I just came back from an amazing 2 weeks in the Kingdom of Cambodia! I have to confess that before the trip, I barely remembered that this country existed, so clearly, Cambodia was not my choice. My boyfriend was the one that had the idea of us going to Cambodia. As soon as he said the name an interrogation mark appeared on top of my head. After some research, I was convinced that Cambodia would be the place!
We arrived in the capital Phnom Pehn on a Friday morning and the Hotel taxi driver was waiting for us. For the first time in my life, someone was actually holding a sign with my full name (Suryane Fiorini) at the airport arrival lobby – it was weird! Coming from Brazil, what used to be a 3rd world country, and growing up in a not so developed part of the country, I have to say that Cambodia was not so much of a surprise as I expected! I could actually see some similarities to the place I was raised – Caceres.
The moment we left the airport with our private driver I had a little heart attack! I thought that the driver would hit a motorbike but after 30 seconds I realized that there were no rules on the roads! It’s actually mental! Traffic lights or one way road do not mean anything, I repeat, a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g! The roads are full of motorbikes, tuk tuks, cars, bicycles and people wearing mouth masks.
All you hear is the beep of the horns… constantly! The beep actually means “get out of my way”. I wonder how many times a year they have to replace their cars and motorbikes horns. I believe 9 out of 10 people own a motorbike in Cambodia and the ones that don’t take a lift with the ones that have one. It’s actually very rare to see only one person on a motorbike. It’s usually 4 people per motorbike, counting kids squeezed in between adults… I was shocked!
After a 30 min scared ride, we arrived to our hotel and the Cambodian experience began! The next day we were off to Siem Reap to see the Buddhist temples. Siem Reap is, by far, a more civilized city and way wealthier than the capital. We rented a tuk tuk driver (which by the way, tuk tuk was my favorite thing in Cambodia!) and went to the temples! There are several temples at Angkor Archaeological Park but the most famous one is Angkor Wat. Breath taking! Even though it is full of people you can still feel the peacefulness of the temple! Monks are everywhere, which adds something even more special to this magical place!
To be honest with you, we didn’t visit museums or any other sightseeing – I know, I know. The purpose of the trip was actually to go to the beach! After all, there was a reason why we were escaping from the cold Irish winter. Sihanoukville, south of Cambodia, is one of the only beaches in the country that has infrastructure to support tourists. Well, Sihanoukville is not really really Cambodia, as the majority of business owners are foreigners so the town is very western orientated. Having said that, it’s good to point out that all staffs are Khmer, which is great!
We stayed in Serendipity beach, the “party” beach as they say. The whole shore is full of bars with little sofas and tables on the sand! That’s the life my friend: having a US$1 draft beer on the beach, looking to the sea and the moon with your feet in the sand. I could live like that, easily. Even though Sihanoukville during high season is considered to be packed, I can assure you that it’s far far far away from being actually packed! It’s just the right amount of people – not too much and not too little. The whole place is very relaxing! It’s nothing compered to any beach resort in Spain, or other high profile beach town, for example.
The only kind of annoying thing (but also inevitable) is the girls selling fruits, women offering head/foot/full body massage, manicure, pedicure, threading or anything else they can come up with! The kids (aged 6 to 13) sell bracelets and let me tell you, they do not take a no for an answer easily! It sounds mean (but I promise it’s not) but those kids really tested my patience – which most people know is already short. The only way to make them go away was ignoring them, which was not really nice to do! If I would give US$1 to every kid in order to make them go away I would have spent all my money in the first day! But that’s only by the beach… the moment you hit the streets the tuk tuk drivers “attack” you!
After 6 days in Sihnoukville we took a 2 hours and 30 mins boat to the island of Koh Rong. That was the part of the trip that I was looking forward to the most! We stayed in a bungalow resort called Palm Beach, which is not really a resort… not the resort you have in mind though. Koh Rong is a little peace of heaven… I now know the meaning of the word paradise!
Koh Rong was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had! The bungalow was right on the beach and it was very basic. I’m talking about a bed with mosquito net, toilet without flush (yep, a bucket with water is the manual version for that), electricity from 6 to 11pm, cold shower and no wifi. But really, what else do you need when you are in paradise?! When the electricity goes off the dark is so dark and from there you feel that you are alone in this world!
You get inside your mosquito net and nothing, I say nothing, will make you get out of there! Your bed quickly becomes your fort! It’s like, nothing can pierce the net. Even though the first night was scary, it’s an amazing experience to be in the middle of a pretty much untouched jungle listening to the nature. There are so many different noises that the scary part is trying to figure out which animal is outside (or inside) your bungalow!
In our first night, there was a big gecko in our bungalow. It was like he was there to say hello and welcome as he didn’t show up in the following nights! Geckos are everywhere and in Koh Rong… I actually created an affection for them. The first night was quite tough as I was too aware of where I was and what’s going on but after that, I really fell in love with the place and felt at home! At 5am you stop hearing the “scary” noises outside as the roosters starts to cook-a-doodle-doo. At 7am the sun starts to rise and the day begins!
I really thought 4 days would be just about too much to stay in a place without electricity and oh my God, without internet but it was not! It’s amazing how quick you get used to this life style and how much you do not miss the outside world! I could easily stay a week or even more! The lack of internet brought the pleasure of reading a book again. In 3 days I devoured the thriller Gone Girl, which by the way, everybody should read!!!
Cambodia was a truly relaxing, fun, unique trip! Yes, few things weren’t planned, like having a mobile stolen, 2 flights canceled and a visit to the doctor, but these kind of unexpected things remind you that nothing is perfect! But not even these eventualities could stress me out or take me outside my holiday mood. Cambodia was by far, the most exotic country I’ve visited and it touched me in many different ways… The Kingdom of Cambodia really earned a piece of my heart!