Hello. My name is Danny. I'm 25 and live in London. I was lucky enough to take a 1 year, solo, around the world trip (Sept 08 - Sept 09). I would like to share my experiences and photos (shot with an LC-A+) from my adventure with you.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
I arrived in Cambodia on November 8th in 2008 with my backpack, my guitar and my camera. I had left Laos 15 hrs previously on a rustic bus. The aisles of the bus were packed with 10-15ft planks of wood (taking up almost the length of the bus), and stacked on top of each other about 3 ft high. To get to your seats (unless you were seated at the front), you had to climb onto, and walk along, the planks of wood.
When we (me and my friend Danielle, who i met on a bus in Laos, and was traveling with) arrived in Phnom Penn, it had been raining constantly for days.
We found a hostel but it was flooded. They had drinks crates and sandbags as stepping stones in the reception of the hostel. But we were pleased to be out of the rain and under a shelter after long days traveling.
Arriving in a new place is always exciting. After 10 days swinging in hammocks, we had arrived in one of the most busiest cities I’ve ever visited. I remember the intensity of crossing a road – that was 6 lanes wide. And there are no ‘real’ traffic rules that seem to be followed. I crossed on a zebra crossing, stopped half way and was looking in the direction of on-coming traffic, and then was startled as i heard an aggressive car horn, coming from behind me. The driver was driving on the wrong side of the road! And this is totally typical of Cambodia!
We arrived in Phnom Penn a few days before the ‘water festival’ (one of the main festivals of the year, in Cambodia). The festival lasts for 3 or so days, during which there are numerous ‘boat races’ on the river that divides the city. The boat races were awesome, as was the vibe. People would flock to the streets in the early afternoon, with vendors selling beer, sweets and a variety of cooked insects (Danielle and I – whilst drunk – ate fried Tarantula and cockroach!). During this festival the population of Phnom Penn triples!
We visited the tourist hot spots – such as S21, The Killing Fields and a shooting range (word on the street is that you can throw a grenade at a cow if you pay enough money – i opted for a paper target instead). S21 (the school turned into torture house under Pol Pot’s regime where blood still stains the walls and ceilings) and The Killing Fields (the fields/graves where mass executions happened – over 8000 people were murdered in that field) were both very very depressing, but very informative. Definitely an essential place to visit if you are in Phnom Penn.
I also found my ‘bargain film store’ of my entire trip. A pro photo lab, selling expired Kodak Elitechrome for 1usd a roll!!!! I think i ended up buying around 30 rolls of film there.
Another thing i noticed in Phnom Penn is that a lot of the local people seem to spend all day in their pajamas! It’s so awesome. You will see a mother, and daughter buying fruit at the local market, both in their PJs! They should do that in the UK more! Also, the ‘amount of people’ to ‘one moped’ ratio is the most i have seen in Cambodia. The record i saw was 6 people on one little moped.
After 9 days in Phnom Penn, we traveled to Siam Reap. I instantly got a great vibe from the city (i have found from traveling that you instantly pick up a vibe from a place, and can usually tell if you will love it, within the first hour of being there). It felt great to be there as soon as we had arrived.
Siam Reap has a more beautiful, arty and open feel to it i guess. Its a lot more ‘pleasant’ than the smog and general chaos of Phnom Penn. There are tons of galleries, museums, markets and great places to eat, all within 20 minutes walk of each other.
Here are some recommendations if u visit Siam Reap:
Make sure you drink at ‘Angkor What?’ bar. Its the party place of the town.
Also, there is an organic restaurant/bar called ‘The Singing Tree’ which put on different events most nights of the week. When i visited, they had a ‘monk chat’ once a week, where a monk from a local temple would come down and answer any questions you have. It was very interesting.)
And ‘Blue Pumpkin’ is a coffee shop/bakery that looks like Apple mac designed it! Its Uber-cool, air conditioned and they even give you a minty-fresh moist hand towel when you walk in to freshen yourself up.
Anyway, Siam Reap is the nearest town to ‘Angkor Wat’. We spent 3 days exploring the temples by bicycle (which i recommend) and arrived on the last day for sunrise.
You can read up on the temples of Angkor in Wiki
But it is perhaps one of the most amazing man-made things i have ever seen.
After 10 days, truly inspirational sites, lots and lots of great coffee and many hangovers, it was time for me to leave Siam Reap, and fly to Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia for the next part of my adventure.
Cambodia is a mixed bag of emotions. There is such great beauty (the people, the culture, the food, the landscape, both natural and man-made) but also a darker side of it (the dark past of Pol Pot’s time – i strongly recommend reading up on it – and also the reminder that Land Mines are still a MAJOR PROBLEM in Cambodia. You are reminded this regularly as you see adults and children victims with missing limbs.) My time in Cambodia was a great experience, nevertheless, and i highly recommend you visit the country.
I hope to return one day.