Cambodia: we see it as the land of impressive Angkor temples, a turbulent history and the tuk-tuk (the most we had seen in our entire trip!).
It is such a beautiful country but undoubtedly more impoverished compared to neighboring Vietnam and Thailand. We arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital, with low expectations.
Immediately the air pollution and dust hit us – it was the worst we experienced during our trip. We took a short tuk-tuk ride to the hotel. We had booked a 5* hotel for our stay – only 18$ a night, and at that price, I am so glad we did it! It turned out we were staying in a more up-and-coming residential area of the city, near good restaurants too.
After checking in, we immediately set off for some food and a walk around the city. We could see a lot of new development taking place and we were excited to see that Phnom Penh was so much more than what we had previously thought. As Cambodia uses the US$, we did notice that it was much more expensive in comparison to Vietnam which had been dirt cheap. The monsoon hit when we turned back into the hotel’s road. We returned, soaked, flip flops barely staying on our feet!
We visited the S20 Prison and the Killing Fields – this is the main reason travelers come to the city in order to get some context for Cambodia’s history. Although it was unpleasant, these sites really are key if you intend to get some scope of what Cambodia has faced and the consequences which are still on-going. We booked a tuk-tuk driver for the day through our hotel for 15$, who took us to the Killing Fields, to S20 and back to our hotel. Unfortunately, the tuk-tuk broke down along the way. Luckily we broke down next to a garage – what are the odds?! In 10 minutes, the driver fixed the tuk-tuk with a mechanic while we were in it (James and I looking at each other a bit worried and weighing up whether we should escape or not). It was not long until we were back on the road.
We only spent two days in Phnom Penh and actually, it was not enough! Other than walking around, taking the tour to S20 and the Killing Fields and eating at some lovely restaurants, we didn’t do anything else. I would recommend at least 3 days in order to fully appreciate the city. We did not manage to see the Royal Palace which was a real shame. The monsoon hit every afternoon so it was impossible to do sightseeing for several hours as the downpour was so heavy! A good excuse for an afternoon nap.
All in all, a brilliant start to our travels in Cambodia.
Hotel: Balconitel Boutique Hotel
Must visit: S20 Prison and Killing Fields