There’s nothing better in the mind of adventure’s seeker than a thought, that it’s high time for a next vacation. Calculating data from all of my journeys, I have discovered that optimally I ought to travel every three months. By that, I obviously mean, having a longer holiday rather than a weekend trip. Having that in mind, I have spontaneously decided to join my friend, who was about to stay in Cambodia for 3 weeks in January. And when you leave such decisions for last moment, taking into account that January is the most besieged month for traveling to Asia, make sure you have some extra miles on your loyalty program with airlines (which I had with Emirates ).
When you stay in Europe, the easiest way to get to Cambodia is to have a direct flight to either Siem Reap or Phnom Penh (capital city). But a more cost-effective way is also to take a flight to Bangkok and then use AirAsia’s flight to Cambodia. I mention that, because many people don’t know the trick– there is a free shuttle bus between airports in Bangkok, and it takes around only 1 hour for this change. I really love this fact as it actually makes it simple to travel also to any other country in Asia.
The first thing I was surprised with, and maybe mesmerized as well, that here in Cambodia you can use two currencies at the same time. You pay with dollars (USD) and get change in Cambodian riel (KHR). Well, there are pros and cons of this. You don’t need to exchange money at the airport but be prepared to come back to math’s classes when you don’t have small notes, pay with 20 dollars and get 75000 riels as a change in 10000 or 100 banknotes or so. Some local people don’t speak English, so they show you the prize by waving a Cambodian riel. Also by living in India and travelling to other Asian countries I have also learnt that lack of knowledge is not an excuse. Local people can (but don’t have to, I don’t want to exaggerate) take advantage of those who are not aware of the currencies or local prizes. I have overpaid few times in my life, although I knew the rules, as it’s just that little moment of inadvertence needed to make it happen. It’s their business to offer you a prize that is good for them, and it’s ok as long as you accept the prize. But only in Cambodia I have seen that you get smaller change than you should, just because local people know you can’t count properly. But if you discover this little secret, they smile and give you back the right amount.
From ancient Angkor in the north till the kingdom of seafood in the south, Cambodia has a lot to offer and the fact, this country is not as touristic as Thailand makes it even better when all you want is relax. On my “must see” list, there are: Siem Reap with Angkor, Kratie, Krong Kampot, Bokor National Park, Krong Kaeb and Sihanoukville (as the base for the ferry to Koh Rang). For leisure at the ocean you can choose between Kaoh Tonsay (known also as a Rabbit Island), Bamboo Island or Koh Rang. But don’t let those beautiful islands make you forget about the Khmer Rouge period (1975-1979), which was a very painful and deadly time for Cambodian people so the capital city – Phnom Penh, shall be also very important stop on your itinerary.
What I didn’t mention yet is the fact, my trip to Cambodia was the first one I haven’t really planned before. Usually I know in advance what to see and then I estimate how many days shall I spend in one city, which allows me to see everything I want. I also book hotels in advance, to make sure I have the best deal. Some people say this doesn’t allow you to spend more time in a place you like, however I love to make sure I don’t miss a spot I want. There are two places I didn’t see in Cambodia: Popokvil Waterfall in Bokor National Park (instead I made my own trekking) and Kratie. Roads in the east part of the country are not good enough which makes it harder to travel from one place to another. Therefore, planning the trip ad hoc, me and my friend decided we don’t have much time and will spend more time in the south part. Now, when we already came back from the trip, I know, we stayed too long in Krong Kaeb. Good planning could have helped us to avoid wasting time in places that have nothing to offer. On the other hand, when planning a trip in advance you have more time to read opinions left by other people who travel. We booked a guesthouse in Koh Rang 3 days before we were about to reach this place, at the same time we were planning ad hoc what to see in Kaeb. It occurred then, that the guesthouse on island had a lot of bad reviews claiming there are rats in the room and common bathrooms are not cleaned properly, not to mention the sanitary ware were too old. Well, we didn’t stay there, we actually found a different place which happened to be the best resort ever (Paradise Bungalows). But again, I think the stress we have had at the first time when we got off the boat could be avoided.
And last but not least – FOOD. I really loved everything I had, but 3 dishes that are on top are: Nom Khuok, Khmer coconut and chive rice cakes, Khmer Fish Amok and pastry with cabbage (that you can mostly find on street food).
I could write even more, but for the first thoughts about Cambodia I reckon it’s enough. And now when you reached the end, please enjoy the best pictures from Cambodia, which I hope will encourage you to read posts coming up next.