Karen Ackhurst is a Flight Centre team leader. She has travelled to Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Thailand, Paris, Frankfurt, Moscow, Barcelona, Sri Lanka, Cancun, USA, Mauritius and London to name a few! Here she shares here travel experience in Cambodia with us.
My trip started in the capital city of Phnom Penh for a 2 night stay. Getting through the airport was easy even with getting the visa on arrival. We were on our way to our hotel in no time. The streets of this bustling capital are crawling with scooters as locals go about their daily lives and tourists are being shown the sights on traditional tuk tuks.
For dinner we went to the riverside, passing the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda on the way. A traditional Cambodian meal at one of the riverside cafes is a great way to spend your first night in Phnom Penh. You can take in the beautiful setting while watching the tourists and locals interacting in the street. If you are feeling adventurous try the traditional frog’s legs for dinner-yum!
Tip: Head to the riverside in Phnom Penh for cheap local food and picturesque Mekong Delta sunsets.
While in Phnom Penh you must visit the Choeung Ek memorial site, more commonly known as the Killing Fields. Choeung Ek is a former orchard and mass grave for Khmer Rouge victims. The Khmer Rouge regime is estimated to have executed over one million people between 1975 and 1979.
After two days in Phnom Penh we left for Siem Reap. There are two ways to get there from Phnom Penh, either take a quick flight or transfer by road. We opted for the long bus ride which took the better part of the day, but allowed me to see the countryside.
I recommend staying in Siem Reap for at least 5 nights, especially if you want to see the massive grounds of Ankor Wat, a World Heritage listed site which is the most popular tourist attraction in Cambodia.
Siem Reap is also fantastic for shopping, night markets, and night life. For a cold beverage head to Pub Street where you can buy a beer for 1 US Dollar! Don’t miss a stop at the Angkor What?? Bar in Pub Street. It's a famous landmark and one of the original bars. There are many restaurants to choose from and also many street vendors with delicious, cheap meals available.
During our first day in Siem Reap we met a tuk tuk driver who drove us around the city. We negotiated a rate for him to take us to Angkor Wat every day while we were staying in Siem Reap – it worked out to be USD50 for the whole week!
Tip: Negotiate with tuk tuk drivers in advance to get the best rates.
I could not contain my excitement as we headed off to Angkor Wat the next morning to go and see the breathtaking temples and sites. It is a half an hour drive out of the city and the road leading up to the main entrance is lined with ancient trees.
Tip: Go early to Angkor Wat as the queue to get in can be quite long.
Angkor Wat was built in the 12th Century and is widely recognized by its Khmer architecture. The temples are surrounded by rivers and water ways. The most popular and unforgettable experience you can have here is to watch the sun rise over the temple. In the mid-19th century the temple was visited by the French naturalist and explorer Henri Mouhot, who popularised the site in the West through the publication of his travel notes. He wrote, “One of these temples—a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo—might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.”
Angkor Wat spreads over a couple of kilometres and it took five days to explore all the temples and sites that this magical place has to offer. After a long day of exploring and walking and climbing many stairs we headed back to Pub Street for a nice cold beer, a lovely meal and foot massage for USD5 to treat those tired feet!
Cambodia is perfect as a destination on its own, or you can add it on to your Vietnam or Thailand holiday. We just did a quick seven day trip but you could spend your entire holiday there. Cambodia has so much more to offer!
If you want more tips on travelling to Cambodia call Karen on 04 362 3058.