Phnom Penh Days 1-2
In Cambodia you are likely to be starting your trip in Phnom Penh. We stayed at the Panarama hostel, it was dirt cheap, super clean and in a fantastic location. (not a spon, just a fantastic hostel). Phnom Penh has an international airport and is also easily accessible from Vietnam if you’re visiting Cambodia as part of a big trip.
When arriving in Cambodia it can be quite a big ‘culture shock’. The country is extremely poor and the devastation caused by their recent and extremely traumatic history is present everywhere. I would recommend spending a few hours wandering around getting yourself accustomed to the way of life, and the money. Its surprising how confusing working in 2 currencies at once can be. Whilst wandering around you can take a look at the Royal Palace and have a stroll along the water front. If you’re in the mood for a spot of shopping you could check out the central market also.
Phnom Penh is bursting with history and you absolutely cannot miss the killing fields or the S21 Museum. As someone who knew little about Cambodia’s dark history, a day at these sights seriously opened my eyes. When visiting these sights, it is essential that you get an audio guide. The audio guides are recorded by actual survivors of the awful atrocities in Cambodia making the trip even more poignant.
Sihanoukville/Otres Beach Days 2-6
You can’t go on holiday without being by the sea now can you. It’s a 4/5 hour drive down from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and busses leave at various times of the day. There are 2 things to bare in mind when going down to this coastal region. The first is that the majority of tuk-tuk drivers are con artists. We had heard this before we went and still managed to get scammed. Make sure you have a map with GPS up on your phone as they will drop you at a random location not even near to your hotel and advise you to walk ‘100m that way’. Which just happens to be long enough for the realisation that they’ve scammed you to set in, and by this point they’ve already drove off into the sunset.
The second thing consider is that it’s a hell of a long journey up to Siem Reap if that’s where you’re planning on heading next. There’s always the option of flying up but you’ll need to book the flights pretty far in advance to get a decent deal. However, if you’re a budget traveller like myself you’re going to want to take the bus up to Siem Reap. This bus is a solid 12 hours and is extremely cramped. However, giving credit where credit is due; it was exactly on time.
If I’m going to be completely honest I didn’t think much to Sihanoukville. There didn’t seem to be any Cambodian culture there; and the majority of bars, hotels and restaurants are owned by Brits, Americans and Australians. However, if you move a little further along, down to Otres beach, it is truly beautiful. There’s some fabulous beach huts you can stay in for as little as a few dollars a night. There’s plenty of bars and restaurants to keep you entertained for a few days, and you can take boat trips out for the day to the surrounding islands.
Siem Reap Days 6-10
You can’t come to Cambodia without seeing the incredible Angkor Wat. I would recommend getting the 3-day pass which I wrote about in this post. After a day exploring the temples you can take a wander around the markets and test out your bartering skills, and of course; as tacky as you may think it is, you can’t leave without having a drink or two on pub street. If drinking isn’t your thing then you could treat yourself to a massage at one of the many places around the town. Or how about a fish-foot-spa? The possibilities really are endless.
Our trip was cut a little short due to experiencing some absolutely terrible weather in Cambodia. However, if I was to spend more time here I would have definitely spent a few nights in Battambang and on the Island of Koh Rong. Have you ever been to either of these places? What did you think?