My Southeast Asia adventure
I am a massive fan of Asia, having visited Thailand several times and Myanmar, I decided it was time to have a taste of other parts of Southeast Asia. In a rather ambitious trip. I decided to visit Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, my plan was to end with the Gibbon experience in Huay Xai in Laos. I brought my backpack and my bumbag, all set with my Lonely planet and my plane ticket, I set off for Siem Reap, Cambodia. I decided I didn’t want to be tied to any place so I didn’t book hostels or transport, travelling Asia people tend to change their plans all the time. Here is my blog covering my month trip which I must say has been one of the best holidays of my life, the people, the places, the freedom is so intoxicating. As a treat to myself I flew BA to Bangkok, direct flight, big spender hey, I arrived in Cambodia with no problems and found my hotel very easily. I thought I had booked a hostel but it was evident when I got there it was a hotel, probably should have read that In the title, Bopha hotel, having an obvious sponge brain moment. As a lone traveller, in aim to met more people my aim was to stay at hostels, but this first stop in a hotel worked out well, very nice hotel for very cheap. Great shower (which later would be appreciated more) and fantastic staff. This holiday is no slacking, I have a ton of bus journeys between places, no rest for the wicked, so I arrived Siem Reap about 8am. I dumped my stuff at the hotel, checked in, then I got a tuk tuk from outside the hotel, for about 20 usd he was my tuk tuk driver for the whole day. I did a temple route which he showed me on his map, I expected to be in awe of the temples as seen as it is the 7th wonder of the world and honestly I was! The temples are breathtakingly beautiful, if you are agile enough and can climb, you can get some great shots. Every temple was more beautiful then the next, my favourite was Angkor Thom. The heat was intense so take sunscreen, being a Buddhist place, I fully covered up unlike some other bum wriggling tourists I saw, therefore I was sweating and roasting but respectful. I immediately brought some typical pants they sell westerners, outside Angkor wat for 3 usds, they were a staple for the entire trip, I don’t think I even unpacked other stuff from my case! In the evening my tuk tuk driver recommended a traditional dance show, I paid 12 usd and had an all you can eat buffet and watched some traditional dance. It was lovely to feel like you are seeing some Cambodian culture, I had my first Cambodian beer so after an initial thought of an early a night I rejected that and I took myself to Pub street. Famous street where people go to drink and party. Someone from the traditional dinner place, a Malaysian guy recognised me and invited me to drink with them so I did, a few beers later I had befriended a group of English guys and from there the night was epic dance moves and shots of anything! The next day in Siem Reap was a bit of a write off due to my hangover, ashamed to say it but I meandered around a bit then relaxed in my hotel room, the evening I went and had dinner at a nearby cafe, then I got my backpack and checked out for my night bus to Phomn Penh. A short but sweet stay in Siem Reap. The bus journey to Pnomh penh included the worst road ever! I did not get an ounce of sleep as the roads are pretty bad between the two cities. Here I checked into a hostel called Mad Monkey, a proper backpackers place with nice clean rooms and a bar and restaurant. The place had plenty of tuk tuks outside but be careful as some guys got ripped off. I rented a tuk tuk for the day and the guy did it for a reasonable price, he took me to the killing fields and the museum, both these things are highly recommended to do, really sobering and give you an idea of the Cambodian past, which is very sad. The killing fields are mass graves and it is very so bearing, you can rent a tour guide or take an audio and go at your own pace which is what I did, gives you plenty of time to sit and reflect. The museum is where prisoner were held and tortured, this was pretty sad too, interestingly they had survivors selling their books, I recommend speaking to them and buying their books, Inspiring people with tremulously sad stories, lots of people left here crying including me. I had to sit for a while after and think about how lucky I am in a world where there is such cruelty. In the evening I met other backpackers down in the hostel bar, I joined in a few drinking games then headed to a few bars. I was pretty tired and still fresh from my Siem reap hangover so I made it back to my hostel earlier than most. The next day in Phonm penh, pandemonium seemed to have been released, the water party was commencing and millions of people were heading to Phonm penh, I walked around the town and decided it was far to many people for my liking and I found some other guys in my hostel and we paid a private taxi to take us to Sihanoukville, bit extravagant but all the buses and normal taxis were booked out as other tourists were getting out too! The taxi drive wasn’t to bad bar the road traffic accident we drove past, we arrived in sihanouckville 4 and half hours later and headed to Occuctreal beach, due to all hostels on Otres beach being fully booked because of the