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After visiting Vietnam from north to south, we were ready to go to Cambodia!
Cambodia is a country with a turbulent history and amazing people. As we did not have much time, we decided to visit Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh; and the country’s most iconic site, Angkor Wat.Phnom Penh is one of the least beautiful cities we visited, but it was an emotional ride worth having, as we learned a lot about Cambodia’s genocide.
How to get there: We flew Angkor Air from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh, to save time. If you can, choose another transport, because Angkor Air 1) canceled our flight and didn’t offer much alternatives; 2) the flight was late; 3) the flight was instable and with a lot of turbulence.
Top Tips & Fun Facts:
- In Cambodia there are 2 currencies accepted: the Riel and US Dollars. So don’t be surprised receiving exchange in both currencies!
- Vietnam and Cambodia are very safe countries, with one or two exceptions. Phnom Penh is one of these expectations, so beware of pick pockets!
- There are also a few scams you should pay attention to. For example in Wat Phnom, you will find women carrying cages full of birds. If you pay 1$, they will set one of the birds free – but the birds are trained to go back in the cage later on. Hey but don’t worry, because besides these scams, Cambodia is a country of welcoming and genuine people – promise 🙂
- Visit the massive Royal Palace– but don’t forget: Wear long shorts and shirts that cover your shoulders. Oh, and the Palace is closed during lunch time!
- Learn about Cambodia’s less-known genocide in the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Between 1975 and 1978 almost 2 million people were killed bythe Khmer Rouge, a communist party led by Pol Pot. The admission includes an excellent audio tour, which I highly recommend.
- Nuno and I were both shaken by this visit, but I believe it’s truly important not to forget these atrocities, so they won’t be repeated in the future.
Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
The temples of Angkor are the world’s largest religious structure, a national pride to all Cambodians, a site with the proportions of the Great Wall of China.
It consists of 400km2 of breathtaking temples dedicated to Hindu and Buddhist gods. The temples were built by the Cambodian god-kings, trying to outgrow their ancestors in size, scale and symmetry.
Siem Reap and Angkor Wat were the last stops of our amazing journey. We decided to stay in a better hotel to rest a little bit before going back to real life. I love adventure, but must confess: it was great to sleep in a nice bed and go to the pool after the temples! 🙂
How to get there: We took the Mekong Express bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Riep, which costs around 10€ and takes 6h30. The conditions are good, but contrary to what is advertised, the Wi-Fi doesn’t work.
Angkor is about 20 minutes from Siem Reap by car, motorbike or tuktuk. The tuktuks drivers typically speak English and know a lot about the Temples of Angkor, as they spend a lot of time there. Ask a few questions and I’m sure you’ll be lucky enough to have a tuk tuk driver who is also a great guide!
Top Tips & Fun Facts:
- There are 3 types of tickets: 1day (20$), 3 days (40$), or 7 days (60$). Unless you’rean history addict, 2 days will be enough to visit the main temples.
- As Angkor Wat is gigantic, it is impossible to walk from temple to temple. There are many options, from organized tours with a guide to bike rentals for the more adventurous travelers (for 1$/day). We decided to plan it by ourselves and go with a tuk tuk driver. Most hostels have contacts with tuk tuk drivers, which can take you around the temples for a reasonable price.
- Take water and food. In the complex you won’t find many options and it will be much more expensive.
- We mostly followed Lonely Planet’s two day itinerary and saw the most impressive temples! Spend the first day visiting Banteay Srei, Banteay Samré, Preah Khan and Ta Son. Watch the sunset at Pre Rup – it can get a little crowded at sunset, but it’s one of the best places to see the sun go down.
- The next day you’ll see the major temples: See the sunrise in Angkor Wat, continue to Ta Prohm (my favorite, as it is surrounded by green :)) and explore the city of Angkor Thom (yes, where Thomb Rider was filmed!) and end your visit in the magnificent Bayon.
And this is where our amazing journey ends! In 18 days we traveled 25.139km, visited 9 wonderful locations, slept in 14 different places and met dozens of incredible people we will never forget. I hope our story has been helpful and makes you want to travel the world!
Happy Travels! 🙂
This post was also written in Portuguese. Click here to read the Portuguese version.