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First-time backpacker to Cambodia, need some advice!

  • NatetheGrea-
    t092

    Joined Travelfish
    9th September, 2013
    Posts: 10

    Hey all!

    So, I decided to take the leap and go backpacking for 15 days in Cambodia from 29 October to 15 November. For those that have backpacked Cambodia, my first question is this; is 15 days enough? I'm sort of willing to tack on another few days, maybe week onto the trip, but if there is no need to, then I won't.

    Aside from that question, the gist of what I want to do is as follows and I'd appreciate any and all suggestions of what places to go to and for how long. I fly into Phnom Penh and would like to explore the city and stay for a little bit (how much time should I set aside for Phnom Penh) then hit Angkor Wat and Siem Reap . From what I've read, 2 to 3 days there in Siem Reap should suffice. I then want to travel to Kratie which I've read is not far at all from Siem Reap. Stay there for a night or 2, then MAYBE go to northern Cambodia. I hear Ratanakiri province is a great experience, but is there lodging there? Plus I hear it's very very far. After that, I'd like to go to Battambang and Kampot. Don't know how long of a stay should suffice there. And then to cap it all off, travel to Sihanoukville, stay there for a couple nights, and finish off with 4-6 nights in the islands off the coast. 2-3 nights on Koh Rong and 2-3 nights on Koh Rong Samloem. Then head back to Phnom Penh and fly out.

    This is a very rough itinerary as of right now. But I do know that these are the things/places I definitely want to see/spend time at. So, for anyone with advice, is there anything I'm missing? Is 15 days enough for all of this? And how much time should I spend in each place? I guess I'm asking you guys to basically tweak my itinerary. FYI, I love nature and exploration, but I also love nightlife and drinking, as well as relaxing on a beach. Which is why I want to have a healthy mix of everything.

    Thanks!

    #1 Posted: 9/9/2013 - 11:41

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6263
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    Is 15 days enough? I'd say 15 months is probably not enough, but it depends on how you define that.

    You might want to send a PM to Sayadian or Rasheed, as they are Cambodian guys.

    #2 Posted: 9/9/2013 - 13:39

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    http://www.travelfish.org/board/post/indochina/22931_14-days---thai--vietnam-and-cambodia-

    I think you should take a look at this post most of the advice would apply to you. O.K. Cambodia is not a big country but most roads start at the hub of Phnom Penh. You are going to Seam Reap, that's for sure but that takes a day to get to from PP unless you fly. Then you've got a day to get back to PP. You want to go north or east that's another day then back to PP one more day! Bus to Sihanoukville and back, another two days. Just that itinerary is taking half your vacation. I suggest coming back from SR to PP after a couple of days, explore around PP , maybe a visit to Udong, the ancient capital, a fascinating site with great views of the countryside and only a couple of hours from PP. Then for beachlife-Sihanoukville. Really, you haven't got time for the rest.

    #3 Posted: 9/9/2013 - 13:44

  • antoniamitc-
    hell

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    Hi there,
    From your tentative itinerary, you've identified 8 places you'd like to see. Thinking logically, 2-3 days in each place comes out at 16-24 days. But you also need to factor in travel time, which can be quite slow in that part of the world.

    Once you've checked out of you guesthouse, gotten to the bus station, a long drive to your next destination, finding and checking into the next guesthouse, you can easily lose at least half a day (or more!) every time you move on, so either you factor in extra days to get from A to B, or you cut into your 2-3 days per place.

    So yes, add on more time. You can easily use the extra week.

    #4 Posted: 9/9/2013 - 13:51

  • NatetheGrea-
    t092

    Joined Travelfish
    9th September, 2013
    Posts: 10

    Ok so I'm considering adding 5 days to the trip for a total of 21 days. I fly into PP on the 31st and fly out of PP on the 20th. And the intinerary would look like this:
    3 Days/Nights PP
    3 Days/Nights SR
    2 Days/Nights Battambang
    2 Days/Nights Sihanoukville
    3 Days/Nights Koh Rong
    3 Days/Nights Koh Rong Samloem
    2 Days/Nights Kampot/Kep
    2 Days/Nights PP

    #5 Posted: 9/9/2013 - 17:54

  • turbodiesel-
    vw

    Joined Travelfish
    21st April, 2013
    Posts: 5

    I've done the opposite. I'm flying into Siem Reap on Oct 18 and flying out on Nov 1st. Two whole weeks there; overkill. I may head out to Battambang for a couple of days but I intend to see not just the temples in the Angkor area but thos further out as well plus heading into the countryside, etc.

