First on our Cambodian agenda was Siem Reap, one of the main districts of the country up in the North West. What a place! As soon as we arrived we hopped into a taxi and went to our guest house, a big double room with a private bathroom that we got cheap (we have got used to freezing showers and dirty rooms; you learn to be less of a snob when you’re saving money!). The first day was spent mainly sleeping before we hauled ourselves out of bed reluctantly and followed our stomachs and noses to the centre of town, and the infamous “Pub Street”; a road so full of bars that it has acquired that name.
As soon as we walked into town we were in love – music coming out of every building and fairy lights guiding a path up to the wonderful Pub Street. Cambodia is really famous for its “BBQs” so we leapt in. It’s basically a big bowl of flaming coals with a frying pan on top, with broth, noodles and vegetables around the bottom and a mass of meat to cook on the top. The beer is 50 cent so we legitimately drank it over water which was about 6x the price, so as we fried off our meat we were absolutely smashed and having the time of our life – giggling away at the crocodile and ostrich we were cooking. It was incredible and we had an amazing night on a mini pub crawl, before I had to be the “designated driver” that walked Ollie back home to the hostel as he was still tipsy.
We went to the National Museum on the second day which was like a slap in the face of information. It was pretty pricey and by the end I was dragging my heels a bit as we spent a few hours in there! It was all about the history of Cambodian (or “Khmer”) religion and their temples, so getting all this information made the rest of our time in Siem Reap make so much more sense! I bought myself a cheeky (knee-length, so maybe not so cheeky) skirt in time for the next day’s visit to the Temples of Angkor; the biggest religious site in the world. Tomb Raider was also filmed there which makes it 100 times cooler. I channeled my inner Lara Croft all day.
The site of the temples is huge and we hired a tuk tuk driver to take us all the way around, and bought a day pass to get in. We started at about 7am and spend about 8 hours going from temple to temple. They’re absolutely remarkable, with incredibly intricate architecture and carvings through our. The main temple, Angkor Wat, alone took 30 years to build! The trees around have started to entwine with lots of the temples so it is amazing to see nature taking over once more. Lots of people leave Angkor having had a “spiritual experience” – but I have to admit that I was on the verge of vomiting and trying desperately hard not to be sick at a World Heratige Site, despite how good a story it would be for the grandkids. “Just think of the vlog content!” said my supportive boyfriend. I had an amazing day and we could fully appreciate the beauty and skill in the temples, but it was fair to say that we were happily templed out after a full day.
For Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, we really treated ourselves. Considering we are on a huge, six month holiday, I’m not sure why we felt we deserved it, but I was certainly happy with our decision when I stretched out in my king size bed in our private cabana in a posh hotel. There was a pool, a huge lily pond (complete with a token floating dead fish), and most importantly for me – a bath. Not just any bath but a solid stone bath, which took an hour to run fully. I was in heaven and had an amazing couple of days flittering from reading by the pool to reading in the bath, with a lot of naps and snacks in between. We agreed thet it felt nothing like Christmas, but that it felt like two amazing days where we spoilt ourselves rotten.
Unfortunately Ollie had just about everything going wrong with him. After hours of pretending to be a seal in the pool, he had a suspected burst eardrum, followed by vertigo, an upset stomach (sorry for TMI), a fever and rashes to finish it all off. I was on top girlfriend duty and pampered him like the poorly princess that he was, and he was luckily on the mend by the time we left.
I cannot recommend Siem Reap enough. It is filled with markets selling everything from classic tourist tee shirts to whiskey bottles containing snakes and scorpions (disgusting). There was also a food market which I couldn’t bear to go anywhere near as it was just lots of unrefrigerated meat hanging up, so the stench was absolutely unbearable! Safe to say I ate vegetarian there. The people are so kind and incredibly welcoming and, whilst you’re still offered tuk tuks every time you step outside, the Khmer people know how to take “no” for an answer. The food is amazing and we got some suave “create your own” ice cream rolls which were out of this world.
Feeling clean, pampered and full of lovely food, we headed off into the town from our hotel and booked a bus to Sihanoukville on the South Coast, ready for weeks of beaches and island hopping. Sadly for us we both got hit with a wave of sickness during the day, and with a 12 hour bus drive looming in front of us, we dosed up on amonium and hoped for the best. As a spoiler for next time, luckily neither of us had a Indian-lady-on-the-last-sleeper-bus style accident.