water festival holiday. Sihanouckville was a party place, a tame version of Koh Phi Phi, it was far to touristy for my liking, many people travelled over to Koh Rong for a more tranquil experience. If partying is what you want then go ahead but I thought It was a bit to much of what I have seen before, I stayed 2 nights and that was plenty, I did meet some lovely people who made the experience fun, the bar Utopia was probably the highlight with its cheap as chips beer and relaxed vibe for meeting other travellers. After partying I decided to head to Kampot and Kep. I had read about it in the Lonely planet and this town sounded so lovely, quaint and quiet, a more Cambodian atmosphere. I travelled by bus, it cost nothing like most buses in Asia, and took about 4 and half hours if I remember correctly, I got a super early bus at 7am, well they made me get up at 6am to wait but like most drivers he was late and arrived around 7.15am. I stayed at Captain Chims Guesthouse, which isn’t directly on the river but there are many guest houses that are and were probably more lively than mine. Captian Chim’s had just opened so I was one of a few guests, the dorms have no door which was annoying, especially with no lockers but if you provide him feedback I think he planned on making adjustments. I quite enjoyed the peace and quiet and I got a tuk tuk who took me around for the day. I went via Tuk Tuk to Tek Chhouu Falls, it was really pretty, due to the water festival it was very busy. People where playing and swimming in the falls, there was café and restaurants along the river, if you walk further up the hill you can come further along the waterfalls and there are restaurants on the falls edges, for 12 half dollars you could order enough for 3-4 people, sharing platters of amazing sea foods and various other dishes, the squid looked great. I literally was the only westerner there so I didn’t attempt to get my bikini body out, I just pulled up my trouser legs and went and sat on a rock in the falls for about 20 minutes, some Cambodians lads came and gave me a beer, this was very nice, we exchanged names and they even offered me to come eat with them, my tuk tuk driver was waiting so I drank my beer and headed back. The tuk tuk driver then drove me to Kep, it took about an hour but the scenery is lovely and it wasn’t a chore doing it by tuk tuk. In Kep I walked along the beautiful beach and then went and sat and had dinner where the people board to go to Rabbit island, the food was nice and very cheap, I think this restaurant was also owned by Captain Chim. That night I sat at the bar in The Rusty Keyhole up by the river front, I had beers with the local expats, it was a really good day. The next day I did a tour to Rabbit Island, I booked through an agent in the town and to be honest it was a terribly organised tour and I recommend not booking with this agent, he is the one that is just right opposite the road as you turn out of Captain Chims cafe on the corner. Rabbit Island is a nice little getaway, some people go for a few days, but one day visit was enough for me, not overly much to do, probably great for couples and families. It was lovely to immerse myself in the sea and watch the world go by. Unfortunately the journey back was crap due to a torrential downpour, by the time I got back to my hostel after waiting and waiting at several different places for buses I was freezing, I waited so much because no one said my ticket was valid and I got shoved from bus to bus and then I think they just stuck me on a local bus, I was a bit miffed but that is Asia, you have to let a certain amount just slide off your back, so I showered and headed back to the Rusty Keyhole for the famous ribs. Christian the owner was lovely, as a lone traveller he made an effort to ask me questions and chat to me as I hadn’t made many companions in Kampot, despite that I loved it, the ribs were great, then I sat in O’Neills a Irish bar on the river front and had lots to drink! Some generous woman I befriended at the bar left and paid for all my drinks! I hate the fact I forgot her name but she was very generous and added to my feeling of how good the world is. Apparently there is a bit of a low-key nightlife scene due to lots of expats in Kampot so don’t think it’s a sleepy village, apparently the night before I arrived there was a massive party that was the talk of the town! Anyway the next day I ate at Captain Chims and waited for my bus to take me to the Ha Tien, the border of Vietnam. This journey was actually very good. Getting to Ha trien was easy, I travelled via mini bus with several other people then at Ha Trien I transferred to a big coach to Saigon, I can’t remember how long it took but it pretty much took a whole day. The border control was not bad,bar the charging me 1 usd to take my temperature, maybe checking for Ebola 😉. I arrived at my hotel after a taxi ride from the bus station (which was fairly far, 250000 dong) around 11pm, I had a quick walk around and then went to bed, I had booked a Mekong River tour for the next morning through my hostel, Hideout Hostel. So it was goodbye Cambodia, short but sweet, I did really love it, the only negative is the insane amount of tuk tuks harassing you and the constant begging from the poor, I gave to a few beggars but you can’t give to them all.