Cambodia is a country which has faced unbelievable tragedy yet this resilient country and it’s people are super friendly and welcoming.
We started our trip in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Phnom Penh is busy, chaotic and just felt like another big South East Asian city.
We only had one full day here but we took advantage of the day by first going to Choeung Ek Killing Fields which is located outside Phnom Penh and a 30 minute drive away. The admission fee of $US6 included an audio guide which was comprehensive. We wandered through the grounds listening to the tragedies and it is extremely sad how the Khmer Rouge killed their own people and you have to remember that this is still fairly recent (1970’s). Visiting the mass graves gave a great insight into the Pol Pot regime and Cambodian history in general.
We came back to the city and went to the Central Market for a wander and some lunch. There are many food stalls around so it is fantastic to get a cheap feed.
In the afternoon, we went to The Foreign Correspondents’ Club for some cocktails. Their passionfruit mojito was spot on! The bar had a great view of the river where we enjoyed more cocktails and the sunset.
For dinner, we went to a North Korean restaurant called Pyongyang Koryo. For me, it was such an interesting albeit awkward experience. When do you actually have the chance to meet North Koreans? We spoke Korean to them and they were interested that we were twins and from Australia but we could never relate. They are obviously forced to work here and when we asked how they liked it in Cambodia, they said it was okay but they missed the winters in Pyongyang! We had their specialty Pyongyang mul naengmyeon which is basically cold Korean noodle soup and it was super tasty yet different to other naengmyeons I’ve had. An interesting fact is that apparently North Korean food is meant to be tastier than in the South!
After a 6 hour bus from Phnom Penh, we arrived in Siem Reap in the afternoon and I instantly like it better than Phnom Penh.
We went to Cuisine Wat Damnak which is a top 50 Asia restaurant and had a 6 course meal (which is only $US28) plus a delicious dragon fruit sangria cocktail. Their menu changes weekly and they use fresh, local produce. If you are a foodie or just looking for some fusion Cambodian food with French culinary technique, this is a MUST when in Siem Reap!
We started early the next day to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. The ticket office opens at 5am and we bought the one day pass for $US20. We spent about 5-6 hours doing the small circuit which I thought was a reasonable amount of time to see everything. We first went to see the infamous Angkor Wat at sunrise. The crowds were unbelievable but it is definitely worth it. We explored the area and then headed to Angkor Thom. We walked around the extensive complex with grassland and trees and saw Bayon and smaller temples and the Terrace of the Elephants. After, we made our way to Ta Prohm where Tomb Raider was filmed. The trees coming out of the temple were insane! After a couple more stops to smaller temples, we headed back to Siem Reap.
We found out that our friend Luke was working and managing a hostel in Siem Reap so we headed to Mad Monkey Hostel for a well needed catch up. We had a couple of cocktails and then went to dinner and I had the best fish amok – this is a classic Khmer dish which is a fish curry wrapped in banana leaf. We went back to the hostel and drank more and had the “grenades” which is a tequila shot then jagerbomb (a killer) and more drinks! After the hostel bar closed, we headed to Pub Street to Angkor Wat Bar and partied there. It was super fun and great to catch up with Luke!
The next day, I was very hungover but went to a cute cafe called Sister Srey for breakfast. It is a social enterprise cafe run by Australians.
We then checked ourselves into a 5 star hotel and enjoyed the pool and recovered. In the evening, we went back to Pub Street and had a seafood dinner and had the fruit shakes (which are lined up near Pub Street and cost $1). It’s good to note that US dollars is widely accepted here. All prices are in Cambodian Riel as well as in US dollars – so take US dollars instead of changing currency into Riels.
Although our time in Cambodia was short, I had a really enjoyable time here – the people are lovely, the food actually surpassed my expectations and the sights and history is amazing. I will be back one day!