Travelling South East Asia (SEA)
(29th September– 24th November)
I couldn’t quite believe how poor Cambodia was, it was heart-breaking. I was completely shocked to see young children sleeping on cardboard sheets on the side of the road, dressed in rags with such sadness in their eyes. This seemed very common and among every street corner you would see the same. It brought home to me how lucky I was to live the life I lead. The little things you often take for granted, like having a roof over your head and food on the table, or even a useable toilet, when here in this part of the world they were such luxuries cruelly denied.
Contrast to the poverty and sadness that seemed to sweep over this part of the country, there were some glimmers of hope, and one of those was in the form of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. To see this place in the flesh was truly magical, and to see the sun set and rise behind the trees that shelters one of the most historic and famous places in the world was a breath taking moment and one of my greatest treasures.
Pub Street is where the party is at in Siem Reap. The street is bursting with life and colour and there is no shortage of restaurants and bars. The music is loud and inviting, and the alcohol cheap. Street stalls are plentiful, just like Thailand, and fruit, sweets, chicken, fish, corn on the cob are all on offer. Corn on the cob was my new obsession and it became a ritual for me to eat one from one of the stalls every day. Even now, at home, corn on the cob is a staple in my diet and each time I eat it I’m reminded of hunting down a corn on the cob stall whilst stumbling back to our hostel drunk on nights out, tracking down the nearest 711 (UK’s equivalent to a co-op) for a snack of corn to eat whilst on our way to watch the sun set floods back in my memory.
Located south of Cambodia, and a huge contrast to Siem Reap, Sihanoukville is nothing more than pure luxury. We stayed in a secluded part of Sihanoukville called Otres beach, though very small, the beaches spoke for themselves and to hear the clear, crystal waves soothing their way to the shore whilst the hot sun beamed over us was the epitomize of freedom. Serendipity, located roughly 5km away from Ostres beach is where you will find the bars and restaurants, and even a cinema! Beach parties take place every night and the shore comes alive with backpackers seeking alcohol and a good time! The Cambodians sure know how to get the party started with amazing fire dancing shows, bars set-up on the beach, music blaring, what more from a party could you want? We didn’t do much sightseeing or travelling whilst here, instead, we took full advantage of laying on the beach lapping up the sun & topping up our tans whilst planning ahead for our next stop in Cambodia.
From the Serendipity beach we took a boat across to a beautiful island called Koh Rong. A very small island where there are no ATM’s, electric is run through generators, hostels are formed of bungalows, and bars are put together by wood and bamboo. It’s hard to believe such a place can survive and thrive with such very basics, but it does and it can and Koh Rong was one of my favourite islands. The vibe was so relaxed and I loved staying in the gorgeous bamboo huts that were so welcoming and comfortable, and chilling on the beach swinging in hammocks was a surreal feeling. One of my memorable moments on this island was receiving a ‘Thai’ massage. What I thought would be soothing and relaxing actually had me walk away in pain and discomfort. I had my ear lobes pulled, my back thumped, and my legs nearly pulled from my body. It’s safe to say I was pleased when the massage finished. Fishing trips and BBQ’s, venturing out on boat trips, partying until dawn (well, until the generator at 1am stops), soaking up the sun and the sea, Koh Rong has plenty to offer and is definitely an island worth visiting.
We left the tranquillity and beauty of the South and headed to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city. Busy was an understatement and I found the city to be small and jam packed full of shops, stalls and restaurants, plenty to offer its visitors, though a complete contrast to the quieter and peaceful part of Cambodia we had just come from. Most (if not all) backpackers come to Phnom Penh to learn more about Cambodia’s history, in particular, the ‘Khmer Rouge’ period (1975 – 1979) whereby a man named ‘Pol Pot’, a key figure in the Cambodian communist movement set upon brutally killing and torturing thousands of innocent Cambodians in his quest to change democracy. The Killing Fields is a historic landmark where Cambodians during this period were held as prisoners, tortured until they either died of starvation or malnutrition, or killed brutally. A very sad and almost disturbing place to visit, I came away mentally drained and sad. It is, however, a must see destination for any backpacker visiting Cambodia.
To be continued….