Cambodia pt. 2 – Siem Reap

Hello!

I’m back with part 2 of our trip to Cambodia! Have you read about the first half? If not, I highly encourage you to read it before this one! Especially if you love the beach or need a little warmth in the dead of winter right now. ūüôā

In my last post, I left off with us returning to Sihanoukville via the ferry. Once we got off the boat, we paired up with a European couple and took a Tuk Tuk to the local airport together. It took around 30 minutes, and the airport was extremely small. Since we were early for our flight (always aim to be early, not just on time), we sat around and chatted with our new friends. That’s the magic about backpacking! You never know who you’re going to meet along the way. Everyone has a unique story that’s led them to where they are, and it’s fascinating.IMG_7621IMG_7677We decided to take a flight to Siem Reap rather than a bus for several reasons. For starters, the flight was only $30 a person. A bus was $15 a person. Second, the flight was only 40 minutes. The bus was overnight and was estimated to take 10 hours. We really contemplated taking the bus because it was half the price AND there were bunks in the bus. However, we didn’t want to waste time. We needed to be up early the following morning, so we wanted a good nights rest as well. Untitled design-6I was pleasantly surprised by Siem Reap. This city in the northern part of Cambodia exists almost completely because of tourism. All the grand hotels and restaurants give the locals jobs and it’s truly thriving. I really thought Siem Reap was going to be a little dusty and empty city, but I was very wrong. It’s only growing! We checked into our hotel downtown, took hot showers, and headed straight to bed. The following day, we hired a driver to take us wherever we wanted for the whole day. He picked us up at our hotel at 6:30am and drove us straight to Angkor Wat. Siem Reap is famous for this massive temple and kingdom that was founded in the 12th century. What was once a Hindu temple, eventually transformed into a Buddhist temple.DSC_5605DSC_5629DSC_5632DSC_5674¬†We purchased tickets that gave us access to any of the sights we wanted for the whole day, which cost $37 each. The pass allowed us to enter any of the historical buildings we wanted for the whole day. We didn’t have a problem paying almost $40 a ticket, because they are doing an amazing job restoring these ancient temples. Angkor Wat sat untouched for years, so you’ll see a lot of natural destruction. Restoration first started in the 1860’s.¬†2DSC_5625DSC_5624DSC_56101DSC_5614I’d say we spent 4-5 hours walking through all the temples. I HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend getting up as early as you possibly can. Tourists visit Siem Reap for the same reason – to see Angkor Wat. Even though we visited during February, it was still very hot and jam-packed with people. The combination of the two makes for an unpleasant experience. I’m sure it get’s even busier during the Summer months. IMG_76323DSC_5722DSC_5660DSC_5665DSC_5667We explored the temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm (in that order). As you can see by the map below, Angkor Park is huge! You can truly spend all day here.¬†map1_large.jpgDSC_57582DSC_5741DSC_5784DSC_5772Untitled design-7DSC_5763DSC_5764We called it quits shortly after noon because it was way too hot and there were way too many people around. We didn’t eat dinner the night before with all the traveling, so we were starving and exhausted. Learn from our mistake and stay fed and hydrated. We drove back into downtown Siem Reap and ate at the Paper Tiger. Taylor and I both ordered pasta and it was delicious! I’d highly recommend eating here.¬†IMG_7649¬†Once we were done, we headed to a local school with Caring for Cambodia. Taylor was invited to speak about science and achieving goals. I’m so proud of Tay for sharing his educational experience and inspiring high school students who are about to make big decisions not only for themselves, but for their family!¬†IMG_7662After an exhausting day exploring in the heat, we ate a quick dinner downtown and headed back to our hotel. We had another early morning, because we were flying back to Phnom Penh before flying back to Nanjing! IMG_7684IMG_7690Can I be honest with you?¬†Here’s where I wanted to end the blog. The rest of our time in Phnom Penh was spent visiting the killing fields and S21 prison camp from the genocide that took place in the early 70’s. I didn’t want to write about it. I felt like it was depressing and I didn’t want to relive what we saw and learned. However, during our tour, they mentioned that if nobody talks about it, nobody will ever learn about the horrific loss Cambodia suffered. And if nobody hears, then we cannot learn from experience. Taylor encouraged me to briefly write about our experience.

Another honest confession. I never heard about the mass genocide in Cambodia, until now. I NEVER knew. The only mass genocide I knew about was the Holocaust. 3 We did the audio tour for both the killing fields and prison. From personal experience, while these tours were wonderful and full of information, I think this was way worse than visiting a concentration camp in Germany. (If you had a rough time with that, then this isn’t for you.) These tours are fantastic for learning and never forgetting, but they are not for everyone. I couldn’t complete the prison because my heart was aching and I couldn’t look at the photos. I listened to the full audio, but I physically couldn’t do it. IMG_7703IMG_7702.jpgThe only way I can end this post, is by encouraging you to learn. Although it’s painful to hear about the horror that occurred, millions of lives were effected and still are. Cambodia is still recovering. The only way we can prevent anything like this happening again, is by learning.

Cambodia pt. 1 – Koh Rong Island

Good Morning!

