Our last stop before heading to Australia was the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. We were very reluctant about Phnom Penh as we had read quite a few bad things about the city.
We got the bus from Siem Reep to Phnom Penh which took around 5 hours. For some reason Jaan had booked us to go on the 7am bus! David also came with us to Phnom Penh. David had been in Phnom Penh before so he had a rough idea of where we could stay. He was actually there during the Water Festival when 500 people got killed due to stampedes.
When we got off the bus we got the usually hassle from tuk tuk drivers wanting them to take us to where we wanted. David explained to one that he knew where we was going and it was only around the corner, the guy tried to say it was too long to walk - they try anything to get you to use them.
David took us to a place called Chivas Shack. David hadn't stayed here before but it's where he used to meet up with his friends when here before for drinks etc. The owner speak perfect English and seemed nice enough. Me and Jaan decided to pay a bit extra to have a room with air-con as it was so hot and we hadn't had air-con since arriving in Cambodia. David had a single room next door to us. Well to say the least the hotel was rubbish - I've copied Jaan's review of the place at the end of this blog for you to have a read.
On the first day we were all knackered as we had been up really early to get the bus. We just chilled out in the room mostly. Me and Jaan had bought some dvds that were at the cinema from a stall in Siem Reep so we borrowed a dvd player from the bar area and watched a few films.
That night me and Jaan went to an Italian restaurant for a meal which was gorgeous. It was a really nice place so we paid a little extra but it was our last treat. On our last night David took us to a place he used to eat at before (David always manages to find these really good food places which are dirt cheap!). We all had lok lac which has been our favourite Cambodian dish. It's basically cubed beef steak in a home-made bbq sauce served with rice and a fried egg on top. It comes with a lime juice mixed in salt and pepper which is gorgeous. You would pay about a $1.25 for the full meal as well!
On the only full day that we had in Phnom Penh we visited the Killing Fields and S21. We hired a tuk tuk for the day which costs $15 and he drove us around. First we went to the Killing Fields. It is exactly as the name sounds. Before coming to Cambodia I didn't have a clue about the history and I don't think too many people do. I read a book here called "First they killed my father" which is really good and an insight into their history. The Killing Fields is where they brought the Khmer people to from detention centres to kill them. There was loads of mass graves which had been dug up. The most amount of people they found in one hole was 450. There was a tree which was called the "Baby killing tree" which was also still here and on show. It was so gruesome. There was a tower in the middle of the fields and inside was the skulls of some of the victims. There was also their clothes and other bones around the place on show. Some bones still get washed up from the graves.
After we had visited the Killing Fields we went to S21. S21 used to be a primary school before the Khmer Rouge took over and transformed it into a detention/torture centre. On the tour you can walk around the whole place. Some of the classrooms had just a single bed in and torture equipment, some of the rooms had cells in which had been built with bricks. In one part of the school there was photographs of every person who had been taken to S21, there was pictures of people being tortured, even children. It was so depressing walking around it.
Now for the people who don't know and who are asking why they had such places and killed so many people. From 1975-1979 the Khmer Rouge had taken over Cambodia. They killed anyone who they thought were smart, this included people who wore glasses, doctors, Police Officers, basically anyone with any kind of qualification. They didn't just kill the individual though, they killed the whole family. They also killed any foreigners and people linked to any kind of Government. We read that they didn't shoot the people as they didn't want to waste bullets, they would beat them to death instead. They estimate 2.2 million people died. The Vietnamese intervened in 1978 and then again in 1979 and with the help of the remaining Cambodian's who were against the Khmer Rough they overthrew them, although they did still have control of small parts of Cambodia but they lost them in 1998. There are trials ongoing at the minute relating to certain members of the Khmer Rouge - one of the grad Solicitors I work in Sydney has been there for 6 months on an internship.
