The last time I was in Cambodia was in November/December 2014. It was only for a week and a bit and I’d checked out Siem Riep, Ankhor Wat and Sinhoukville with a short trip to Koh Rong (read the reviews, with updates, using the left menu). This time (November/December 2017) I wanted to show Inna some of what I’d seen and do even more exploring. We found that Cambodia has some real gems and is overall a great place to go to, but that it requires a more extreme type of travelling that might not suit everyone.
We think the positives outweigh the negatives and that Cambodia offers some incredible and wonderful experiences. There's great good value food, cheap accommodation and drinks, a travelling community spirit, there's fun times, chill times, moments of your life times, there's remoteness, togetherness, serenity and chaos, there's beauty, nature, big smiles and new friends. There's lots to see and do, be and feel, and no matter what you do, it will always be memorable. We also think it's good to know what dangers are there, so that you are aware, prepare but then put them to the back of your mind, until you need them, if at all.
There are hook worms (don’t walk around barefoot), botflies (look after cuts), disease (don’t eat the salad!) and so on. Mosquitos (with their own salad free diseases), sand flies (we hate them!) and lots of animals that want to kill you (I very very nearly stepped on a snake two days ago). There’s crime, road traffic deaths (don’t bother hiring mopeds!) and lots of people who would rob, rape and murder you.
We’ve heard stories of dodgy pharmaceuticals killing English tourists, ‘suicide’ victims with their feet still touching the ground, and lots of people who come here to drink or party or whatever themselves to death. There’s stupid as well as crazy people, rife corruption and trickery and a sort of every man for him/herself atmosphere.
On the positive side, it’s safe if you are awake and are prepared, amazingly beautiful, pure and wild if you know where to go and it’s got a uniqueness you can’t get much of anymore and which will surely change to something else soon. There’s only really Myanmar (maybe Laos in some ways) and a few little other hideaways in South East Asia that’s got that original traveller feel (some can be found out about elsewhere on this website).
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The Cambodian people are lovely, much friendlier and less sick of tourists than the Thais and Vietnamese, things are still cheap and there is less harassment. The landscape is amazing, diverse and un-ravaged and you can find lots of pristine, isolated beaches with no one there but yourself or jungles still bursting with life. In Cambodia you talk to other travellers, you feel a sense of achievement with every day passed and it takes effort and an active mind to manage it. You’ve got to work at Cambodia and it’s not easy and safe like Thailand or other less exotic places. It’s not ‘mainstream’ (for want of a better word) yet. But that is proper travelling.
You have to watch where you are stepping, have to think about what you are taking/doing/consuming, have to take a few risks and more things that are forced on you. Your standards have to change and your perceptions have to change too. It forces you to step up to the challenge and to keep going. But it all makes you better (assuming you don’t die or get a horrible disease; read this to learn how to avoid these things). It’s character building of the highest degree and it is something every one of us should be made to do. It teaches you social skills, maths and economics, politics and culture, thinking skills and life skills to name a few.
And, it IS doable and worth it. Definitely worth it. Last night we snorkelled in the pitch black night sea with glowing plankton all around us and shooting stars above us. Tonight, we’re going to a live music gig, a fantastic meal and to meet up with friends we’ve met along our journey here. Tomorrow we’re going to help Mama Clare’s Guesthouse set up a food offering and the next day we’re going to a Cambodian temple and dinner to a place where they spit-roast a whole cow and serve you slices from it. That’s just three days out here. There’s so many great experiences and beautiful moments to be had. In the mainstream places with all the pollution and over saturation, all this gold is a bit harder to find. It’s a lot more watered down too.
In Cambodia, it’s still raw, untamed and difficult. It’s also beautiful, interesting, relaxed and all the best that life and the world has to offer. These pages will help you succeed and, since we curate it all for you, you can think and worry a bit less and trust that you will have a great time and focus on opening new horizons.
Cambodia photos: Click on the arrows to scroll, or on the image for a larger version (in a pop-up)
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