Cambodia is an amazing country. Whoever you talk to, they will always tell you – the nature is beautiful, but society is extremely poor. As my dream is to work in a humanitarian field, I have always been attracted to places like this, and so I had to satisfy my curiosity and make my own opinion.
My trip has originally started in Bangkok, where I visited all the well-known tourist spots. I have to say that even though Bangkok was really nice (and it has its magic), I was not amazed by this place. The best thing about my short stay was Thai food (the food never let you down in Thailand!).
Ride or fly?
However, Bangkok was not my final destination. My aim was to travel to Siem Reap in order to see the famous Angkor Wat temples. I have read dozens of articles about what is the best way of travelling from Bangkok to Siem Reap. The air tickets at the time of my travels were a bit out of my budget, so in the end I have decided to book a bus trip. Despite the reviews being a bit upsetting, I believed that six hours journey for $25 was a great deal. This time it was worth the risk! There was absolutely no problem on the way (except for two Italian guys behind me, who were snoring all the way to Siem Reap, but honestly, after I turned around I forgave them straight away 🙂 ). The border crossing was supposed to be another troublesome part of the trip, though, for me it was again without any problems (even when I had forgotten all my visa application photos on the bus, nobody cared and one smile solved it all). For anyone making a similar decision, I can definitely recommend taking a bus to Cambodia. Morover, I was sure about meeting all these people in Angkor Wat the next day (and I did), so if you are travelling alone, it is also a good place to find yourself a company.
When we crossed the border it was magical. The dark cloudy and rainy weather has changed into sunshiny day. The whole country has also transformed. Widespread greenlands combined with the red dirt and blue sky made me feel relaxed and happy. When we arrived to Siem Reap, there was already a driver with his tuk-tuk waiting for us, so we got to the hotel very quickly. At that point we didn´t know that our room is full of bedbugs and we will need to sleep in another hotel. Despite being in Cambodia, this problem was solved surprisingly fast. I was already tired and excited about being in Siem Reap at the same time, so I didn´t mind, where I was sleeping. On top of that, I knew that while travelling in Asia I have to be prepared for everything, so I was glad they didn´t let us sleep in that room, like they did in Vietnam!
The Angkor beauty
After waking up and having breakfast my plans were obvious. I was going to Angkor Wat temples, but first I had to find a way to get there. From my ´homework ´ I knew I can rent a tuk-tuk driver, who will drive me around the complex for the whole day, but I had to bargain the price. As it was two of us, nobody wanted to go below $15 a day, which in the end turned out to be a good deal.
We had a ride through the city and then went for about 10 km away from the town. The whole day consisted of going from one temple to another. Everytime I had a feeling that it cannot get any better or more beautiful, it did! And even though I have visited more than ten temples in one day, every single one was different! The best time for visiting the temples is in the morning, because you can walk in the shade and it is not that hot. However, talking about the Angkor Wat temple itself, the best time to visit was supposed to be between 2-4 pm, when the sun is turning (till then the sun is behind the temple, so all the pictures are taken against the sun). Well, it is and it is not a good advice to follow. Firstly, there are hundreds of people comming at the same time like you; and secondly, it is unbearably hot (and I really mean it, when I am using the word unbearably!). When I was leaving tuk-tuk my driver offered me an umbrella, which I refused to take. I am an adult woman and I have stamina, or no? Don´t be as stupid as I was and listen to the locals, when they have an advice to give! After 10 minutes of walking alongside the bridge that leads to Angkor Wat, I have realised, why even man had umbrellas. There is no shade or trees by the bridge, so you have nowhere to hide from the sun. When I got to the middle I simply had to go to the nearby forest to have a rest and stay in the shade for a while before I was ready to continue. I was exhausted from the heat and that day I have drunk around five litres of water (some of my friends would be proud of me for drinking this much) but it was all worth it. The temples were beautiful and mystical. After returning back to the hotel (this time finally with no bedbugs), I was looking at the pictures and I was able to think only about one thing – I want to go there again (and again, and again if possible)!
Eat, eat, eat!
Surprisingly, Cambodia is not only about Angkor Wat. It is also about food! After couple of months in Bali, where my daily menu consisted of rice with vegetables and eggs, I have enjoyed Cambodian cuisine. I am always searching for local and very cheap restaurants to eat. Tiny little place on the corner with three local ladies inside felt like something I could give a shot, and I have to say I hit the target! For $1 you can get any kind of meat you want prepared with onion or various types of vegetables. Though, my most favourite dish happened to be traditional Khmer Lok Lak. Beef with the delicious mix of seasonings cooked into perfection and served with rice and raw onion. If you are guessing that the other day I came to eat to the same place again, you are more than right!
This tiny restaurant is not the only place worth visiting in Siem Reap. The town is very touristy, but cozy at the same time. There are a lot of nice places to eat and drink, although the closer to the centre, the more expensive you dine. People around me know, that I love good coffee and sweets. Regarding this I need to say, that I am not a big fan of an ice cream, BUT I have to admit, that there is place near Siem Reap´s Old Market, where I have eaten the best ice cream of my life and it was not because it was homemade or bio, I swear! The place was called Fifty5 Café and they do offer homemade chocolate ice cream made from 70% cocoa (or you rather fancy vanilla or strawberry? They have everything!). If you travel furter in Cambodia, you should definitely enjoy the food in Siem Reap, as for example in Phnom Penh it is not so easy to find food, that would be so cheap and tasty at the same time.
History, nature, food – the last thing missing is the people. Cambodians are really nice and they are willing to help (and sell you everything, exactly like in the other parts of South East Asia). However, Cambodians are special in a certain way. When I was talking to people on my travels, they always told me that they thought people in Vietnam (Thailand, Indonesia, etc.) are nice but Cambodians are even nice. I have to agree. There are locals who would stop you and talk to you about what you do, where you studied, or how you like their country, and all this in a very decent English. It won´t matter, whether you are in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh or a local village, people are kind and thankful all over the place.
I have only spent in Cambodia a couple of days, but it was enough for me to fall in love with this country. In the future I would love to go back and explore it much deeper.