I have been so unproductive (read: lazy) with updating, I don’t know what was I thinking when I decided to start a blog -_- Anyway, since I have a few hours to spare before my bus ride from Mui Ne to Nha Trang (I am in Vietnam now!), I figured I can at least get one post done. So here is my 2 weeks Cambodia “backpacking” itinerary:
Transportation – getting to Cambodia
The best ways to travel to Cambodia is to fly or to take a bus from its neighbouring countries. I flew in from Bangkok to Siam Reap and it only took me an hour. The main airports are Siam Reap International Airport, Phnom Penh International Airport and Sihanoukville International Airport. It does not really matter where you land because it’s really easy to get around once you are in Cambodia.
Transportation – getting around Cambodia
Tuk tuk and motor drivers are everywhere, more than eager to pick you up. Just make sure to always haggle with them! To travel from one city to another, I highly recommend the bus company Giant Ibis. They are the most reputable long distance traveling company in Cambodia and are very popular among expats and travellers. Here are the routes I did with the company:
Siam Reap to Phnom Penh (sleeper bus) 15 USD – about 7 hours
Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville 11 USD – about 5 hours
Sihanoukville back to Phnom Penh 11 USD – about 5 hours
Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City 18 USD – about 6 hours
They give out water, wet wipes and a snack for all trips, the drivers were safe, seats are assigned properly and they don’t stop every half an hour to pick up more passengers, you even get wifi (that actually works) on their bus! You can easily book your tickets on their website, but I would advise booking as early as you can because they do get booked out quite easily.
Giant Ibis website: http://giantibis.com/
Where to Stay
Spoiled. For. Choice. There’s something for everyone – from 5 star resorts to the cheapest 20-beds dorms. A typical dorm room with clean beds and bathroom costs about 5-10 USD per night, and a cozy private room costs about 20 – 40 USD per night.
SIM card and Wifi
I bought a 10 USD SIM card that came with 6 GB of data and 1 USD credit from the telco company, SMART. They are available at airports and convenience stores. Wifi is generally available at all hotels, guesthouses, hostels, restaurants and cafes too.
I did not keep track of my spending so I can’t give you a detailed budget breakdown. But overall, Cambodia was not cheap! a big bottle of water costs 1 USD; a meal with drinks at a street food stall costs around 3 – 5 USD, air-conditioned restaurants about double the price; a tuk tuk ride costs 1 USD per KM; of course there were great deals like the infamous 0.5 USD draft beer, 1 USD mixed fruit shake but be ready to spend more in Cambodia than other parts of SEA. It’s also good to carry Riel with you as things become slightly cheaper when you pay in Riel. 4000 Riel = 0.5 USD
Food & Drinks
Cambodian cuisine was alright, I don’t hate them but they are definitely not my favourite. Both me and my companion got food poisoning / traveler’s diarrhoea so 😦 BUT! Definitely try their Amok Fish and drink all the fruit shake your stomach can take. Happy pizza joints (see what I did there) are everywhere so if it’s your thing, enjoy 😉
Length of Stay & Itinerary Break Down
Traveling Dates: 15 Apr 2017 – 29 Apr 2017 (14 days)
I spent 6 days in Siam Reap – longer than planned because my companion was sick and we had to extend our stay, 4 days in Phnom Penh – also longer than planned because I was sick haha, and 4 days in Koh Rong. I recommend spending 4 days in Siam Reap, 2 day in Phnom Penh, 5 days in Koh Rong, 3 days in Kep / Kampot (which I skipped and regret so much!)
Day 1 – Day 3 Siam Reap: Angkor Wat, Pub Street
Arrive at Siam Reap International Airport in the morning, check in to hotel, quick rest, lunch, and start your Angkor Wat trip. If you hired a tuk tuk driver, he will plan your routes with you depending on the pass you got. You can also rent a scooter and do Angkor Wat on your own. I recommend getting the 3-day pass (with 10 days validity) that costs 64 USD. With that you should be able to cover about 5 temples a day without rushing yourself every minute. If budget is a concern, you can get a 1-day pass that costs 37 USD, and limit your temples visit to about 7.