The next day it was time to leave Cambodia and fly to Australia. We were flying with Air Asia from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumper.Our flight was due to leave at 8.35am so we booked a tuk tuk to take us to the airport at 5.45am. We were told that it was a 40 min drive to the airport.Our tuk tuk never showed and we had to get the hotel people to track us another one down as they were supposed to have organised it.After arguing about the price we finally was on our way to the airport, running late we though.It turns out it only took 15 minutes to get to the airport - they tell you longer so they can charge you more!We got to the aiport at about 6.30am and then was told check-in would open at 7am.Check-in finally opens at around 7.20am.So as we are in the queue I notice the time of flight on the screen says 11.45am.When we come to check our bags in the guy casually says, the time of flight has been changed to 11.45am!I was like, do you not notify us?!?! He replies by saying, did you not look online before you left.Seriously who checks online before they fly! (2 days later I get a text from Air Asia informing me about the change of time!).
When we land in Kuala Lumper we have about 6 hours between our next flight.We landed in the low-cost terminal in KL and we just presumed we would be flying out of the international airport due to flying to Australia and all.So we make our way to KL International airport,we are starving at this point as we hadn't eaten anything all morning.We decided we would wait until we get to the international airport and have a McDonalds there as we hadn't had one in 2 months.It takes 20 minutes by bus to get to the other airport.Once we arrived we started to look around for Air Asia check-in and finally decided to ask where it is as we couldn't find it.We then get told that we are flying from the low-cost terminal! We did have to laugh!So we hop back on the bus and head back towards the low-cost terminal- it's a good job we had time to kill between flights!This time we head straight to McDonalds and order near enough the whole menu - yes we were ill afterwards!Don't think our stomachs were used to so much fat.Our check-in desk finally opens and we check our bags in.We then have more time to kill so end up buying one drink in this really expensive café and playing cards for about 4 hours.I am officially the champion at the game "s*** Head".Jaan is top s*** head.
Our flight from KL to Melbourne was around 7 hours and the crapiest flight ever.When we checked in we had asked to be sat together and near a window.So I get a window seat and Jaan is sat on the other side of the plane!Luckily a lady offers to swap with him so I get to use my human pillow again :)We had paid for in-flight meals when we first booked the flight.Well this was disgusting, I didn't even eat it.When we arrived in Melbourne we went through customs and off to collect our bags, answering a few random customs questions on the way.We were then told that we had to go to quarantine because of some of the things we had brought from Cambodia - I can't say what as they are presents for the family! That was all fine anyway and was in there for about 2 minutes.
We flew with Tiger Airways from Melbourne to Sydney.Tiger Airways have their own terminal so we made our way there to check-in.We had to wait around 2 hours for check-in to open, we did a lot of waiting on this trip!As we are in the queue to check-in we realise the programme "Airport" is being filmed.We must have been in the background.They were filming at one particular stand and we just happened to get that stand!!Luckily they moved to a different spot as we were walking towards it.The flight was delayed by around half an hour but we finally got on our way to Sydney!
Once we touched down in Sydney we quickly collected our bags and made our way to the airport shuttles.That was a nightmare in itself as the guy sold us the wrong ticket so we had to go back and forth between the mini-bus and the ticket stand!Overall the journey from Cambodia to Sydney took us around 30 hours.Moral of the story - fly direct!! Don't be tight arse. :)
So we've finally made it to Sydney and it's the end of our travels to Asia…for now!
Thank you all for all your comments throughout the blog and hope you enjoyed reading them as much as we enjoyed being here!Cambodia and Vietnam are both amazing places.We fell in love with Cambodia and so that beat Vietnam.
They are two very different countries.Vietnam is gorgeous and has some amazing places to visit, the people are really nice, although they do come across a bit agitated. It is dirt cheap here and you can eat out for as a little as 50p if you know where to go.The food is gorgeous, a famous Vietnamese dish is called Pho. This is a noodle soup and comes with whichever meat you like, we had Pho Bo - Bo meaning beef in Vietnamese. You it comes with a side plate of vegetables (mainly leafs, bean sprouts) and chillies for you to add yourself.The thing that I couldn't get used to was the 'squat' toilets in Asia.They don't use toilet paper either, there would be a hose in the toilet; I could never work that one out!Now if you don't know what I mean by squat toilet, seriously Google it for a picture.Basically a hole in the floor with bits where you put your feet and you have to squat right down - no half squatting girls! It's already for men!
