Travels: Cambodia

One of the first big trips the man and I went on together was to Cambodia. We were still living in South East Asia at the time and had heard so much about the country. 

Looking back, the one other place that reminds me of Cambodia is Poland (featured here). It is a beautiful country that is filled with so many painful memories. 

Most friends took weekend trips just to visit Siem Reap, but we decided to take a week off and head to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh via Sihanoukville

 We stayed at the  Tara Angkor Hotel , which is located between  Angkor Wat  and Siem Reap's city center. 

We stayed at the Tara Angkor Hotel, which is located between Angkor Wat and Siem Reap's city center. 

We arrived in the afternoon; our guide and driver Savuth recommended watching the sunset over Phnom Bakheng.

 On our way up the temple; I might have been  too close !

On our way up the temple; I might have been too close!

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The next morning we woke up super early (4am) and made our way to Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise. Plastic chairs, extra-strong local coffee and fresh 5am air. Little did we know five hours later we'd be melting in the heat.

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 There were a lot of restoration work going on. A guy started his chainsaw, our elephant got spooked, started trumpeting and went running down the path. We held onto dear life ( well, as much as you can hold onto a flimsy wooden seat )!

There were a lot of restoration work going on. A guy started his chainsaw, our elephant got spooked, started trumpeting and went running down the path. We held onto dear life (well, as much as you can hold onto a flimsy wooden seat)!

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After the temples, we went to visit the Angkor Silk Farm and Artisans d'Angkor - Chantiers-Ecoles workshop, followed by drinks at Hotel de la Paix (to be re-branded as Park Hyatt Siem Reap and will re-open early 2013).

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The following day we went to the Floating Village (Chong Kneas) located on the northern end of Tonle Sap Lake.

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We got onto a bigger boat filled with other tourists anxiously waiting to capture the sunset. There were bees, snakes and crocodiles - I'm not kidding.

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 MY WORST NIGHTMARE

MY WORST NIGHTMARE

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After Siem Reap, we made our way to Sihanoukville and then to Phnom Penh. To be honest, Sihanoukville was a massive disappointment. It was recommended by some acquaintances and ugh, I wish I did my research. We would've headed to Song Saa instead! After an eight-hour drive to Sihanoukville, 50 cent beers and a night's stay, we had another three-hour drive before arriving in Phnom Penh.

 We stayed at the  Amanjaya Pancam Hotel  which overlooks the river and  Wat Ounalom , and is conveniently located near the  Royal Palace  and  National Museum .

We stayed at the Amanjaya Pancam Hotel which overlooks the river and Wat Ounalom, and is conveniently located near the Royal Palace and National Museum.

 Dinner with Ben's former co-worker - the most amazing local meal we had all week.

Dinner with Ben's former co-worker - the most amazing local meal we had all week.

While in Phnom Penh, we visited the Killing Fields - Choeung Ek. I really struggled throughout the tour. I teared up looking at the 5,000+ human bones housed in the Buddhist stupa. The rest of the area are so raw. While walking through the site, I noticed white bits all over the ground, and realized that they were human bones. We also visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, better known as S-21. I couldn't actually finish this tour and ended up standing outside with our guide for the most part. (I don't have any photos from these tours as I couldn't bring myself to snap any - it just felt wrong taking photos of bones and blood stains).

Some people ask why I visit such sites whenever I travel. My question in reply is - why not? We travel to learn about a country: its history - good and bad, its culture and the events that shaped the lives of its people. It gives you a whole new perspective on life. Some of the most beautiful places are haunted by the most heartbreaking stories. And beyond all that, it reminds us to always be kind to one another.  x

(all images by me)