Holidays in Cambodia

View the Flickr slideshow for photos from the Temples of Angkor or other areas of Cambodia.

'Holidays in Cambodia', something which sounded pretty insane when the Dead Kennedys release the song in the late seventies, in 2006 is perfectly fine, as a matter of fact Cambodia is propably my favourite country on this trip yet.

It seemed much hotter here than in Vietnam, even though this is the cool dry season. I surely don't want to be here in the hot wet season. We had heard a lot of mixed opinion about the country, some people really liked it while others were scared to walk around. I don't know where they have been but we always felt perfectly save and welcomed, the Khmer people are really really nice and friendly.

Coming from Vietnam we arrived in the capital Phnom Penh and stayed there for a few days to check out the major sites and get an idea of the city.
Next we went to the coast in the west of the country and stayed some days in a small town called 'Kampot', we rented a moped again and drove along the sea to other small coastal towns and villages. There were hardly any waves here so we didn't spend quite as much time in the water as in Vietnam. We did a day trip to Bokor, a ghost town at the top of a mountain range. The French built it in the 1920s because up here it is much cooler than down at the coast. The road up there hasn't been fixed since the 1950s and is in a horrible state, so 40KM take over 3 hours. However you drive through some very jungely forest which is really nice to watch. Most of the buildings are just ruins but some like the main hotel and casino are save enough to work inside them. We also went to some rapids for a swim, the current here is very strong and it is totally fun to swim with and against it. Our next stop was Sihanoukville, a beach resort town further up the coast. There are no public buses going there so instead we had to share a taxi. 80% of all cars in Cambodia seem to be Toyota Camrys and our cab was one of them. We had heard that two people had to share the front seat and four the back bench, but in our case there were 4 guys in the front and 5 including us in the back. The boot was also already to full to be closed when we got in and our backpacks where put on top of the car where they got really dusty because the road is mostly just some red sand trek. In Sihanoukville we got a nice bangalow on a hill over the beach. The beach was nice especially after we walked for a few kilometers and there were no more resorts of people on it.
Back to Phnom Penh, this time we stayed in a guest house in the backpacker ghetto near a lake. We stayed in a wooden bulding on stills on the lakes and the water was right next to our room. There was a really nice common area at the lake with hammock were we spend our afternoons. By now we had developed our love for mixed fruit shakes, which replaced the Iced milk coffee as our drink of choice. I've done some cycling in and around the city, most impressive were the sites to do with the Khmer Rouge genecide, an old scholl known as S21 which was a prison to torture people and the killing fields out of town where mass gaves of killed people were found.
Next up were the temples of Angkor, we stayed 5 nights in the nearby town of Siem Reap and cycled around the area. Finally we went to a small town called Battambang where we stayed 4 days ans relaxed and ventured out into the countryside on bicycles.

  1. Cycling through the countryside and being greeted not only by the excited children but also by their friendly parents. Getting a nice smile out of everybody by just smiling at them a little bit. I love their wooden houses, these people may be poor but they seem much happier than most of us in the west.
  2. The fruit shakes in general were really good and some were just fantastic. Nothing in Vietnam or Thailand so far comes close. They have a special way in Cambodia with lots of fine ice. Our favourite one was the peanut shake at K.K.s in Battambang.
  3. Relaxing in the hammocks of our guest house on the lake in Phnom Penh, enjoying a good book and a fruit shake (what else?).
  4. The temples of Angkor, especially exploring them on a bicycle by ourselves rather than having a motorized guide.
  5. Having a close encounter with a big black snake right below my feet while cycling. Luckily she was as afraid of me as I was of her.
  6. My only train ride in Cambodia on a socalled 'Bamboo train'. This is just a small wooden platform mounted of two rail axis and propelled by an old motorbike engine. It gave me a whole new relation to the railroad tracks as you feel every little crack. We had to disassemble it once to take it of the tracks because of an oncoming train.
We take the bus from Saigon to the Cambodian border, there is a whole bunch of young Aussies on board. My Vietnamese visa expired on the 17th but everybody in Saigon said it is okay to be up to two days late and then you would have to pay a fee. However the border guard doesn't speak English and sends me back to Ho Chi Minh City for a visa extension. Some other half-offical guys in the border building take me to the side and after 20 minutes and a total of 40 US$ bribes to several people I get a stamp into my passport which allows me to leave the country. On the Cambodian side things are easier as we both already have our visas. It would have been possible to get them right there as well. It takes another hour before we actually leave the border area as we transfered into another bus and had to wait for all people to cross the border. The landscape is still flat and full of rice paddies but the buildings are quite different from the ones in Vietnam, mostly old wooden houses on stills. Also several temples in the Thai style I haven't seen anywhere on the trip before. It's really nice and I enjoy the new scenery. In check into a 7$ room in the King Hotel and have a good Cambodian local dinner at the corner of our street.