life, summer, travel

Backpacking 2016: CAMBODIA

So I am currently backpacking around South East Asia with my sister. I have been vlogging the whole thing and cannot wait to share that with you all when I get back. But I have already seen and experienced so much that I thought I would do individual written blog posts for each country I visit. This one will be all about Cambodia….

Brb, off to go find ourselves…

My sister and I have always been so focused on academics both going straight from sixth form to university so this is a completely new experience for both of us and massively out of our comfort zone. I am also particularly proud of us for saving up all the money and planning it all by ourselves.

I catch flights not feelings

We flew from Heathrow airport stopped off in Doha before we reached Bangkok, Thailand. We only spent a couple of days there and were so jet lagged to really experience Bangkok so we’re going to end our trip there so we get a chance to properly explore!

From Bangkok we went to Siem Reap in Cambodia by bus which took about 7 hours. At this point we joined a tour with a group of other travellers to ensure we spent less time trying to navigate around and more time actually experiencing stuff.

Crossing the border was actually really intense as we had to get a visa on entrance (we couldn’t get them in advance) and it was SO busy. Moreover, I don’t think they see many black people in these areas so lots of people stare at me and my sister and sometimes take photos. It’s usually not a problem and actually really funny but at the border it made me feel uncomfortable. I have this irrational fear that someone is going grab me and put me in their van or something!

They are also fascinated by our hair which is braided. This constant attention has been a running theme throughout the trip so far. At least one person a day tells me how cute or beautiful I am. Coming back to England is going to be so anticlimactic after the ego boost I’ve got out here!

My sister and I with our matching backpacks…

After crossing the border we checked into our hotels and then got a tuk-tuk into the depths of the village where we had a traditional meal with a family. We also got shown around the rice paddies. It’s so strange that I eat so much rice back in England but had no idea how it was grown, so it was really nice to learn. This is still one of the highlights of the trip. It was amazing the way the community welcomed us into their home and cooked for us. This was part of a community project and the funds are used to send the local kids to school. After food, I spent the evening playing with the kids. I showed them all the “snapchat” filters on my phone and it kept them entertained for ages then we played the game “duck duck goose”. I’m going to miss those kids so much.

Cambodian home meal…

The following day was even more incredible. We left our hotel at 4am to watch the sun rise of Angkor Wat temple and it was so so beautiful – it definitely made the lack of sleep more bearable!

Sunrise over Angkor Wat temple…

Oh my Buddha…

After watching the sunrise we then went on a temple tour visiting: Angkor Wat temple, Bayan temple and Ta Prom temple. They were all so beautiful and it was interesting to hear all about Buddhist and Hindu history of Cambodia. My favorite temple was probably Ta Prom – it’s the same temple from the Lara Croft Tomb raider movie so I felt pretty badass looking around imagining I was Angelina Jolie!

Giving my best Lara Croft impression…

In the afternoon I went back to the hotel and booked a Thai massage. Now, I get massages all the time in England but this was completely different. It was actually quite aggressive, she was contorting my body into all these weird positions and using her elbows and feet on my body. At one point I audibly whimpered in pain and she made eye contact and laughed!! I felt incredible after though and I can’t wait until I can get another one.
Then I went quad biking around the rural countryside and rice paddies of Cambodia. It was so scary but definitely one of the highlights.

Quad biking…

In the evening my sister and I joined up with some other people and went out to the night market and then to a place called “Pub Street” to explore Cambodia by night. It was absolutely insane, the nightlife there was mad. Music playing in the streets, bright lights everywhere and super cheap food and drink. We had so much fun.
After a few days in Siem Reap we traveled to Pnom Penh which is the capital of Cambodia. This was another 7 hour bus journey.
The following day we went on a tour to visit the S-21 prisons and then the Cambodian killing fields. It was such an emotional morning but I loved hearing all about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime. Only 7 out of 20,000 prisoners survived, and I met the last 2 that are still alive today. It was very sad and I felt so angry that this only happened 40 years ago. But speaking to the two men who are now 75 and 85 (using a translator) was incredibly humbling. These men had suffered through the unthinkable, lost all their friends and family but were still able to laugh and joke. It made me realise just how lucky I am.

What I found even worse of all, was that these people never got their fairytale ending. As we got towards the end of th tour, I kept desperately waiting for the “and they all lived happily ever after” part. But despite all the lives lost, there is still instability in the country today. Their deaths were futile. The same people who upheld the regime walk around freely today with no repercussions and are the same people in power. There is still so much corruption and censoring of the truth. Whilst we were looking around the prison, there was another group of city kids from the local school. Whilst I was fighting back tears, I saw them running around laughing, playing games and taking selfies next to the torture chambers. Their behavior seemed unusual until our tour guide explained that these kids are not taught about what actually happened in school so they don’t really know what happened. This is the effect of their propaganda led education.

After all the sadness of the prison and killing fields we went to this cafe/restaurant place called Blue Pumpkin which was amazing. It literally had beds in it so you eat your food lying down. And there was air conditioning and free Wi-Fi which is always a treat.

Blue Pumpkin….

After another few days exploring we then travelled by bus to Sihanoukville. This was a really nice area with lots of beaches so my time there involved lots of chilling and eating street food. On our first day there we stumbled across this burger place and I had the biggest burger I have ever seen. It was literally the size of my face!

Beach day…

That night we had a beach bbq and joined with a group and went out that night. It was so surreal. These were essentially clubs but in these random places on the beach. One of the bars we went to was practically a construction site. But we had so much fun. I made friends with a random group of Australians and spent the night dancing with them!

Me and my new Australian friends!

On one of the days we took a break from all the lying around in the sun and did this really cool bus tour of the area. We walked to the peak point of the town and got the most amazing view, then went to see the monkey’s in the forests and then went to a waterfall.

Absolutely loving life at the waterfall…

We have had a lot of people trying to sell us stuff on the beach here. To be honest, we’ve had this everywhere. It usually gets a bit annoying but these ones were actually quite funny. They were trying to sell me and my sister bracelets which we didn’t really want so they started following us around. One of the girls asked my sister if she had a boyfriend. She answered that she didn’t then the girl said “do you know why you don’t have a boyfriend?”. Slightly confused at the new line of questioning she answered “No”, and then she said “BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE A BRACELET”. It made me laugh so much that I bought a bracelet!

We ended our Cambodian escapades here! I’ve had so much fun so far. From Sihanoukville we got a bus to Chau Doc to cross the Cambodia/Vietnam border. At this point is when I had my first “horror story” moment of the trip but I’ll write all about that in my next post….

It’s just me, Dammy, off to Vietnam!



4 thoughts on “Backpacking 2016: CAMBODIA”

  1. Pingback: Ode to 2016 |

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