Cambodia is a fascinating country with such a raw history. Many don’t know how violent the country became during the 70’s & 80’s, and just how much the country has evolved and grown since then. Their turbulent past does not reflect into the present.
Here are some of my tip tips for your stay in Cambodia.
Panda Guesthouse- Sihanoukville
This guesthouse is English run, and the owner was the only member of staff I saw during my whole stay- he couldn’t help enough! It is situated at the end corner, of the main drag, leading down to Serendipity Beach. The room was spacious, clean, and the reception area had a great Wi-Fi connection which, as you will soon find out, is very difficult to come by when travelling through Cambodia.
Otres Beach & Victory Beach– Sihanoukville
Both of these beaches are very different from each other, but both bring something memorable to your stay in southern Cambodia.
Otres Beach is laid-back and peaceful, with a hippy sort of vibe to it. With the beach being tiny when the tide is in, you may find your sunbed being surrounded by the crystal clear ocean water- beautiful. The sunbeds at this beach are free, providing you buy drinks from the bar, which are around 1 dollar, anyway.
Victory Beach has more of a British feel to it, and although the view isn’t quite as good, (to the left-hand side, there is a bridge) the
company makes up for it. Browns is a British run bar that serves very traditional British food; so if you have been away from your home conforts for a while, this is the place to go. The food is delicious, and great for those who are on a budget but still like a bit of luxury.
Top Cat Cinema– Sihanoukville
If you have had your backpack on longer than you would have liked, and have seen more beaches than most people see in their lifetime, then Top Cat Cinema is a great place to relax, and to do something different with your nights or days. There are private rooms you can rent out, depending on the number of people and what sort of mood you’re going for, and you can pay 4 dollars to watch a movie of your choice. I chose a chilled out room which had hundreds of colourful pillows and matresses for you to lie on. You can even get a pizza (with special extra toppings, if you know what I mean) delivered into to your room, to enjoy with your film.
S21, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum- Phnom Penh
S21 is a High School, which was used by the Khmer rouge between 1975-1979 to hold over 17,000 prisoners who were interrogated and tortured. It is harrowing, raw and very real. The guide, which you can rent from the reception of S21, described how the prisoners were not allowed to move and had to lie flat in shackles on the floor; no toilets, showers or food- no nothing. They were not killed here however, unless they starved. Sounds brutal, but it is real and definitely something you must experience if in Phnom Penh. After the tour, I went on to see the photos of the 3 million people that were tortured and subsequently killed; also photos of the 7 survivors. It was very disturbing to see the skulls that are kept in memorial. 2 of the prisons’ survivors are still alive today, in their 80’s, and they were there. They looked healthy and well- and it was unbelievable to see them there and to tell their tale to the people of today.
Angkor Thom & Ta Prohm- Siem Reap
Most guide books, of course, recommend Angkor Wat. I do, too, but I suggest seeing the enormous and intricately detailed temples, which are a UNESCO world heritage site, the opposite way round than most books. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, and it covers over 60 hectares of land. Up to 5 day tickets are available, but I believe you can see most of this historically rich place in just 2 days. Sunrise at Angkor Wat is busy, hectic, and it’s very difficult to dodge all of the moving heads, in order to take a photo. I recommend Angkor Thom to watch the sky turn to a blur of oranges and reds in the morning, the smaller temple, which is covered in thousands upon thousands of tiny buddha figurines- spectacular.
Ta Prohm is nicknamed ‘The Indiana Jones Temple’ due to its ancient, snake-like trees wrapping around the temples. They are like nothing you will ever see and it is the most atmospheric temple at Angkor. With the shadows cast by the trees a welcome sanctuary from the beaming sun, an eerie feeling can be felt at the silence and sheer size and embrace of the roots and branches.
Phnom Penh bus station is notoriously dusty, noisy and it is also known for the buses being chaotic and disorganised. Look out for the people who may start to hassle you, albeit innocently, and make sure you get on the right bus! Ask questions if need be, as although it is small, the buses are not always clearly marked with the destination.