We’re back from Cambodia! Taylor and I had some more time to kill before heading back to work after the Chinese New Year. This place was high on Tay’s list of places to go in southeast Asia, so we set off for one week!¬†IMG_73411We caught an early flight from Shanghai to Phnom Penh two Mondays ago. Our plane landed at 2:30pm, but we had to apply for a visa upon arrival. Getting a visa upon arrival was very straightforward and took little to no time. I would imagine it’s much busier in the summer so keep that in mind. You will need a small passport photo, but if you don’t bring one they will just copy your passport photo for $5. Once we were done, we took a 15-minute Tuk Tuk to our hotel. After checking in, we dropped our stuff off and headed into the city for some exploration. We decided to have some drinks in front of the Tonl√© Sap¬†river while the sun set.IMG_7321IMG_7326 If you’re traveling to Cambodia, your trip will be made easier if you download the Grab app. It’s their version of Uber. Not only is it cheaper, but you don’t have to worry about negotiating with a driver, you can pay through your credit card, AND their vehicle (even Tuk Tuks) are registered. **if you’re wondering what a Tuk Tuk is, it’s the vehicle in the righthand photo below.¬†2Taylor really wanted to eat at the F.C.C, so that’s where we headed next. Thankfully, it was just right across the street. F. C. C. stands for Foreign Correspondents club and holds a very special place in history. This was the hotel/restaurant that all the journalists from the Vietnam war would stay and write their stories. They had old black and white photos from the war covering the walls, along with various news articles. Oh, if walls could talk…IMG_7328The next day, we had an unexpected long day of travel. At 9:30am we took a van from Phnom Penh to the coast of Sihanoukville. What was supposed to take 4 hours, ended up taking 6. There was a lot of traffic and we stopped twice. We had a ferry reservation at 3 and we missed it. The last ferry of the day left at 4:30pm and we’re super lucky we made it in time for that one. While Sihanoukville is right along the coast, it’s very undeveloped and not the greatest. We sat on the beach while we waited for the ferry.IMG_7352.jpgWe were headed to Koh Rong Island for 3 nights! It’s a bummer that we missed a whole afternoon on the island, but oh well what can you do? Our speed ferry took 45 minutes! IMG_7367IMG_7365IMG_7372.jpgOnce we arrived, we walked down the beach to White Beach, which was an assortment of tropical bungalows that we’d be staying in for one night.4.jpgIMG_7408Untitled designIMG_7374IMG_7407.jpgKoh Rong is a total backpacker island. I was actually shocked to see how many backpackers were there. It would be really difficult to visit Koh Rhong if you weren’t willing to backpack. We saw a few travelers with their big suitcases, and they were struggling to get them up and down the sand. The island is still pretty raw and new, so you have to be willing to “rough it” while here. It’s not for everyone. There are an abundance of hostels to stay in (starting at $6 a night), and also various bungalows! Even though we stayed in bungalows the whole time, there’s not much to them. The electricity on the island goes out two hours a day, there’s no hot water, and AC is rare. Nonetheless, it’s a cool place to stay if you’re up for the beautiful views and the adventure!IMG_7497.jpgIMG_7496IMG_1134IMG_11362The appeal of Koh Rong is how affordable it is. As I said above, hostiles start at $6 a night and bungalows range between $30-$100 a night depending on the place. Not only are the accommodations affordable, but so are food and drink! Fresh fruit smoothies go for $1/$2 and meals vary between $5-$10. This is why the island is a prime location for backpackers who are traveling for several weeks at a time. Their travel funds can stretch far here. IMG_7411783EF95FD-9C13-425C-9A73-9405B23E3998.JPGIMG_7528.jpgUntitled design-3Our second and third nights were spent at the Treehouse Bungalows, which was just a short walk down the beach from White Beaches. We wanted to stay here the whole time, but they were booked during our first night. Our treehouse was simple like the previous bungalow, but situated directly over the water. We had the best view of the sunset, and could hear the ocean waves throughout the night.IMG_7421.jpgIMG_7420.jpgIMG_7419.jpgUntitled design-257179497943__B4C0D4ED-B49A-4A3E-B5AB-8FFF0FC966FE.jpgIt was snowing in Nanjing when we left, so it felt great to be in the sun for a few days! This is considered their dry season, so the temperature is hot. Some of the locals told us that the summers are miserable here. It’s hot AND humid and the bug population only increases (make sure you pack bug spray)! I couldn’t imagine being here with no AC during the summer months.3IMG_7540.jpgIMG_7537.jpgUntitled design-4One day, we decided to take a boat tour. This tour was only $10 a person and lasted 7 hours, so if you’re on a budget, this would be great! We snorkeled, fished, swam, were fed snacks and dinner, and got to swim with the sea plankton. This is a fantastic way to meet people from all over the world. If you get motion sickness easily, avoid this tour at all costs.IMG_7510.jpg13 nights in Koh Rong was the perfect amount of time for us! We were able to soak up some sun and beat the winter blues. When we booked our trip before we left, we booked a return speed ferry back to Sihanoukville at 4pm. We realized that the ferries ran behind on the way over, so we changed our reservation for 1pm instead. I’m so glad we did this because not only was our ferry running behind by an hour, but it dropped us off at a different port because of rough waves. We had a flight to catch to Siem Reap, so this was a wise move!! IMG_7616My next post will be about visiting Siem Reap and Angkor Wat!

xoxo