We travelled for just over 12 hours in one day from Koh Chang in Thailand to Sihanoukville in Cambodia – a journey we were expecting to take around 5 hours! We took a minibus, a ferry, and then another minibus. That got us to the border from which was less hectic than what we were anticipating. We had our visa already, and managed to avoid the scams that some of the other travellers fell victim to. We then got taken by car to the bus station in Krong Koh Kong where we had a two hour wait for our public bus. We sat watching the locals play dominoes – until the arrival of the buses when they would all then race to run alongside the bus until it came to a stop, and yell to the passengers offering their tuk-tuk services and scrambling to get their bags for them in a bid to win their business. This happened over and over, every time a bus, car or van arrived!
After a lot of confusion, we were finally directed onto our bus to Sihanoukville. We settled for a couple of hours until the bus then pulled up at a random intersection on the road and we, along with about 3 other people were told we needed to get off. So there we were left, in the middle of the road, tired and confused (and with no local currency)! After about 20 minutes somebody flagged down a bus for us, and we were told to get on. Once on board we realised there were no seats available. The driver did however kindly get a couple of buckets, turned them upside down, placed them in the middle of the aisle and told us we could sit on them. Ian was towards the back of the bus next to the toilet, and I down near the driver. Not so comfortable I have to say…not helped by locals staring at the white, blonde foreigner and talking and laughing amongst themselves. They did however offer me their food which I thought was very sweet. After 2 hours on this bus, we finally reached our destination at around 7.30pm, tired but in good spirits. We got a tuk-tuk and went to find some accommodation.
We struck gold with our accommodation here, a bungalow hut overlooking the beach, complete with a hot shower, toilet, air con and a hammock on the balcony for just $24. We had an early night after such a long day!
The next day we explored the beaches by motorbike taxi. Sihanoukville is a lively beachside town with a huge nightlife scene. The partying starts at around 11pm and continues through until around 7am the next morning! It seems this is a place where some of the tourists end up getting a bar job, party through the night at the end of their shift, and nurse their hangovers the next day; a recurrence that lasts for months or even years for some people. It’s a nice place, and if we had of had longer we would have got a boat trips to one of the more secluded islands.
We arrived in Kampot the next morning after a two hour journey from Shihanoukeville. Kampot is a cute old French colonial town on the river, its very laid back and peaceful. We had just one night here and enjoyed the local way of life the town offered.
Phnom Penh is the capital city of Cambodia, and what a city it is! The roads are manic with mopeds, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, cars and buses and we enjoyed just sitting at a café on the street watching the madness around us. This city is rebuilding itself from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge and genocide in the late 1970s, a history that is harrowing, and fascinating. Here we went to the Toul Sleng Museum which was once a High School until it was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and used as their prison, called S21, where they would torture and kill their victims. We also visited the ‘killing fields’ at Choeung Ek where the Khmer Rouge executed about 17,000 people and buried them in mass graves. The prison and the killing fields are now a museum/memorial to showcase the horrors that took place here, as a reminder and in remembrance to those victims and their families.
Besides these moving sights we also went to the central markets, strolled by the riverside and ate some great Khmer food. A stand out is a restaurant called “Friends” which trains and employs local street youths to help them to build a career. The food was sooo good – best meal so far! Highly recommend that anyone coming here pays it a visit.
We spent three nights here after another bus trip spent listening mostly to the bus driver beeping his horn at absolutely anything that moved on the road ahead. We visited the temples at sunset, as entry is free after 4.30pm for anyone who buys a ticket for the following day. The next day was a full day spent exploring the temples of Angkor, one of the wonders of the world. Mighty and impressive they were, it’s incredible the engineering that has withstood the elements since being built in the 900s.
Each night it poured with rain or storms for about two hours. The rain intensity was incredible, as was how quickly the streets dried out after being basically flooded under 10cms of water. More good food, markets, and incredibly cheap drinks. 50c beer anyone?
See next: Vietnam