This is my first trip to Cambodia. I have been to Vietnam twice before this trip. One cannot compare Cambodia with Vietnam. They are not the same as regards economic development. Their histories are different too. So we did not set any expectations for the trip.
My family read up information on Cambodia before the trip. There are several excellent guide books written about Cambodia especially the ones written about the world wonder of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. (The Rough Guide to Cambodia and Moon’s Trip of a Lifetime: Angkor Wat)
We planned for 9-day 8-night of trip to three major cities: Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh. 3 nights in Siem Reap, 2 nights in Battambang and 3 nights in Phnom Penh. We flew via Jetstar to Siem Reap and return flight was from Phnom Penh. The connection between cities were by roads.
Siem Reap is the place to be to see the UNESCO world heritage sites of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. We paid for a day-pass of US$37 per person to visit three temples in one day: Angkor Wat, The Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. We did not want to wake up at 4 am to catch the morning sun over Angkor Wat. Instead, we only set out at 7.30 am taking a tuk tuk to the sites. The trip took us to 2.00 pm to cover all three sites. Be prepared for a hot weather if you are travelling in January.
Battambang is the second largest city after Phnom Penh. It is a quieter city compared to the capital and busy Phnom Penh. We got to experience the way of life of these Cambodian. There wasn’t the rush and impatience shown by the people staying in this city. People living here are generally courteous and not many people can speak English. One has to be more patient with them.
The last stop was Phnom Penh, capital city of Cambodia. It was a completely different experience. It was fast-paced, somewhat chaotic on the roads. There was so much touting by tuk tuk drivers that it got onto our nerves. We learned to ignore them and got on with our journey. Treat them as their way of making a living and accept it.
We travelled by a minivan from Battambang to Phnom Penh. The experience was not great. For most part of the 6-hour road ride, the road was bumpy. The driver would not speak to us (not able to more likely) and we waited for an hour for him to show up at our hotel. Roads and traffic light system have a long way to go to reach decent standard. Give yourself more than one hour to travel from Phnom Penh city centre to the airport if you do not wish to miss your flight.
Phnom Penh is developing rapidly. There are so many construction sites in the city centre. The place is really dusty and it is difficult to walk along pavements and the roads. Crossing roads and at road junctions were challenging. It took guts and brave hearts to do so. After a while, we managed to walk like the locals.
We were flexible with our itinerary. We went with the flow as we moved from city to city. We had some general ideas of what we wanted to see and do at the start. Some ideas came from the driver cum guide and some from the hotel/hostel staff. Some came from reading the map of the area and google search of the place. We did not plan to the last details. We simply took what experiences that came with each day.
Cambodia is rich culturally and full of history. We can experience this first hand. What I have learned about enjoying Cambodia is not to use Singapore standards to judge the country. Appreciate what her people had been through and accept their way of lives. We look back at the trip and it was an experience difficult to forget!
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