My first blog post about Phnom Penh & Siem Reap doesn’t exactly make my Cambodian experience seem like a positive one, but there was plenty more to the country that I loved. Here are my reasons for some Cambodia lovin’:
1. Kep: After leaving Phnom Penh, we hopped on a bus to Kep, a sleepy little seaside resort close to the more famous Kampot. Kep used to be the biggest seaside resort in the country, before Sihanoukville came and took over. [We spent a night in Sihanoukville (before catching the ferry to Koh Rong) and weren’t that bowled over, the beach was unkempt and full of rubbish, and it seemed to be a party town more than a relaxing beach place.] There was definitely a feel of abandonment in the place. There were plenty of abandoned French villas, which we enjoyed being urban explorers in. These were left behind when the Khmer rouge evacuated the town. I love abandoned places, they’re just cool aren’t they? Overgrown, unloved, untouched. With Kep being lesser known than Sihanoukville (is this name being serious btw? How the hell do you pronounce it?!) it allowed us to enjoy a peaceful and clean beach, score!
We stayed in some cute bungalows, which had some amazing views and food, and were a 5 minute bike ride from the national park. We rented some bikes from the bungalows and rode around the national park, it had some stunning views overlooking Kep and the ocean. The ride was a little tricky uphill in places, but was definitely worth the uphill and sweaty struggle for the secluded views we got. Our cycle earnt us an ice cold beer and some tasty, fresh bbq’d seafood at the local market. The market itself was a great location to watch the sun set. Cambodia has some gorgeous sunsets, that’s for sure.
2. Koh Rong: After a night in the party town of Sihanoukville we went to Koh Rong via ferry. We opted for the slow ferry, which was fine and not too slow, taking about 2 hours. There are two islands, Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. We didn’t have enough time to do both, although would’ve loved to. We chose the bigger of the two, Koh Rong, as we had read you could swim with glowing plankton there. Koh Rong is meant to be more developed and suited for backpackers in comparison to it’s smaller, more deserted brother. I kinda wish we’d gone to Koh Rong Samloem, but Koh Rong was a dream nonetheless. Beautiful white sand and clear waters, pure paradise. A little spot of food poisoning (which didn’t make the night bus so fun) was the only negative of the place. Going for a night time swim with the glowing plankton was a cool experience, just a shame you can’t capture it on camera. All part of the magic, I guess.
3. Battambang: The next destination in our whirlwind tour of Cambodia was Battambang. We arrived off the sleeper bus from Sihanoukville. The bus journey was not an experience I particularly want to go through again. It’s lucky Phill and I are small and short, as the bunk beds on board are short and slim. Not ideal if you have to share, especially if they whack a stranger in there with you. The tuk tuk drivers are ready and waiting in the battle to take you to your accommodation. Places to stay in Battambang are mega cheap, so we ended up in quite a swanky hotel. We liked our tuk tuk driver so much we hired him to be our tour guide on the other days. I guess his little comment booklet and honesty won us over.
Battambang had a great night market, full of yummy foods to try. We ate lok lak and amok here, two of Cambodia’s must-try’s. It also had some trendy coffee shops and brunch spots. Cafe Eden had the most delicious cookies and bagels, although the bagels were pretty heavy, I felt like I could knock someone out with it. They had some nice items on sale here, too. I was glad to get some great coffee at Kinyei Cafe before coming back to the land of mixed coffee galore.
Apart from having the best food of my trip here, there was plenty to see in Battambang. It had a more edgy and cool feel to it, in comparison to the other cities I visited in Cambodia. Our tuk tuk driver took us on a day trip that included visiting the killing fields, sticky rice making and rice paper & fishing villages. In the evening we were taken to the killing caves, which were pretty shocking. After finishing there, we sat back with a beer and waited for the sun to set and for millions of bats to flock from the bat cave. It was like a never ending stream of bats, on our drive away they were still flying out in their droves. One of my favourite things we did in Battambang was the bamboo trains. You hopped on your little bamboo platform and were driven through the countryside on a one track rail. It was the same track on the way back as it was the way there. This meant that when meeting with a train going in the opposite direction to you, the cart with the least people had to hop off, pick up the train, and allow the other to go past, before assembling the train again and going off on your merry way. You got some really nice views, and it was just really chill.
See! I told you I liked Cambodia!