Last november, my friend and I went for a 18-days trip to Cambodia & Vietnam. This post is a summary of this wonderful experience, which, I hope, will give you the desire to reproduce our adventure, or at least make you think about it.
Enjoy your reading ^^! – 3-days trips to Cambodia:
BATTAMBANG FIRST EXPERIENCE
Although arriving with the plane in Phnom Penh, we only plan to stay for the night as we plan to attend a school’s show in Battambang the following evening (which, in the end, was cancelled).
So, early in the morning, we head for the bus station which is 2 minutes away from the hotel. Despite the early hour (7AM), the streets are already full of people gathering and motorcycles hitting the roads. It already feels different and exciting.
The intercity bus that heads for Battambang (20 000 Riel = 4 Euros) is our first experience with southern-east-asia roads. The only road linking Phnom Penh to our destination is a straight, worn out, two-way road, whose full width is entirely occupied by vehicles: cars, buses, bikes, motorcycles, but also travelers by feet! And the general rule is: there is no rule. I haven’t seen any speed-limit traffic sign, nor any road officer or road line. And it doesn’t seem like cambodians actually need them. You want to overtake? Just honk! Not enough time to overtake? Just hit the gas!
The Battambang Bamboo Train
Stepping out of the bus in Battambang, we decide to find a hotel on our own. Big mistake. We rapidly end up in the middle of nowhere. So we ask locals for directions by showing them a map, but there’s a problem: they can’t locate themselves on a map (an issue we encountered several times in Cambodia). With a little help, we arrive at the Royal Hotel: a decent, well-located hotel with nice bedrooms.
After eating a well-deserved and rather good meal on the rooftop, a guide suggest a tuk-tuk ride throughout the surrounding of Battambang, which consists of a couple of small temples and a mysterious Bamboo Train…
As we get back to the city, night has fallen. The guide advises us to eat at the Smokin Pot. Great choice. I take the “Fried Chicken II” which is d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.
Then we head for the Gecko Cafe, a small bar at the corner of the street. I decide to focus on local, unknown cocktails, and I end up trying the Red Gecko and the Blue Gecko. Good stuff.
Although it’s only 10.30 PM, everyone else has left and the streets are empty. It’s weird to feel the city totally deserted and silent at such a time.
We go back to the hotel: A long day awaits us tomorrow!
- Royal Hotel: good and cheap, with a good restaurant on the rooftop
- Smokin Pot: delicious! Try the Fried Chicken II.
- Gecko Bar: small but nice. Have a Blue or Red Gecko cocktail.
SIEM REAP THE GATEWAY TO ANGKOR
Entrance Siem Reap
1 Angkor WatSiem Reap
2 BayonSiem Reap
3 PhimeanakasSiem Reap
4 Preah PalilaySiem Reap
5 Ta KeoSiem Reap
6 Ta ProhmSiem Reap
7 Banteay Kdei
Siem Reap is the closest city to the worldwide-famous Angkor area. It’s our next stop. As soon as we step out of the bus, Sam (and his tuk-tuk) asks us to be his “guests” for today. We gently accept and head for the Red Lodge hotel: a cute little white-and-red-painted hotel located at the end of a small alley. After having lunch at the Khmer Cuisine restaurant, we head for a long tuk-tuk trip through the huge Angkor domain, after paying a 86 000 (17€) entrance fee.
It’s hard to describe the feeling you experience when, slowly riding towards the first temple in the back of a tuk-tuk, under a bright blue sky and burning sun, the unforgettable shape of Angkor Wat comes to full sight from behind the trees.
I’ll just put it down to one single word: overwhelming.
In the span of six hours, we ended up climbing up 7 temples, of all kinds: the huge Angkor Wat, the richly decorated Bayon Temple, the jungle-surrounded Ta Phrom… We were lucky enough to encounter only few tourists and have good weather.
As the day reaches dusk, we drive back through the city to our hotel. You can feel how wealthy Siem Reap actually is: modern buildings, highly luminous streets, heavy traffic, and even golf courses. In the evening, we go for a drink at the Hip Hop, a stylish bar next to our hotel. I take a White Hip Hop.
For dinner, we decide to try out the Amok, located in a gorgeous narrow alley, full of cute little restaurants. I try out the Amok Assortiment. Yummy!
We end up having another drink in the so-called “Pub Street”, at the “Tigre de Papier” (where the Wi-Fi password is “paper” by the way). I take a Matador!
- Red Lodge: Very quiet and well located
- Amok Restaurant: lovely! Located in a cute narrow alley. Try the Amok Assortiment.
- Hip Hop: modern, with a beautiful terrasse.
- Le Tigre de Papier: in the crowded “Pub Street”. The Matador cocktail is alright.
In Siem Reap, we choose to take a rapid Ford Transit van meant to take us (we’re told) in 5 hours back to the capital. I can tell you now: it’s possible. I can also tell you that I’ve rarely been that afraid on a road trip. The car in front us is overtaking? No problem: I’ll overtake the overtaking car, so that we’re 3 vehicles, side-by-side, heading for the same direction on a two-way, two-line road…
Our hotel in Phnom Penh is the Rega Guesthouse: a hard-to-find little hotel, hidden by abundant vegetation and held by a Vietnamese family (who happens to speak fluently french). We have a chat with the grandfather who suggests we go to Mui Ne and Nha Trang in Vietnam.
We eat a nice traditional lunch and then go for a walk, along the docks. After some wandering around, we end up at Wat Phnom: a Buddhist temple located on top of a small hill, middle in the city. It’s the eponymous temple of Phnom Penh.
After a stop at the post office, we take a tuk tuk towards the Royal Palace, but after finding out it’s closed, we decide to enter the National Museum. It’s a beautiful red building that stands out from the rest of the city (which I don’t consider a pretty city). It holds a great collection of Khmer Art, and its center consists of a gorgeous silent garden.
We try our luck through the crowded city streets to find a local internet cafe. The one we end up in doesn’t look that appealing but the computers and the network are pretty fast.
When night time comes, we want to go back to our hotel by tuk tuk, but we forgot the address and the driver doesn’t know where our hotel is located. Seeing us in trouble, half a dozen of people (including a policeman) gather around, trying to find out where our hotel is! There’s even a woman who grabs her cellphone, calls her english-speaking friend and hands me the phone. At last, I remember our hotel being close to the British Embassy, a location that rings a bell with the driver. And so we go…
- Rega Guesthouse: quiet and surrounded by abundant vegetation.
- Rega Guesthouse: you can eat there too and have a great Bo Bung.