    #6 Posted: 9/9/2013 - 18:24

  • gregmccann1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Taiwan
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    Yeah, way too much ground to cover. I'd tack on those extra days if possible and then slow down and take just 3 places. I like Phnom Penh a lot, and if you really want to see the Angkor temples then why not just do a PP-Siem Reap-Battambang loop, using the boat to get between SR and Battambang, and then taking extra time to see the countryside around SR -there's the River of a Thousand Lingas (Kbal Speam...something like that) which is a nice drive out into the country to a small waterfall where there are stone carvings beneath the stream, and you can also visit Tonle Sap Lake and Kompong Phluuk island. You can also get out to some of the other more ruggeed temple ruins.

    If you've only got 2.5 weeks then Ratanakiri and northeast Cambodia will have to be a separate trip at another time.

    #7 Posted: 9/9/2013 - 19:27

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
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    5 days total is a little much for Phnom Penh , it isn't what most would consider a nice city. Tuol Sleng museum is a must and killing fields is good too so that you know what the country has gone through. National museum is worth seeing but imo is better after you have seen the temples in Siem Reap. Royal palace looks neat from a distance but was closed when I was there, might be worth a look around as well.

    Since you are going to Battambang try to be there on a day that you can go to the circus(monday or thursday) as it is definitely worth seeing.

    Angkor temples has 1 or 3 days passes. 3 day pass is same price as 2 1 day passes. If you get 3 day pass might want to consider breaking them up and spending a day just looking around city or taking a cooking course or something as the temples are a fair amount of walking(and in my case I biked to them). I recommend leaving the best temples for last otherwise some of the smaller ones might be disappointing after seeing Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm etc.

    You are also going to have to take travel into consideration, most of it isn't bad but travel could very well eat up a couple days(getting from Battambang to Sihanoukville for example will be a full day).

    What I would consider as a start to your trip is the following

    Day 1: Arrive Phnom Penh, look around town, take things easy
    Day 2: Go see Tuol Sleng museum and Killing Fields, rough way to start trip but good to know and things will only get better, walk along river and take things easy again that evening
    Day 3: Take bus to Siem Reap(or boat if you want), relax that afternoon and make a plan of how to see temples(renting bicycle, moto taxi, tuk tuk etc)
    Day 4: Day 1 of temples
    Day 5: Day 2 of temples
    Day 6: Rest, see other parts of town
    Day 7: Day 3 of temples
    Day 8: Take bus to Battambang, go see circus in the evening
    Day 9: Rent motorbike or hire tuk tuk driver to travel around town looking at sights.
    Day 10: Take bus to Phnom Penh and then on to Sihanoukville(Phnom Penh Sorya can arrange this for you to do with small wait time in Phnom Penh).

    Then you can do your 2 days in Sihanoukville and 5-6 days on Koh Rong and Samloem, then head to Kampot/Kep/Rabbit Island for 2-3 days and back to Phnom Penh the day before you fly home. If you fly in afternoon go see national museum then or else will have to try and fit it in some other time(could stay in Phnom Penh on way to Sihanoukville since that is a long day of travel and might be worth breaking apart).

    #8 Posted: 9/9/2013 - 19:33

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
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    I'm going to agree that you've got too much time planned for PP, but I also understand that you don't want to just arrive there late one night and take off for home the next day on your way out of country. The national museum is a great place to visit before or after going to Siem Reap as they have an excellent collection of carvings.

    I wouldn't really want to go from Battambang to Sihanoukville in one day, but it will be a full day lost and you probably don't want to break up the trip with another night in PP. Anyway, when we were down south, we didn't have much time but camped out at Kampot for 4 nights and had something interesting to do every day (including a day trip to Kep, which is all I'd make of it). I"d consider taking a look at this portion:

    3 Days/Nights Koh Rong
    3 Days/Nights Koh Rong Samloem

    Choose an island you are really into and add an extra night or two to that and then take that third night and add it to Kampot. One fewer destinations and more relaxation.

    Another solid option would be to hit Kampot first after Battambang (though that direct transport may not be as easy to arrange as straight on to Sihanoukville) and then motorbike around there for a few days before hitting the beaches as sort of a final recuperation. That way, if you find Kampot boring and want more beach time you can just leave earlier and still hit up more islands.

