Floating Village. Daytrip.
I stayed in a super hotel whilst based in Phnom Penh. There is certainly no shortage of cheap hotels in Cambodia and this was the first trip I had taken where I was able to have a room, rather than a bed in a dorimitory. What made it for me with this hotel was the staff. The receptionist was extremely helpful with booking my bus to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), arranging a Vietnamese visa for my passport and suggesting various things to do whilst in the area.
My first evening in Phnom Penh, I did a city tour in a tuk-tuk. I had a guide who spoke good English and took me to the top places. He was happy to sit and wait for me and take my photographs all for a set fee. Of course, I gave him a good tip at the end of the trip.
Phnom Penh has many sights to see and is full of friendly people. If you're waiting for a visa to come through, it's a good base for a couple of days.
My second day, I did an excursion to a floating village on the Mekong River. I paid about $20 for the boat which works privately. If you turn up with a party of 10, you all go on a boat, if you're in a crowd with a bus, you all go together. As a solo traveller, I had a huge boat all to myself. I even got to drive it! It was great to see the floating village, we also went to a crocodile farm which I didn't enjoy so much but overall it was a good experience.
The Killing Fields.
I went to Cambodia as quite an ignorant traveller. It wasn't until I got there that I made the connection with all of the tragic history the country had been through. Once I felt a little more educated, I decided to visit the Killing Fields. They are just outside the city and you can hire a tuk-tuk driver for the day at an agreed cost, quite cheap if you're good at bartering. Check with hotel staff to get an idea of the cost.
On our way, we pulled off the road and went to a barn. I was a little concerned about what I had gotten myself into being with this driver in the middle of nowhere. I got out of the tuk-tuk and four men approached us from inside the barn. As you can imagine, all of these terrible thoughts start going through my head that I had made a terrible mistake.
Fortunately, (depending on how you look at it), I had been taken to a firing range. There were walls and walls of weapons which you could pay quite a lot of money to fire- machine guns, hand grenades etc. I felt very uncomfortable being offered this 'service' as I was on my way to the Killing Fields where there had already been so much violence. It made no sense to me that the driver had brought me to this place- a single twenty-five year old girl firing AK47s isn't who I am!
The Killing Fields themselves were especially moving. The place is silent and you can have an audio guide for free. It has recordings of survivors giving their recounts and takes you around the area giving information about what it would have looked like. It was truly fascinating and very powerful. Travellers seemed to leave wristbands and bracelets as a mark of respect for the people who had falled at the fate of the Khmer Rouge. I added a bracelet I had acquired in Egypt. There is also a museum which you can visit at the end of the audio tour. When you read about the fates of the perpetrators you will definitely walk away feeling a mix of emotions but it is worthwhile to visit.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.
I took a bus from Phnomh Penh to Siem Reap. It was an overnight bus, my first Asian experience of such a bus and I was amazed that you actually have a bed. On a bus! Fascinating. Other experiences I have had involved a reclining seat that would never recline far enough! You can buy a ticket from most hotels or from the bus station itself. Tickets should be less than $20.
I arrived in Siem Reap before 5am and had a tuk-tuk waiting to take me to my hotel.
Unfortunately, that was probably the only good thing about my hotel. They had arranged a driver to take me so I didn't have to wait around trying to find someone at 5am.
Within minutes of arriving, I had to change rooms because there was such a terrible smell in the room I had been assigned.
As I had been travelling all night I went straight to sleep to be awoken at 7.30am because they were doing rennovations.
I decided to go out and explore Siem Reap. What a beautiful little town it was. So quaint with the river running through the centre. People were very friendly and it was extremely easy to find a tuk-tuk to arrange trips for the following days. With so many drivers offering their services, it was good to compare them and get an idea of what would be a good price. I arranged for a driver to take me to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat for $20. I would then keep him for most of the next day to visit the other temples around the site.
The entry fee to Angkor Wat is $20 for one day or $40 for three days. I recommend paying $40 as you can then come and go as much as you like over the three days. Even if you only use it for two days it is still excellent value as there is so much to see. You may even be lucky enough to see wild monkeys swinging in the trees.
Angkor Wat is one of the most spectacular places I've seen. Make sure you take plenty of water as it soon gets hot after the sunrise. The water being sold around the complex varies in price but if you're desperate you may end up paying over the odds.
One of the most interesting things I found about Siem Reap was that beer was considerably cheaper than bottled water! You can guess what my choice drink during my stay was!
Cambodia: I turned up. I had no plan!
I went to Cambodia because Wolvo (the one fron Inter-Railing and the Greyhound) was coming to Thailand at the beginning of August and I had five weeks before then so travelling to Phnom Penh seemed like a great idea!