Cambodia: Wat could Koh Rong?

Trip Start Apr 16, 2013
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Trip End Dec 20, 2013


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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Kampot

After a very straight forward border crossing (rare!) we got on a cramped mini bus and wound our way along a bumpy muddy road to Kampot – a small town in the south of Cambodia famous for it's pepper! We had a lovely guest house and enjoyed chilling out after our stressful time in the Mekong Delta. For our one full day there we hired bicycles and peddled out to Trey Koh island, home to salt fields, a beautiful pagoda and a Muslim village set among gorgeous countryside. We also chilled out at the Epic Arts Café and ate 'Cambodia’s finest ribs’ at The Rusty Keyhole - yummy!

Koh Rong

From Kampot we took another packed minibus (5 people on a 3 person seat) to Sihanoukville to catch our boat to the island of Koh Rong. We’d chosen to stay on the opposite side of the island to the main strip, on a ‘resort’ called Palm Beach, but were a little apprehensive having heard that people had not been able to get out there/had been marooned there due to bad weather. Anyway, luck was on our side as we got on our rickety fishing boat with a lovely young Irish couple – Niamh and Luke. The 2 hour journey ended up taking 3 on a fairly choppy sea so we were glad when we reached dry land to be welcomed by one of the staff – ‘Beast’ and shown to our bungalow. They were very basic but clean(ish) and the beach and views were spectacular. We also bumped into a couple we’d met briefly on the bus from Mui Ne – Jess and Josh who were great and ended up being our travelling partners for the majority of Cambodia.

Our days on Koh Rong were spent chilling out in the restaurant, exploring the island and chatting with our new friends over a few beers. A few things that stood out for us were:  
  • The phosphorescent algae – paddle into the sea in the dark and as you disturb the waters you are rewarded with what looks like fluorescent fairy dust dancing around your hands/feet. It was like something out of Avatar - absolutely incredible and, as we discovered, really hard to photograph!
  •  Our hike across the island to 7km beach. This took us 2 hours through jungle, along the one very straight, very isolated road on the island and across calf-busting sand but was worth it to see the gorgeous white sand beach and play in the sea. We also adopted a dog – Onesie – who walked the whole way with us and then lived with us at Palm Beach for the remainder of our time there.  A great adventure with our new friends!
  • The wildlife – we saw hornbills, huge lizards, fish, hermit crabs and unfortunately the hugest cockroach ever (in our room).  
Sihanoukville
 
Although amazing, 3 days of basic island living was enough for us and we were relieved that the weather held out for us to get the boat back to Sihanoukville. We pushed the boat out (haha) and had a couple of nights in a nice hotel with a pool and spent the time catching up on laundry, planning and learning Canasta (a very complicated but very addictive card game!)

Siem Reap

We took 2 of the best buses we have used in Asia from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap with the company Giant Ibis – lots of leg room, films and free wifi!! We had 4 nights in Siem Reap so bought a 3 day temple pass to explore the Angkor temples. Josh and Jess arrived at the same time as us and it was great to have their company for our time there. On our first day we took to a tuk-tuk and explored the ‘big hitters’ – Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon and Ta Prohm. They really do live up to all the hype and we particularly enjoyed the hundreds of faces staring down from Bayon and the crawling tree roots of Ta Prohm. We were all a little disappointed with how much ‘conservation’ work was going on – scaffolding all over the front of Angkor Wat, ordered walkways, and some pretty unsympathetic restoration which detracts from the ancient feel of the temples.

That evening we went to see the Battambang Circus – Phare, which is a NGO giving disadvantaged youths the chance to channel their energies into learning artistic skills. It was amazing – fantastic acrobatics and a few hairy moments as the performers are still only students but the energy and performance was incredible.

For the other 2 days of our temple pass we hired bicycles and rode out of Siem Reap (along the main hi-way eeek) to explore the Roluos temples and, on the final day, the grand circuit. We enjoyed having more space and freedom to clamber over these amazing ancient buildings and read up on some of the history of the place. Cycling in the 30+ humidity was not always easy though and on the last day we covered 30miles and got caught in a huge downpour on the way back – puddles in trainers – nice.

Our evenings were spent eating, drinking, chatting and playing more canasta with Josh and Jess and we were sad to see them leave although are hoping to catch up again in the Thai islands!

Phnom Penh

Our final stop in Cambodia was Phnom Penh – the bustling, chaotic and more than a little dirty capital city.

Our guesthouse room was very clean but felt a little like a prison cell – tiny and looking out onto a brick wall so we got out to explore the streets. To put it mildly, Phnom Penh isn’t really pedestrian friendly and reminded us a little of India but we found refuge in some nice coffee shops and planned out our couple of days in the city.

We spent our main site seeing day visiting the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng (S21) prison used for mass genocide under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. S21 is horrifying; it has been left as it was found after the Khmer Rouge were driven out in 1979. Over 17,000 men, women and children were tortured and murdered there and it has a really eerie atmosphere. Similarly the Killing Fields, with mass graves and fragments of clothing and bone still littered around is a real eye opener. We found our time there difficult but were glad we’d been to understand the very recent and devastating history of this wonderful country. In the afternoon we visited the maze like Russian Market and haggled for a few souveniers before heading back for a well earned rest!

Today is our last day in Cambodia and we have thoroughly enjoyed our couple of weeks here – they have gone so fast! We’re really excited about going back to Thailand and seeing our friends and family who are coming out to visit.

Lots of love to everyone back home – keep in touch! L&J xx
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ECHO on

Amazing pictures as always!! XX

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