Two hours from Sihanoukville lies the town Kampot. It’s known for its French colonialist architecture and relaxed atmosphere, as well as it’s world famous locally produced pepper. We liked the town straight away. The town is situated along the river, with a nice big riverfront and big streets. There’s much less traffic than in any other Cambodian town we’ve been to, and much less stress and hassle. And there’s lots of nice little restaurants and bakeries serving French food…
We rented a scooter at the hotel, and it was really nice to be able to get around by ourselves – the first time we’ve felt comfortable doing that in Cambodia. The next day we drove an hour to Bokor National park, which is situated on a mountain, to check out the so called ‘ghost casino’ and a waterfall. It got quite cold as we drove up the mountain, and we drove through a lot of fog.
As it’s dry season we didn’t see much of the waterfall, but the casino – twice abandoned, once during WW2 and during the Khmer Rouge regime – was pretty spooky in the fog. There was also a whole bunch of other absolutely massive buildings under construction on the mountain top – God knows why as there was almost no people there, and it’s quite far from anywhere. But quite a cool, if very Cambodian, experience.
On the way down we spotted a couple of gigantic birds with massive beaks. Mike got very exited. We later found out that they’re called Hornbills.
Tonight we had some proper cheese and red wine for the first time in Asia. It was really nice. We both agree that Kampot is our favourite place we’ve been in Cambodia – really relaxed and pleasant, with a nice atmosphere and pretty architecture.
We arrived in Sihanoukville after 5 hours in a minibus, and it was such a relief to be out of the smog and noise of the city and to see the ocean again. We walked down to Serendipity Beach to watch the sunset. The beach is nice but quite busy with lots of restaurants and hawkers and beggars. The next day we took a tuktuk to Otres Beach which is much more relaxed. Mike took a lesson in kite surfing.
Koh Rong Samloem
We took the slow boat out to one of the two big islands outside the coast of Cambodia, Koh Rong Samloem. We’d already been warned that the island was very quiet, with not a lot going on, but we thought we’d take a day or two to just relax. Once we got of the boat we realised that our friends hadn’t exaggerated! There was a strip of 15 or less hostels and restaurants, and that was that.
Mike went around and made enquiries about where he could possibly get his Padi divers licence. There is two companies doing it on the island, and one of them offered accommodation included in the price. It would take three days.
Around 3 o’clock we went on a boat tour with the hostel we were staying in. First we went to a couple of snorkeling spots, then we fished for a bit. We didn’t catch anything but some of the other people on the boat did.
On day one of his course, Mike started studying and was preparing for a dive in the afternoon. But because it was so windy and the waves were so big, his first dive was cancelled. The same thing happened on day 2, and the weather forecast didn’t look promising either. We debated whether to go back to Sihanoukville or to Koh Rong because we were both really bored on the island. We decided to get on a taxi boat to Koh Rong. Mike didn’t have to pay for the course.
Koh Rong is a lot busier and a lot nicer than Samloem in my opinion. There’s actually a choice of restaurants! And the beach is a lot less polluted.
Mike is going to try again to get his divers licence, and I’ll hang out here for three or four days, reading, blogging and researching for the next step of the trip.
Taking the bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh was an interesting experience. We almost crashed into cows who would suddenly run into the road several times, and the traffic felt a lot more unsafe than in Thailand.
The traffic was also the first thing that struck me about Phnom Penh, it was almost at a standstill everywhere, and there was an incredible amount of people on scooters. It was much more chaotic than in Bangkok, where you can walk on the pavement and cross the road in relative safety on the zebra crossings. In Phnom Penh there either was no pavement, or it was blocked by cars, so you have to walk in the road. If you want to cross the road you simply walk slowly out into the middle of the traffic, and hope that everyone slows down enough to drive around you. If Mike wasn’t there I wouldn’t have been able to cross the road once! Overall it was quite difficult to simply walk around and explore the city, which was a shame. We went down to the river after dark, and some of the parks and monuments were quite nice.
The killing fields & S21
On our first full day we rented a tuktuk with another girl from our hostel, and drove to The killing fields and the genocide museum at S21 to learn more about the genocide and what Cambodia went through during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. It was as expected horrifying and deeply shocking and upsetting, and put all of us in a pretty dark mood.
We decided that rather than staying in the city for an additional day, we’d get on a minibus and go down to the coast the next day. We also checked into a nice hotel to celebrate our two year anniversary since the day we met in Bacchus in Kingston!
Siem Reap is our first stop in Cambodia. As a first impression, Cambodia seems more chaotic than Thailand. Our first day in town we explored the town centre and the streets around Pub Street. Day two we got a three day pass to explore the temples of Angkor. Apart from a pool crawl on our last afternoon, this is what we spent the majority of our time in Siem Reap doing.
On our first day we went with a tuktuk driver to see the most famous three temples, Angkor Wat, the Bayon, and the ‘thomb raider temple’ Ta Prohm.
Everything is as impressive as you would expect, but spread over a much larger area than you would imagine. It’s really a once in a lifetime experience.
Our favourite temple was maybe Ta Prohm, but there was a lot of people there, which made it harder to take in.
On day two, when we did the big circuit, there was a lot less people. The big circuit takes you to the less visited but just as big and impressive, temples.
Day three we watched the sunrise over Angkor Wat with about 500 other people.