Expect a full day of walking and sweating but it will be worth it. Bring sunblock, sunglasses and maybe a hat, as well as LOTS of energy. It’s almost always packed with other people everywhere but it is also possible to find quiet spots here and there. As it was the midst of Khmer New Year when we were there, we were splashed by the locals as part of their celebration and I loved it! Pretty cool experience and it was a great relief from the heat.
Angkor Wat closes after sunset so make your way back to your hotel, take a nice long shower and hit Pub Street for dinner and 2 USD full body massages. There are also hundreds of stalls selling t-shirts, elephant pants, anklets and other souvenirs.
Day 4 – Siam Reap – Phnom Penh
On your last day in Siam Reap, rent a bicycle and cycle everywhere randomly. Try switching off your Google map and just go with your instinct. It was one of my favourite memories – stumbling upon villages, playing with local kids, climbing up to strangers’ homes, getting stuck in paddy fields. You will be able to see Siam Reap as it is. Check out of your hotel and get ready for your overnight bus ride to Phnom Penh.
Giant Ibis bus station is within walking distance from Pub Street so most people would kill their time at Pub Street while waiting for the sleeper bus to come. The bus typically takes about 6 hours to get to Phnom Penh from Siam Reap, so I would recommend taking the last bus out, save a night’s accommodation and arrive in the next morning.
Day 5 – Day 6 Phnom Penh: The Grand Palace, The Killing Fields, Tuol Sleng Genocide Musuem
Arrive at Phnom Penh in the morning, stroll around town and get some good food. Phnom Penh, being the capital city of Cambodia, was less interesting and more civilised. It is a good break from Siam Reap so I would still recommend coming. Take a nice, long walk along the river, sit at a cafe and people watch. You will need that after the intensive days spent in Siam Reap!
Next day, The Grand Palace, The Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Musuem. The former boring, and the latter two absolutely fascinating and terrifying. Entrance fee to The Grand Palace was 10 USD and I got bored within 15 minutes. Entrance fee to The Killing Fields was 3 USD and I recommend paying the extra 3 USD to get the MP3 player (?) that explains every corner of The Killing Fields to you.
It was shocking (to say the least) to learn about The Khmer Rouge, and standing on the same ground where more than 1 million innocent people were killed, was an experience I wish did not exist. At the museum, you are guaranteed to get goose bumps looking into the people’s photos hanging on the same walls they were tortured in.
Day 7 Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville
Travel from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. Take the morning bus at 8am and you will arrive at Sihanoukville at 1pm. Check in to your hostel, make some new friends and head down to Serendipity Pier to have delicious vegan lunch at The Dao of Life or Peace Food Cafe. En-route to Otres Beach to R&R. Arrange your boat rides to Koh Rong and/or Koh Rong Saloem!
day 9 – 12 Koh Rong
Koh Rong + Koh Rong Samloem, actually. It’s interesting because a lot of people go there to get drunk and party all night, but if you picked the right beach to stay, not only you can avoid the party scene altogether, you might not even see more than 5 other people!
I stayed at Sok San Beach on Koh Rong and I highly recommend it. The bungalow I stayed in belongs to an Australian man who has traveled the world, and according to him, Sok San beach is how he remembers beaches in Thailand 30 years back. That alone should convince you to come. You get the most basic bungalow with bed, a bathroom, a single light bulb and 5 hours of electricity, and you won’t feel like asking for more. There’s nothing much to do, and that’s perfect.
At night, you can fall asleep listening to the soft waves. It is 100% worth it to wake up at around 3am, step out of your bungalow and look up to the night sky because what you will find is starry, starry night (unless it’s a cloudy night haha). I dipped my feet in the water and was surprised to find sparkling planktons in the water. It felt like I was the only person in the world, and that I was surrounded by stars, both in the sky and in the water – pretty magical nights.
I will talk more about Koh Rong in a separated post!
Day 12 – 14 Kempot / Kep
I did not travel to both places but they are highly recommended by other backpackers I met so do check it out if you can!