, I think the other temples in the area are just as good, so don’t neglect seeing them.
We got back to Siem Reap and celebrated with a bottle of Angkor Beer and by putting our feet in a fish spa. This is were the fish nibble on your feet eating the dead skin. Sounds a little fishy but is actually very ticklish and the fish seemed to be very hungry.
The next day we set off early on what was to be an eventful journey back to Phnom Phen. The locals stocked up on their supplies for the trip; fried cockroaches and other delicious insects, however Aida and myself settled for a packet of Barbecue Pringles!!
There had been rain the night before so the roads (which are not all tarmac) were very muddy in areas. In one such area we got stuck and everyone except us got off into the mud whilst the bus tried to make its way out of the predicament it had got itself into. After 30 mins we finally were out and back on our way to the city. That afternoon we decided to travel to the Killing Fields, not everyones idea of what to do on a holiday but really something that needed to be done so that we could appreciate the headache the Cambodian people had endured under the Pol Pot /Khmer Rouge rule. It really is horrifying to listen to the horrors of what happened here and seeing the tree which they used to kill innocent babies is a moment that you don’t forget in a hurry. It’s one of these things that you don’t really want to do, but know that when so close to, you should go and listen to the history of the country. On our war back we called into Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which is a former High School used as a prisoner camp under thee Khmer Rouge. On of way around we bumped into a former work colleague of mine, Peter Morris who was there with his wife. Certainly a very random place to meet someone you know. On the night we ventured to the local mall for food and even bought a few DVD’s which were cheaper than in Malaysia.
Our final full day was reserved to see everything else on the ‘to-do-list’. We foolishly booked a driver to take us round but in hindsight there is no need as all the sights are quite close together. They take you the long way from one place to another to make it look as though they are required. Anyway, the cost wasn’t too much so not the end of the world. First stop was The Royal Palace. A very beautiful Palace and with the sun shining on the golden roof it looked even better. Other places of interest we saw included the Cambodia/Vietnam Friendship Monument, the National Museum and the Silver Pagoda.
All in all a very nice place to visit, not somewhere were you would fly all the way from the UK or Iran just to visit but definitely somewhere to add to a trip to Laos, Vietnam and/or Thailand.
Chris 8/10 Aida 8.5/10