I've been slacking on the blog front so I'm gonna lump the country of Cambodia, also known as the Khmer empire, into one blogpost.
My itinerary here was to start at the capital Phnom Penh to the coastal town of Sihanoukville, to the infamous temple town Siem Reap and finally a small town Kampong Thom on the way back to depart from the capital again.
Cambodia is sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand but has been the lesser explored of the two. It is certainly relatively undeveloped compared, however it wont be long as the tourist surge from the surrounding countries hits on saturation point. Compared to Vietnam, the people are more friendly here and the women are more beautiful! Its very cheap too, letting you indulge in as many cuisines and Khmer massages as you may want!
I found it very hot here at this time of year with often there being thunderstorms in the afternoon. Besides the bit of night life here, I didn't hang around for too long and quickly moved to Sihanoukville. The beaches here were amazing and it is such a thrill coming from Ireland and getting into water that's Luke warm, aaaahhhh! Otres beach is where I spent most if the time while heading back to the centre for a little clubbing and to play some acoustic music with Kathleen at the zephyr bar.
Everyone raves Bout the great Angkor temples in Siem Reap and so it was no surprise that it was our next stop. To be honest the first encounter of the temples was a little underwhelming and heading there during the hot overcast daytime probably contributed to that experience. How and ever I took another trip at sunrise and that was far more special. I could really appreciate the scale and craftsmanship of the largest religious temple in the world (Hindu). I also stopped off at the nearby tree temples made famous by the Tomb Raider movie. These places are quite touristy and so expect hassle from some of the locals to buy stuff.
The final stop before departing from Phnom Penh was a passing town called Kampong Thom. This was quite an experience actually and one of the most memorable of the trip, purely cos it was (a) off the beaten track and (b) I was totally alone. The bus driver actually drove through the town without me being fully aware, leaving me to halt him a kilometer or two outside the town boundary. So.... here I am, the only white guy with a backpack perched on his back, a guitar case and wearing a straw hat traipsing down the road side in midday heat. To say I didn't get stares and smiles is an understatement! I actually got a little bit worried as I was completely alone here and had no accomodation booked. I bit the bullet and asked a random guy on a bike to give me a lift to the town centre, although it had to be done using hand signals as language communication was lacking big schtyle! Few memorable things happened here, the first being the bug infested room. When I came out of the shower I literally spent one hour killing bugs in my room some the size of big caterpillars in hope that I could kill most of them before I fell asleep. They werent disappearing and once I spotted them zipping across my bed sheets, I complained promptly to reception. To put it bluntly, they laughed, some silly white guy afraid of a few bugs in cambodia??! I was angry and actually turned around at one point with "I don't find it one bit funny mate"! The whole town was booked out of accomodation so I had no choice but to stay. After some bug spray and sweeping up, I slept there the night, albeit very tired in the morning. The second incident was the visit to the local temples on the mountain. I got on the back of a motorbike of an old man who does tours in the area and he brought me to this Buddhist hill temples on the nearby mountain, habitated by only monks and nuns (and their respective families). I was the only foreigner around so it was quite surreal. After a thousand steps on my own, a run in with mischievous-massive monkeys, I arrived at this impressive little village. It was like a mini-eurodisney theme park for religious worship, pathways neatly crafted into the mountain, ornaments dotting the landscape and of course the typical over-sized Buddha statues and glittering temples associated with that religion. After getting slightly scared by a pack of 5 barking dogs, a local kid showed me the rockview area where I could see the surrounding landscape plains, unbelievable, I'm sure it was very similar to what Simba would have seen that time he was raised on top of pride rock in the lion king!
What did I think of Cambodia? I really liked it. Its cultural, the people are friendly, the women are good looking the food is great and cheap and it hosts one of the top world tourist attractions. Downsides, it's a little raw for those who like their modern comforts, it can be uncomfortably hot most of the year for those not a fan of that but other than that its defo worth a 10 day visit form your Asian Itinerary to check it out. Salut!
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