March - April 2017
  • Day1

    Phnom Penh

    March 6, 2017 in Cambodia ⋅ 🌙 28 °C

    After a 24 hour journey, 3 hours sleep and in need of a shower I arrived in Phnom Penh. In South East Asia anyone who has visited mentions the culture shock, only once you are there, seeing it and living it with your own senses can you understand what this means. I spent the 30 minutes from the airport glued to my window, unable to take my eyes off what was going on around me. Thanks to my lovely taxi driver, Jun Yort, I arrived at the hotel safe and sound. Dinner was at a lovely restaurant called Touk followed by a walk along the Mekong River.

    Today was a very full on day, starting with a walk around the Kings Palace, which was breathtaking and rumour has it he's still not married, so hoping for an introduction soon. However, the activities that followed were shocking to say the least. Visiting both the killing fields and the genocide museum there's very little I can say to justify the atrocity of the events of Pol Pot. Meeting a survivor of these events put into perspective how terrible this genocide really was.

    But to end on a positive note, the beer is $0.50 and I can eat a meal fit for 3 under $5.
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  • Day2

    Battambang

    March 7, 2017 in Cambodia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Today was an early start followed by a 6 hour bus journey all the way to Battambang. We stopped off at various points along the way, all of different interests and each place having a slightly distinct culture.

    First stop was Kampong, famous for its ceramics. There were ceramic Buddha's ranging from the size of my hand to twice my height. The second location we stopped of at was Pursat where I enjoyed a lovely chicken curry (for $2.00 may I add) as well as learning the area was known for its type of marble. Another stop that was made en route between villages was at a fruit store market stand. There was the most beautiful milk fruit given to us by a wonderful lady, as well as two little children who couldn't help but say hello. It has to be said their smiles made my day.

    After dumping our bags off at the hotel, we had a tuk tuk tour of the markets and town, displaying a range of fruit, fish and meat which were all very fascinating however the smell was questionable. The tour finished up at the Bamboo train which was exhilarating and unique experience that I would recommend to anyone. Heading back to the town during sunset, we finished the day by deciding on street food for dinner, another bargain ($6.00 for 4 meals)!
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  • Day3

    Rural Battambang

    March 8, 2017 in Cambodia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    After a rough 5 hours sleep due to jet lag still lingering, it was a 6.30am wake up for a 20km bike ride around Battambang and the rural areas to give an insight to how the locals live and their specialities.

    The first stop was to observe how rice paper was made, followed by being taught how to make a spring role using the paper and supplied fillings such as vegetables and shredded chicken. It was delicious and proud to say I claimed the prize for the best rolled spring roll! The next place we tried a variety of bananas and the different ways they were prepared and cooked. Everything made was delightful and the family who made it were extremely talented. Our next destination was a slightly more acquired taste, trying Cambodia's version of wine which tasted very strong and something I would drink with speed rather than sip on happily. Some of it was even being flavoured with fruit or snakes... (interesting choice). The last stop was full of fruit, having a coconut waiting for each of us and then fresh local fruits which I could eat for days! There was the most adorable child in a full Spider-Man costume who took centre stage for most of the stop, showing everyone his James Bond moves and toy guns. Throughout the journey we also stumbled across a typical Cambodian wedding, just taking in the sight of it was an experience in itself.

    On returning back to our start point it's safe to say that there were parts of my body hurting that I didn't even know existed. Despite this, a special shoutout has to go to our two tour guides who were amazing. One I had a lovely chat with called Pum who was only 19 and it was amazing to compare our experiences being at the same stage in our lives.

    Knackered and very sore, there was a group decision to have an afternoon rest which was certainly needed and I've never been so grateful to have a lie down.

    Dinner was street food at a mighty cost of $1.25 which continues to show a lot of promise for my bank account.
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  • Day4

    Siem Reap

    March 9, 2017 in Cambodia ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    At 9am we hit the road travelling to Siem Reap, around a 4 hour bus journey. Sadly we couldn't go by river due to it being the dry season and the river being too low.

    Nevertheless, along the way we stopped at a silk factory where we were toured round and shown how the silk is made. From the leaves fed on by the worms to the finished product, the process was fascinating and the time and effort that goes into the making of the silk certainly justifies the price of the products sold. In the same location they also had homemade ice cream. I had a scoop of passion fruit and mango, both to die for.

