Cambodia Day By Day

AUG 1 – We arrived in Siem Reap after a long journey from Spain via Abu Dhabi and then Bangkok. We were picked up at the airport by a friendly member of staff from Golden Temple Residence and were welcomed with a welcome drink and some snacks at the hotel. After checking in, we spent the afternoon enjoying all the perks that the hotel had to offer: Free lunch, Free massage and Free dinner with a Khmer dance show.

Aug 2 – We spent the day exploring Siem Reap city. After what proved to be a most delicious buffet breakfast in our hotel, we walked around the city and explored all the different markets. A lot of the things sold in the markets weren’t anything I wanted to buy: gemstones in every corner (each one claiming go be genuine), wooden crafts and t-shirts that looked like they had one good wash in them. To punctuate the day, I suggested lunch at Fifty5 where we tried our first Fish Amok before I proceeded walking to more shops with my darling. I sneaked in a couple of coffee breaks in between jewellery and clothes shops to get me through the jet lag and finished the day with a Khmer BBQ dinner at pub street with 20 different kind of meats.

Aug 3 – Undeniably the best tour guide we had during our honeymoon, Sam Pho took us on a 2 Day private tour to see the most famous temples of Cambodia. We started with Angkor Wat, where Clare was almost as equally interested in the wandering monkeys as she was the temple, and then Ta Prohm – also known as the Tomb Raider Temple. After Clare was dying of tiredness at this point and welcomed our lunch break (Cambodian Spicy pork dish = yum). Then Bayon Temple (with 196 Buddha heads in its hay day). Home, chilling at the pool, food massage and dinner at Marum.

Aug 4 – went to Khompong Khleamg the largest fishing / floating village on the great Tonle Sap lake (largest freshwater lake in South East Asia). Then visited the Beng Mealea temple which is very much taken over by nature. Home & early dinner at  Chanrey Tree for some Khmer Fusion. Back home and then lots of reading and booming for hotels, flights, etc until midnight.

Aug 5 – breakfast as always. Changed money and bought tickets to lion king. Take away lunch from Fifty5 and then Silk Farm excursion. Afternoon tea at hotel. Lion king movie. Dinner at Marum again.

Aug 6 – Took a 3 hour Taxi to Battangbam where we stayed at Delux Villa. We had lunch in a nearby restaurant recommended by the lonely planet where we had gazpacho along with some Indonesia food. Shortly after lunch we took a tuk tuk to visit Phnom Sampeau & the Battangbam Bat caves.  Phnom Sampeau is the site of the killing caves where the Khmer Rouge tortured and killed hundreds/thousands of locals and threw their bodies in the caves. Such a barbaric act and to think it came to pass in such recent history (40 years ago). Tells you how little man has evolved since the barbaric days. After walking around Phnom Sampeau, obersrving all this in and then marvelling at the beautiful view of all the rice fields from the top (Battangbam is known as the “rice bowl of Cambodia” for all it’s production), we went back down to watch a million Asian Wrinkle-lipped bats fly out of the caves and travel 50km to feed on agricultural pests like plant hoppers that can destroy up to 60% of the rice harvest. This equals enough rice to feed 21,000 Cambodians annually. We marvelled at this natural wonder while drinking a beer.

Aug 7 AM – Had breakfast at the hotel – It was bad enough that Clare did not eat anything and I promised myself to pay for a breakfast somewhere outside the next day. We jumped on a tuk-tuk and headed towards Bamboo Train (5 USD) + Buy Some water =)

Aug 7 PM – Cooking Class 3PM

Aug 8 AM – Soksabike half day bike tour including visits to local Cambodian families who made Rice Paper, Dried Bananas, Khmer wine, a dried fish market and then the killing fields. Take away lunch from the cafe next to Jaan Bai. Then the VIP bus back to Siem Reap, where we were welcomed back at Golden Temple Residence with a free spa voucher (I opted for the 60 minute foot and leg massage) and our last meal at Pub Street in Tigre du Papier!

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Aug 9 AM – We took the morning flight to Sihanoukville, looking forward to heading towards the idyllic island of Koh Long Sanloem and found ourselves arriving to a rain storm. Everywhere was flooded and there were no boats going to the island. After running around in the rain for what seemed like forever hunting for an internet cafe so that we can find a place to stay for the night, we ended up in a lovely boutique hotel called White Boutique Hotel – which served as an excellent place to sit out the storm being that their rooms were comfortable, the food was great and they served Dr Loosen Riesling and Alsatian Pinot Noir! We had to endure a harrowing 1 hour tuktuk ride to get there through the floods and pot holes but it was worth it in the end.

