My dear Into The Wild family!!!
Greetings from Siem Reap. Can you believe it – nothing bad happened this week!!!!! Ole ole y ole!!! Let’s just say that it was about time 🙂 .
Cambodia time is getting to the end. Oh my god how much fun we had over here. 3 weeks of beaches, temples, beautiful people, amazing nature and once again cheap and great food and beer – mom don’t worry I haven’t became an alcoholic – yet :).
Tomorrow we are heading for Thailand – Bangkok, which was supposed to be our next stop, but due to the current situation we decided not to do it for now. We heard from people, that now it is peaceful, but the police curfew from 22 – 5 h makes partying and walking around impossible. So instead of Thailand (hope we can do it in October) we will just (hopefully) make visa for Myanmar and head on 4th of june there. Everybody who was there tell’s us just amazing things about it, so I guess changing Thailand for Myanmar shouldn’t be a bad decision 😉
As I said it, our time in Cambodia is coming to the end. In today’s post I will tell you how our last 10 days went and as usual will sum up briefly our impressions about the country.
Last week we did 700 km and for the first time it was NOT all about bus drives!!! The journey started in Sihanoukville (A) and took us to Battambang (B – 11 h bus drive) and continued with a boat to Siem Reap (C – 8 h boat drive), which was by my opinion so far the most beautiful drive and as well the most comfortable.
Battambang is Cambodia’s second-largest city with 140.000 people, which was founded in the 11th century. Until recently Battambang was off the map for road travellers, but facilities have recently been improved and still are and it makes a great base for visiting the nearby temples, such as Phnom Banon and Wat Ek Phnom, as well as the close bat cave and famous bamboo train ride.
We stayed in Battambang 2 night in a nice cheap hotel arriving early in the morning. Since we had plenty of time we decided to hire a tuck-tuck driver (Tony Bamboo) who for 10 $ took us on a half day tour, which included abandoned airport – becomes on weekends a picnic place for locals (shame it was the middle of the week), famous bamboo train ride and sunset at the bat cave.
Let me tell you a bit more about two things, that we think are the highlights of Battambang and must see if you stop here.
The bamboo train is one of the world’s all-time classic rail journeys. 3,7 km – half an hour – 15 km/h of clicks and clacks along warped, misaligned rails. Each bamboo train consists of a 3 m long wood frame, covered with bamboo, that rests on two barbell-like bogies, the aft one connected by fan belts to a gasoline engine.
The genius of the system is that it offers a brilliant solution to the most common problem faced on any single-track line: what to do when two trains going opposite directions meet. In the case of bamboo trains, the answer is simple: one car is quickly disassembled and set on the ground beside the tracks so the other can pass. The rule is that whichever car has fewer passengers has to cede priority.
About 11km outside of Battambang town centre is a mountain, home to the Killing Cave and now Bat Cave. You will find cave at the bottom of the mountain, which still houses the remains of those killed there during the Khmer Rouge genocide. Today cave is more famous for offering an amazing spectacle at around 5 pm each day – thousands and thousands of bats leave the cave as dusk falls, a steady stream flying out for around 45 minutes. They say there are around 4 MIO of them – going on a 20-30 km diner trip and then around 5 am they return and poo in the cave. The increments are later on collected by locals for fertilizer.
On Wednesday morning we took a – 8 h and 20 $/person – boat ride from Battambang to Siem Reap. You can take a bus – will cost you just 5 $ and will take you just 3 h – but arguably Cambodia’s most spectacular boat journey, which follows narrow waterways, and passes through protected wetlands and floating villages is definitely something you don’t want to miss.
Siem Reap is located in northwest Cambodia and is its 3rd biggest city with 125.000 people. It is the major tourist hub in Cambodia, as it is the closest city to the world’s famous temples of Angkor. More than one million travelers visit Siem Reap every year to explore over a thousand years of Khmer heritage.
The heart of Siem Reap’s tourist district is known as Old Market and Pub Street. This part of town is home to a large concentration of restaurants, bars, massage saloons and shops build for increasing number of western tourists.
The primary attraction for visitors to Siem Reap is the Angkor Wat and the Angkor Temple Region. The Angkor Temple Complex has been designated a UN Heritage Site and consists of hundreds of structures from the 9th to the 14th century that tell the story of the rise and fall of the Khmer empire. Structures range from partially renovated temples, pagoda and imperial residences to recently discovered ruins which are virtual untouched for the last 500 years.
You can spend a week reading a guidebook for recommended places to visit and study the maps to get around and you still wouldn’t see everything that Angkor has to offer. You can buy 1 day pass (20 $), 3 day pass (40 $) or 1 week pass (I think 90 $). One day I would say it’s not enough and 1 week I would say is too much. Also you can do the tour with different means of transport. You can hire a car, a bus, a motorbike, a bicycle, a tuck-tuck or you can just simple walk – don’t forget its is a very long long walk though.
We decided to do 2 days tour, so we hired a friendly local tuck-tuck driver (bargain the price with them – it should never be more than 15 $ per day). First day tour started at 10 in the morning with seeing 7 temples and ended with sunset on top of one of them (had bad luck with clouds although). Second day started at 4.30 in the morning, since we wanted to see the sunrise over main temple Angkor Wat (again a bit bad luck with clouds but still OK) and finished with 3 more temples around midday.
From all the temples that we have seen I would point out Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom and our favourite Bayon. If you want to hear some details about the rest just let us know 🙂
So my dear friends, that would be it from our amazing trip around Cambodia. In the end I would just like to resume it with some interesting facts and +/- that we discovered along the way. It was fun, it was sad, exciting, thrilling, beautiful, surprising and everything else. We definitely will come back one day since Cambodia has so much to offer…
– 21 days of staying in Cambodia
– aprox 700 eur per person
– 7 different Hotels/Bungalows
– aprox 2100 km of bus/boat rides
– aprox 100 km of tuck-tuck rides
– aprox 120 km of motorbike ride
– more beer choice than in Vietnam & Laos (the best Angkor draft beer)
– cash machines gives you $ not local currency
– average salary 90 $
– Khmer Rouge genocide scarfs still very present
– the most friendly people so far on our journey
– much better food than in Laos/a bit worse than in Vietnam
– one of the most amazing beaches of SE Asia (so far)
TOP 5 of Cambodia;
1. Angkor Temples
2.Beaches of Koh Rong & Koh Rong Samloem
3. People of Cambodia
4. Boat ride from Battambang to Siem Reap
5. Killing fields in Phnom Penh
WORST 5 of Cambodia;
1. Sand flies on Koh Rong & Koh Rong Samloem
2. No electricity at night on Koh Rong & Koh Rong Samloem (very sweaty nights)
3. Robbery of my mobile
4. Hordes of loud asian tourists at Angkor temples
5. Loosing 15 $ at the black jack table (don’t blame Cambodia for that but the system :))
Love Maja & Andrej