Cambodia: Exceeding my expectations

Cambodia: Exceeding my expectations

That’s it. Three weeks of traveling in beautiful Cambodia. So many people told me to only stay for just two weeks because “there’s not a lot to do and see”. I beg to differ. In fact, if you venture out a bit outside of the tourist trail, you’ll find that there’s an incredible diversity in Cambodia. I liked it much more than I thought but I also came with very low expectations. Here are my take on the places I visited.

Siem Reap

I went from Bangkok to Siem Reap with bus, which went smoother than I expected. I applied for an E-Visa (highly recommend so you don’t have to deal with the scams) beforehand so all I needed to do was show the immigration officers the copy of my E-Visa and cross to Cambodia. When I got to Siem Reap, my first thought was: this is really cool! But after three days, I was tired of this overly touristic city. I stayed at One Stop Hostel which was perfect for me. They had a chill atmosphere, good dorms and activities, if you wanted to for example learn basic Khmer words. It’s also perfectly located just a bit outside of “Pub Street” which is… you guessed it… A street for pubs basically, but also lots of overly priced restaurants. Lol. But the highlight of Siem Reap was definitely Angkor Wat, the main reason why people go to Siem Reap. A one day ticket costs 37 USD so come prepared. I think the one day pass was more than enough but you can also purchase a 2 and 3 day pass.

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The famous Angkor Wat, from a different angle

Overall, I thought it was a cute place but it’s far from my favourite spot in Cambodia. Come here for Angkor Wat and leave after relaxing for another day here.

Battambang

I had no idea about Battambang or where the hell it was, but after speaking to a few people, it sounded like a bit of an “off the beaten track” town. So of course I had to go. It took me about 3 1/2 hours to get there with the bus. It quickly became one of my favourite places because it had a real, local vibe to it. I could actually see some culture in Battambang! But if you’re looking to party, this is probably not the place for you to go to. However, if you like small, cute towns with nice shops, cafés and a chill vibe, you must visit Battambang. I did a day tour too where we covered all of the “important” stuff, such as Bamboo Train (yepp), Killing Caves and Bat Cave, where we got to see thousands and thousands of bats fly out from their cave for sunset. Pretty cool. I stayed at The Place which I can recommend. If you come by bus, it’ll literally drop you off almost outside the hostel. Super convenient. You can also book the day tours with them and the tuk tuk driver who works with the hostel is A-MA-ZING. We loved him, he was the coolest guy in Battambang.

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Bat Cave in Battambang

Koh Rong Samloem

If you’re going to Cambodia, you’ve probably heard of the Koh Rong islands. If not, you’re living under a rock. It’s probably THE most popular and famous spot in Cambodia. You have two islands: Koh Rong, which is known as the party island, and Koh Rong Samloem, the “calmer” one. I only went to Samloem and I really liked it. I stayed first at Saracen Beach, at Onederz hostel. It’s double the price for accommodation on the islands but for a few days, it’s doable. The beach there is SO white that my eyes were watering. I still don’t have sunglasses soooo I thought I was going blind. We did a small hike to Lazy Beach which was beautiful. Not crowded at all and the sunsets there are magnificent.

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Lazy Beach, Koh Rong Samloem

However, the beach at Saracen Bay is underrated so I recommend to just lounge around there too. I also went to Mad Monkeys for one day and it was too horrifying for me to even write about. Yuck. If you’re 19, like to get so drunk you can’t stand, be around people you cannot have an intellectual conversation with, this is THE place for you. Sorry not sorry.

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The incredible Saracen Bay Beach 

My favourite place in Samloem is M’Pai Bay though. To get there from Saracen Bay, you need to go via the Speed Ferry. It costs 5 USD but it’s so worth it. I stayed at Easy Tiger but can’t really recommend it. What I can recommend though is going to The Lookout for sunset. It’s a really cool bar and guesthouse with a really nice atmosphere. M’Pai Bay is a hippie place filled with delicious food (which can be hard to find in Cambodia), a quiet beach, lovely people and beautiful sceneries. I highly recommend going here.

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Waking up to this. I love M’Pai Bay

Kampot

Another favourite of mine. I think I liked it a lot because I met this lovely Dutch girl who shared my interest to food. We literally just tried all the cafés there. Oh, and rented a motorbike to go to Kep, a nearby town that honestly doesn’t have a lot going on, and Bokor Hill National Park, which was really creepy but cool. I stayed at Park Inn which was nice but not really a place for solo travellers. Nice beds, air con and really lovely staff though. You can also rent motorbikes with the hostel.

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Abandoned buildings and mist in Bokor Hills National Park – Creepy!

Kampot is bound to become kinda like Chiang Mai is. There’s a lot of foreign owned cafés that caters to all hipsters. But there’s still signs of local life here and that’s why I really liked Kampot. You can get both.

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Great food in Kampot. Got this yoghurt bowl at Epic Arts Cafe

Phnom Penh

The last destination on my trip. It’s honestly not as bad as everyone says it is – it’s just a big city! It’s messy, it’s quite dirty but it’s basically just a regular Asian city. The only thing that really bugged me were the party places where all the young, attractive Asian girls work in bars and all the old men goes to. It’s just a disturbing sight. Makes me feel so bad for these girls. But still, you shouldn’t skip Phnom Penh. First of all, The Killing Fields and S-21 tour is from here. It’s a must if you’re in Cambodia. I feel like we as travellers have the duty to learn more about a countrys’ tumultuous history, learn from it and never forget. We owe it to the victims. Traveling is all fun and play now but only 40 years ago, a third of the country got brutally killed during the Khmer Rouge. I think it’s important to remember that.

I stayed at One Stop Hostel in Phnom Penh and I liked it. Super chill, clean and just… good. Not much of an atmosphere but I feel like most people who goes to Phnom Penh are just there for a day and then they skeedaddle.

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A prettier side of Phnom Penh

I really liked Cambodia and I can highly recommend it to anyone who’s going. There were some spots I wished I had time to go to. Koh Kong, Kratie, Botum Sakor National Park, etc. So you as a reader, if you’ve been here or going, let me know how those places are.

I hope you guys enjoyed reading about Cambodia. If you have any questions, feel free to write in the comments!

Saum Arkoun (Thank you very much in Khmer)!

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