Cities visited: Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong Sanloem, Siem Reap
From Saigon, we arrived in Phnom Penh by minivan. After a long journey in a crowded van I wanted nothing more to drop off our heavy backpacks at a hostel, and go and relax and enjoy a nice meal. However, the first few hostels we tried were all booked up! Getting a little bit desperate, we stumbled into a less than great looking hostel, and I am so glad we did because we ran into a couple we had met in Saigon! We ended up spending most of our time in Cambodia with them. That kind of thing happened a lot in Asia, we would meet someone in one city, and then days or even weeks later we would cross paths again! It was nice to see familiar faces on our travels.
Throughout our travels, other backpackers had told us a little about the terrible genocide that happened in Cambodia. We wanted to learn more, having never heard of it in Canada and Ireland, so we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields. It was day filled with many emotions: heartbreak for the innocent victims, anger towards the leaders of the Khmer Rouge, and confusion as to how the rest of the world was not aware of the horrible slaughter and torture that was taking place in Cambodia, only about 40 years ago.
Next on our stop was Sihanoukville. We stayed in a hostel right near Serendipity beach. It was definitely a backpacker area, as there were tons of beach bars and hostels all around us. The sand in Cambodia is the nicest I’ve ever seen. It is white sand, but it’s almost like clay.
From Sihanoukville, we arranged for a ferry to take us to Koh Rong Sanloem. The island was absolutely beautiful. We stayed at the Mad Monkey (which is a chain hostel in Cambodia), and it was almost a resort style hostel. We had our own private beach, and stayed in bungalows right on the sand. The food, although overpriced, was delicious. (Overpriced for Cambodia that is) The Mad Monkey is known for its social atmosphere, and every night was a party with drinking games, free shots, and midnight swims. The midnight swims were especially incredible, because (!!!) there were millions of bioluminescent plankton in the water! This was something we were not expecting and were completely at awe. The ocean looked like it was filled with stars. It was one of the coolest experiences of our trip.
After a few days relaxing on the island, we headed back to the mainland, and onwards to Siem Reap. I loved this city! Seán was in need of a haircut, and after a quick google search I found an article about hair salon stalls in the market. So we went out into town, (stopping for a $2 full body massage), and went to find these stalls. They were right in the middle of the huge markets. Just a mirror, a chair, and a barber. Seán paid $3 for his haircut. As he was getting his hair cut, I peered into the stall next to me and the woman there asked if I would like my hair washed! My normally straight hair was a constant frizzy mess for the entire trip, so yes, I really really wanted a wash and blow dry! She spent about 10 minutes lathering up and scrubbing my hair, finally asking me to get up on the table so she could rinse my hair with a bucket of water, all the while chatting to her friend in the Khmer language. After a quick blow dry, my hair was cleaner and straighter than it had been in weeks. And $3 for that whole service? Not bad at all. The next day was an early start, and I mean really early. We woke up at 4:30 am, and went down to the lobby to meet our tuktuk driver who would take us to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. The ancient ruins of Angkor Wat were breathtaking. The temples are stunning with incredible detail and at such a large scale.
Later that day, we got on a minivan which took us back into Thailand, to Bangkok once again. From Bangkok we would head south, to the Thai islands!