Cambodia to us was amazing. Before we visited Cambodia we started to read online about it and we actually nearly changed our mind to go there because of some of the things we read.We read that it can be a dangerous country and not the safest.Well the places we visited were not like that all.The people are so friendly and the country itself is gorgeous.It's a lot greener than Vietnam.It is a really poor country and the people hardly have anything, although of course you do get some rich Cambodians.Children walk the streets until the early hours trying to sell you things and there is a massive problem with child prostitution in Cambodia, some guy asked if we wanted to buy anything from him and even dropped in the word children!!You would think that being that the Country is poor the cost of living (for travellers) would be cheap.We found Cambodia to be a lot more expensive than Vietnam, although the accommodation was a lot cheaper so it evened itself out.Cambodia does have it's own currency but they use US dollars, so when you are bargaining you can't go less than a dollar, which is why things are a lot more expensive than in Vietnam.Of course if you know where to go you can find dirt cheap places to eat.For example in Siem Reep we found this amazing place which was basically a restaurant on a path (plastic tables and chairs), but extremely busy!, that sold our favourite dish for $1.25.It was the best food we tasted in Cambodia.Our favourite dish was called 'Lok Lak'.We ate at this restaurant nearly every night.It didn't appear until 4pm or we would have eaten there all day, although they didn't close until 5am!We didn't find this out until the day before we left or we would have been getting takeaway there after a night out.
If anyone was thinking of travelling Asia I would definitely say go to Vietnam and Cambodia.You even go there as a holiday and stay there for a month for the amount you'd spent to go to Spain or somewhere!They have some amazing places that are like tropical paradises! I will definitely be going back one day, even if it's for a holiday.
Jaan's review oh Chivas Shack in Phnom Penh:
To be honest I am rather surprised how other people are praising this place so highly. Me and my gf spent there 2 nights and I have to say it was the worse experience out of entire Cambodia and we have back packed for 2 months by then and had our share of bad places.
We had arranged a pickup, which never materialized, though when we arrived at the hostel, the guy who was suppose to pick us up did appear, apparently he missed us. The place has only one toilet and one shower on the whole place(at least we didn't find any other). Walls are so thin that we talked to our buddies who were in the other room through the wall and you could hear everything that was happening around you. When we were showed to our room we asked for a remote for the TV, they said that TV didn't have one, the buttons on TV didn't work properly either, was quite a work to get anything out of it.
What really annoyed us was really the fact that we booked tuk tuks for our tour to see S21 and Killing Fields. When we came down, there was no tuk tuk, when we asked they didnt know about it, then they remembered and ordered it. Same thing happened when we ordered tuk tuk for airport. We were told tuk tuk will wait for us in the morning 30 mins before requested time. As usual there was no tuk tuk! After waiting for 10 minutes, they ordered the tuk tuk and we had to argue that we agreed to pay $6 for it, as they initially wanted to ask 10, then 7 and finally agreed on 6 when we got angry about bantering.
Now a tip - $6 dollars is way over priced, it at most pay 5 but we think 4 is reasonable as it says in Lonely Planet. They say its $6 cause it is so far away - 40 minute drive and such. That is complete bull****. It took us 15 minutes from Chivas Shack to get to Airport and driver was on purpose driving super slow ( we were actually concerned if we are going to make it - till we realised - when we arrived - he was on purpose going slow to make it look as if it is longer).
Oh yeah one more thing, the place is next to the brothel, if that rocks your boat I suppose its good, but in general the whole place left very dirty, poorly ran place. It was only place we stayed in Phnom Penh and maybe there are other better places, but in general I would not recommend to stay there, just too dodgy.