Aug 10  – We awoke the next day surprised to be welcomed by NO RAIN and partially blue skies! It was hard to believe the whole city was ravaged by a storm only hours ago. So, clare and I took this opportunity to take the 12 o’clock ferry to Koh Rong Sanloem. We arrived at Sol Beach Resort where we spent two nights in our lovely beach front cottage. We were welcomed with a short massage and had a lovely green papaya and pork salad for lunch. The afternoon was spent lounging and reading by the beach. Dinner was at a cute little restaurant at the end of the strip of beach, which will forever remain in our memories as suspect #1 of the food poisoning that plagued Clare for the next 10 days.

Aug 11 – After breakfast, we laid in the sun on the beach for a while and went for a short kayak in the rain. We had lunch at the resort (Clare’s stomach was still alight at this point as she woofed down all her food) and then spend the rest of the afternoon reading and lazing about. By late afternoon Clare was already feeling very low on energy and struggling to digest her lunch…. Neither of us knew then that a nasty bacteria was working it’s way in Clare’s stomach, so we just sad in our room staring outside at the beautiful view of the sea and drinking an oxidised bottle of Moet & Chandon Reserve that Andy gave us. The sun set and Clare was too tired to do anything but sleep. Meanwhile, I was trying to organise our route to travel to Kampot the next day where we could visit a Kampot pepper farm and experience more of the local Cambodian communities, but the same typhoon that had affected us earlier caused the whole city to be flooded and neither taxi’s nor buses would take us there. So, we had to change our plans and head to Phnom Phen directly.

Aug 12 – To herald in the new day, Clare threw up in the morning, officially confirming she got food poisoning. We arrived in our hotel in the center of Phnom Penh after taking the 10am boat to Sihanoukville, followed by a short tuktuk ride to the Mekong Express Departure point, and a 6 hour VIP bus ride where Clare, Myself and two french girls (who never spoke to each other but were travelling together) were squeezed together in the back. I had a well deserved shower, room service for dinner and sleep.

Aug 13 – We had one full day in Phnom Penh and Clare’s illness was at it’s peak then as she didn’t leave the room and practically slept the whole day. I, on the other hand, busied myself by getting our laundry cleaned, getting a massage, watching Rocketman on my laptop and reading my book by the pool. I didn’t really bother doing anything cultural in the Capital of Cambodia; I was quite happy doing what I did and eating delicious meals in between. Sometime’s it’s good just to do some life admin.

Aug 14 – We took the 11:45am flight out of Phnom Phnem to Bali via Kuala Lumpur. We were bumped to business class for the first leg of our flight, which was lovely as we got to go to the business lounge before our flight. I only had a double espresso and made myself a healthy tuna sandwich to smuggle onto the plane. Clare was still struggling with her stomach bug  so she couldn’t really take advantage of the business lounge nor the food on the plane… After a short stop in Kuala Lumpur (which proved to be a very modern airport with a samsung LED TV in every corner and expensive “Tax Free” shops to tempt the traveller), we reached Denaspar airport in Bali at 8:10pm where a cocky driver took us to “Easy Surf Villa” in Canggu. Clare and I grabbed a quick dinner at a Greek restaurant that was still open and called it a night.

Thoughts on Cambodia: After two weeks exploring the North (Siem Reap & Battambang) and the South (Sihanoukville, Koh Rong Sanloem & Phnom Penh), I’ve come to learn a few things about Cambodia: (1) it’s the poorest country in South East Asia, (2) it’s history is a convoluted web of wars, border disputes and political strife – from the Thai’s and Vietnamese playing tug of war with territory from the fall of the Angkor Empire in 1200 to the French Colonisation in the 1840’s which lasted 90 years to the horrors of the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979, (3) the country is about 90% Buddhist which, along with how history helped shape its culture, probably plays a leading role in the Cambodian positive and happy spirit, and (4) almost all their food is rich in lemongrass, fish sauce, galangal, garlic, thai basil, kampot pepper and palm sugar, which both create an explosion of lovely flavours in your mouth and also leaves the pores of your body exuding the aromas of these aromatic herbs and spices.

Being a neighbour to the Philippines, Cambodia does share many things in common with us: the spirit of the people, the vegetation and landscape, it’s provincial housing, transportation and corruption!

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