    Next stop was our hotel, which we will be staying at for 3 nights. It's absolutely beautiful and has two swimming pools, such luxury! We pretty much headed straight out to treat ourselves with a cocktail at the Raffles Hotel which was magnificent and just the toilets put our hotel to shame. Needless to say I felt quite out of place in my baggy shorts, t-shirt and flip flops. After our drinks we headed back to the hotel, enjoying a swim and another few drinks by the pool. I got chatting to the hotel owner who told me all about his family (the hotel is named after his 3 boys) and how he had worked for the UN discovering uncovered mines post war.

    In the evening we headed out for dinner through the night market. The buzz of Siem Reap was amazing and so much shopping I could stay there forever. During dinner a performance of traditional Cambodian dancing was put on by orphans. The costumes and delight on the children's faces made it all the more special. However, after dinner I experienced the not so nice part of Asia, runny bowels, so decided it was time for me to head back to the hotel and get an early night.
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  • Day5

    Exploring Siem Reap

    March 10, 2017 in Cambodia ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    Oh my goodness I am in love with this place.

    The highlight of the day had to be the circus we watched this evening. I can't even put into words how amazing, incredible, superb, fantastic this show was. The participants in the show are young adults from very poor backgrounds who have been given a chance by the group (Phare, an NGO) that run these shows. Needless to say it was worth everyone dollar I spent on it. I would highly recommend ANYONE who visits Siem Reap to see this show (Phare, the Cambodian Circus) even if you do nothing else.

    During the day however, we visited 5 temples and it is safe to say I'm certainly templed out. All of the temples we visited were different in their own way and stood for a different religion, built by a different king. Before heading out for the evening we had a swim and dinner by the pool to recover from the extreme heat we had experienced during the day.

    Nevertheless, the circus has ended my day on a high.
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  • Day6

    Angkor Wat

    March 11, 2017 in Cambodia ⋅ 🌙 26 °C

    Being a tourist in Siem Reap, or Cambodia for that matter, means you are obliged to go visit Angkor Wat temple. Being the biggest temple out of the many in Cambodia it's certainly a must see.

    It was a 5am wake up to see this beautiful temple at sunrise and wow was it worth it. We spent a total of 3 hours at this impressive site, exploring the ins and outs of it all. I think it's amazing that after the 1,000 years this temple has been alive, so much of it is still standing. I've seen many pictures and postcards of Angkor Wat, yet not until you go visit do you experience how incredibly vast it is or appreciate the work that must of gone into this masterpiece.

    After returning back to the hotel sweaty, tired and hungry I ate a well deserved breakfast of pancakes with syrup and baguette (very traditional I know). Despite the early morning, there was no rest for the wicked, heading straight out to the markets of Siem Reap. The markets have so many options and it's almost overwhelming what you can buy. But as the sun became stronger and the afternoon approached we began to wilt and decided to head back to the hotel for a swim and lie down. Delighted to have a free afternoon, I spent the rest of the day by the pool reading my book, finishing it and soaking up some vitamin D.

    To finish the day off we went out exploring the night market and life in Siem Reap and to say good bye as it is our last night.

    And finally, after a total of 14,636 steps today, I believe my sleep is more well deserved than ever.
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  • Day7

    Homestay

    March 12, 2017 in Cambodia ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    Today we left our lovely hotel and Siem Reap, which was a sad depart having loved the city so much. Our next stop was our homestay which would be a true local experience of a Cambodian.

    On the way we stopped at the floating villages. These buildings and the way of life around the river was incredible. Some people living on floating houses year in and year out. Located here are some of the poorest people and it's so eye opening having an insight to their personal lives. I feel almost silly about the worries I have in life. Here, putting 3 meals on the table and feeding your children is a big worry for these families as where this is a given for me, my biggest worries ranging from whether the spot on my forehead is gone or if I moisturised my face that morning.

    I can't quite put into words how much I admire these people and they deserve so much more credit than they get. If I think about how they live in comparison to me, although it amazes me it saddens me at the same time. Having said this, all I do is see these people smile, making me question what's necessary to make someone happy and it's not always the latest iPhone or newest shoes that do this.

