I would say that 3 weeks is enough time to take the usual backpacker route through Cambodia, however, if you want to explore further afield, I’d probably recommend a little bit longer.
We entered Cambodia from Phu Quoc in Vietnam, so we started out in the up and coming, bustling Cambodian capital – Phnom Penh. There’s plenty to do and see while you’re in the capital, from exploring the extravagant Royal Palace to taking in and learning about the sheer devastation the Khmer Rouge caused during their reign, at the Killing Fields.
The magnificent Angkor Temples are probably one of the most famous archaeological sites in Asia. The impressive remains of the Khmer Empire were built between the 9th and the 15th century. The site was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 and has been attracting masses of tourists for decades.
If you’re taking a trip to Angkor, you’ll more than likely be staying in the closest city, Siem Reap.
What can I say about Siem Reap, it’s an amazing place. We ended up extending our planned 4 night stay here, to 7 nights, mainly due to being too hungover to walk around Angkor Temples and putting it off until the next day, but it was also down to the reason that we absolutely loved Siem Reap.
Siem Reap is well known for being the closest city to the world famous Angkor Temples. However, it shouldn’t be thought that the only reason to visit Siem Reap is for a place to stay when visiting the temples, Siem Reap is a fantastic city, with tons to do and brilliant night life.
First things first, our journey from Sihanoukville to Battambang didn’t go the smoothest, in fact it was almost an absolute nightmare! We got a sleeper coach from Sihanoukville, which was fine. All fine, until we ended up 116km past Battambang at the Cambodian/Thai border in Poipet. Well, that certainly wasn’t the plan, thanks to the friendly and helpful bus driver who decided not to tell anyone when we were at Battambang.
It wasn’t the end of the world, but all the hugely unhelpful bus company workers were enough to annoy anyone, never mind being tired and confused as to why we were in Poipet and not Battambang. Like I mentioned, the bus driver was supposed to shout when we were at Battambang, but he definitely did not, as there were about 8 of us in the same situation. Anyway, we ended up being helped out by a policeman and directed to a free bus to the bus station, where we jumped on a $10 – 2.5 hour coach to Battambang.
When I think South East Asia, I instantly think of white sands and clear blue waters on a deserted island. The film ‘The Beach’ is probably to blame for this misconception, that’s because virtually nowhere that isn’t miles off the beaten path, is deserted in South East Asia.
One place which did come close to this daydream was Koh Rong.
The island wasn’t untouched and there were clear signs that the island was set for further development (we even heard they were going to build an airport on there – not sure how much truth is in that), but for now, it definitely retains a lot of its basic island charm.
Phnom Penh is the crazy capital of Cambodia. Once known as the pearl of Asia, the capital still maintains a certain charm. The previous French rule is still clear to see with many of the streets lined with French colonial style buildings, amidst later Khmer Angkorian style architecture. Along with many of South East Asia’s cities, the streets are filled with not so healthy looking motorbikes whizzing about, markets which sell everything you can imagine and of course cheap cheap beer!
The city and country may have been permanently scarred from the horrendous Khmer Rouge reign, but Phnom Penh is a signal of Cambodia desire to build for the future and move on from the terrors brought by Pol Pot, but never to forget the victims.
You’ve got the option to fly to HCMC from Phu Quoc, but if like us you came from HCMC you probably won’t want to go back on yourself. Luckily there’s also the option to travel by boat to mainland Vietnam and then onto Cambodia. We opted to start our time in Cambodia by travelling from Phu Quoc to the Cambodian capital – Phnom Penh.