After three months on the road backpacking through Southern Thailand, the Philippines and Northern Thailand, the next country we decided to explore was Cambodia, just 2 days in to 2015 and both with fragile heads from some New Years Eve celebrations in Bangkok.
We took the government bus from the Thai Capital to Siem Reap, crossing the border at Poi Pet, which we were told can be a nightmare to get through. Funnily enough it was a nightmare and almost four hours later after being fined for overstaying our visa in Thailand, we were stamped in to Cambodia and on our way.
It’s incredible to see the contrast in landscape between the two countries when crossing at the border. Thailand is mountainous and very jungley, but that changes completely once you get to Cambodia, which is one of the flattest countries we have been to.
We spent four days in Siem Reap and stayed at Siem Reap Rooms, owned by a really nice Canadian lady. The town itself is very friendly and has some very good restaurants and bars with a variety of cuisine. Make sure you spend a night on the famous Pub Street.
Most travellers include Siem Reap to their route for the historical Angkor Wat. Which was one of the main reasons we made a point of staying here. Angkor Wat did not disappoint us one but, it is elegantly beautiful and architectured to perfection, along with Bayon Temple and Angkor Thom. However the thousands of tourists pushing passed and spoiling what would have made some great photos was slightly annoying.
We endured another long bus journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh on some of the worlds most dangerous roads and sustained what felt like broken necks from the craters that make up these tracks, that are classed as main roads. It was all part of the fun and a story to tell, but we were glad to get off at the other end.
Annoyingly I became really ill with a stomach bug that lasted for the rest of our time in Cambodia and restricted us from doing some things we wanted to do. But we visited the killing fields in Phnom Penh and were heartbroken by the stories we were told. We cannot believe people would treat others in such a horrific way like they did under the Pol Pot regime and there are still human remains and blooded clothes laying on the ground as you walk round.
We were shocked by what we learnt during our time in Cambodia by this point and wish we could have done something to help. It was sad to see that there aren’t many people in Cambodia over the age of 50 due to the mass genocide that happened in the 1970’s.
Feeling like we needed some down time and to relax for a few days, we kept heading East in search of Vietnam and the Ha Tien border where we would cross at a later date. We stopped in a quiet town called Kampot, not much traffic besides the odd tuk tuk and some scooters but a really friendly and welcoming environment.
We chose to stay in a bungalow at a place called Bohemiaz owned by 2 British people. It was perfect! Located right out in the countryside with a huge swimming pool. Especially considering I was still ill and wanted to get out of the polluted city in to the fresh air.
Kampot offered so much, we done a river cruise during sunset with plenty of cold beer and a chance to cannon ball in to the Kampot River, visited the pepper farm that creates world famous Kampot Pepper. Got an insight to the Salt Farms and the production process of salt being formed, climbed down in to some caves, caught a long tail boat across to Rabbit Island for the day and spent an afternoon on the beach being lazy.
The Khmer people were so friendly and happy all the time and it was hard to understand being from the western world where everyone has a short fuse and a negative outlook on life, when really we have everything we could wish for. The Khmer people have suffered in every way imaginable and have one of the lowest income rates in the world- an average of $1 a day. It just proved that you don’t need money to make you happy and to get through life.
This trip to Cambodia opened our eyes in a big way and made us look at life so differently. People we met said the same thing and we would love for every person to visit Cambodia or somewhere similar just for life experience and to see if it changes your prospective of life and how you behave towards other people.
We love this country and will return again one day. The only negative on what was a brilliant three weeks was having to be ill for 2 of the weeks we were there.
By Alan Bogle.