    Before our homestay we visited another set of temples with a lovely tour guide who did a super job. On to our homestay, which was with a delightful family who had spent the majority of the day cleaning their house and preparing our dinner in order to welcome us. They cooked up a masterpiece and I've never had a meal so tasty. Breakfast was the same, indulging in typical local treats.

    One thing I have to say about this place is I adore the kindness in people's hearts and willingness to please. Everything is always presented with a smile on their faces no matter how much they have to offer. I feel as though I'm the luckiest person being able to experience the generosity of these people, yet they act as though they are lucky to have us, which I guess makes the whole experience all the more touching.
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  • Day8

    En Route Kampot

    March 13, 2017 in Cambodia ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    To finish off the homestay it was an early rise with a tour around the village to gain a better insight of how the locals led their lives and what went on day to day. At one of the homes there were the cutest puppies which were the centre of attention for a good 5 minutes.

    We didn't hang around however, as there was a lot of distance to be covered in order to get to our next stop, Kampot, home of the best pepper in the world. On the way we stopped at a market where they sold the usual fruits and then insects. Pushing myself out my comfort zone I tried a tarantula. Not being a spider lover I was surprised when it didn't taste half as bad as I thought it would but I can't hide the fact I couldn't bare to look at it when I ate it.

    Stopping half way for lunch at Phnom Penh, we finally arrived at our hotel in Kampot at 5.30pm, just in time for the sunset. The hotel is in a beautiful location along the river and provided the perfect spot to watch the sun go down with a cocktail.

    The day was finished with a well deserved dinner on the river at the hotel coupled with a long shower after being deprived of one at our homestay.
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  • Day9

    Kampot

    March 14, 2017 in Cambodia ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Salt and pepper being what Kampot is known for (especially pepper) we headed straight to the salt farm as our first stop of the day. It was strange to see where the salt came from but also the vast quantity they had. I've never seen so much salt in one place. The dry season, which is now (March to May), is the prime time for the salt farming therefore it is very hard work for these select few months.

    Next we went up to a cave in the hills, an area which Pol Pot fled to after the genocide to hide.The cave was impressive, with a little brick structure still remaining inside from the 7th century, all in tact. The views from the top of the cave were vast, allowing you to see for miles.

    Following on from the caves was the pepper plantation, in which I learnt that not only is there black pepper but also green, red and white pepper. All these have a different use and taste, completing foods in different ways. It was fascinating learning where the pepper comes from but also that it's quite a lengthy process between the growth on the plant to the finished peppercorn.

    After a busy morning food was welcomed with open arms, our lunch spot being located at this authentic beach hut on the water. Before heading back to the hotel, a stroll along the beach was mandatory. The next activity carried on this relaxed vibe; a sunset cruise. This lasted an hour and a half and was beautiful. Kampot being one of the only hilly areas in Cambodia provided the perfect back drop for an unforgettable sunset. The boat dropped us off outside our restaurant and being happy hour it was destined to bare great things.

    With full bellies and happy company, we left and headed towards the night market for a 'quick' snoop around. I ended the evening back at the hotel $20 poorer but having gained a new piece of clothing and as well as a few pounds.
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  • Day11

    Sihanoukville

    March 16, 2017 in Cambodia ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    After most of yesterday consisting of travel and chill time, we arrived at our last destination in Sihoukaville just after lunch time. The afternoon was free time, so for me that meant relaxing and I treated myself to some pretty pink toe nails in order for my feet to be beach ready for the islands.

    But, today.. woweeeee what a day. We had a small boat hired that took us around the small, uninhabited islands of Cambodia and my oh my were they breathtaking. We stopped off at the first one to go snorkelling and say hello to the nature under the water. However, we didn't hang around here for long and took off to the next island.

    This island was incredible and I've never seen water so crystal clear, I felt as though I was in a postcard. We stayed on this island and swam then had a delicious lunch cooked by our tour guide who certainly has a talent in the kitchen. The next few hours following on from lunch consisted of swimming and sleeping in the hammocks onshore. We arrived back at our hotel, everyone appearing as though they had caught the sun.

    The day was finished with the last supper of the tour, it will be sad saying goodbye to everyone tomorrow but the two weeks have been a blast. Nervous, I will continue the rest of my travels on my own.. hoping the next few months bring me great experiences and company coupled with a good tan.
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