    #9 Posted: 9/9/2013 - 20:57

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    'Phnom Penh , it isn't what most would consider a nice city'

    With its unique position on the confluence of the Tonle Sap and Mekhong River, lovely Riverside area, Royal Palace and above all a city you can walk around ( as opposed to pedestrian-unfriendly Bangkok) and take in the graceful French colonial architecture and markets, street life, coffee shops etc. Why isn't it nice?

    You could spend a month there and still be discovering something interesting or beautiful.

    #10 Posted: 10/9/2013 - 06:44

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6263
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    I love Phnom Phen. Not a nice city? WTF? It's a great city to visit. I could easily live there. I spent eight days there on my first visit, and I'll spend more on my next.

    #11 Posted: 10/9/2013 - 07:28

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
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    You guys are kind of a special breed in what you like to do when travelling. You don't really travel to see the sights like most of us do.

    Imo it is just your typical dirty, run down, poor SEA city. Food especially along the river is pricey and not very good. Sights are lacking(other then what I previously mentioned) and there just isn't a great feel to it.

    Phnom Penh is definitely worth seeing I just wouldn't be spending a ton of time there since Siem Reap, Battambang, Kampot, Kep, Koh Rong etc are all nicer places imo with more things to do and see.

    #12 Posted: 10/9/2013 - 10:22

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 684

    I would agree Geer, although there are probably no moto taxi guys that MADMAC could play chess with in Kampot etc.

    I like big cities but in Asia for a start I would prefer Hanoi, Beijing, X'ian and KL to PP.

    #13 Posted: 10/9/2013 - 10:51

  • gregmccann1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Beijing and Xian? Are you serious? Chinese cities are dull and boring -almost as much as American cities. The Great Wall is far enough away from Beijing to be a place considered "outside the city" (which, VERY obviously, it is). And even when a visitor arrives at the great wall (and can one even arrive there without joining a dreaded 'tour'?) one will meet massive lines of tourists.

    I visited China once and I hope I never "have" to go back (indeed, I was forced to go there for a conference).

    If you really cannot see any redeeming qualities in Phnom Penh I have to wonder why you are even on this forum.

    #14 Posted: 10/9/2013 - 11:03

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    Calm dowm Greg, I didn't say I didn't see any redeeming qualities in PP - I just listed a few cities I prefer to it.

    #15 Posted: 10/9/2013 - 11:09

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    Greer.
    'Imo it is just your typical dirty, run down, poor SEA city. Food especially along the river is pricey and not very good. Sights are lacking(other then what I previously mentioned) and there just isn't a great feel to it.'

    Well, I appreciate everybody's opinion but I just get the feeling you missed the best. It isn't really that expensive to eat on Riverside.
    $5 should get you a meal.O.K. in a country where you can eat for $1 that seems a lot but look at the view. If you drink beer you can buy a glass for 50-75 cents. You can buy Arab, Indian, Vietnamese food as well as local. Are you saying all the food is bad? I think you just had a bad meal which is different to saying the whole place has bad food. I don't know what sort of sights you like but walking around there are so many delightful markets,buildings, coffee shops and restaurants as well as a good nightlife.

    #16 Posted: 10/9/2013 - 12:09

  • Geer1

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    Sayadian I think you may be missing my point. Do you actually think Phnom Penh is a nicer tourist attraction then many of the other places he is visiting? Do you think spending a a couple of days just wandering the streets of Phnom Penh is worth not being able to see Kampot ?

    I spent 2 days in Phnom Penh and I don't regret it one bit as I had a more enjoyable time in other areas of Cambodia. Perhaps I didn't give it enough time to really see the charm but I didn't have a week or so to spend there and neither does the OP.

    Part of my opinion is due to the fact that I don't care for cities to begin with and run down old french style buildings does absolutely nothing for me. The river view etc was ok but not as good as many other towns like Kampot which has a much more inviting and clean feel with better food(on average where I went, perhaps I didn't choose good in Phnom Penh).

    #17 Posted: 10/9/2013 - 12:38

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6263
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    Man, you guys are funny. PP is one of my favorite cities in the world - let alone SEA. I liked Augsburg in Germany a lot, but PP was more fun for sure. I love Mogadischu, but for vastly different reasons. But PP is a great place. Cool vibe to it.

    #18 Posted: 10/9/2013 - 12:48

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    Geer
    'Do you think spending a a couple of days just wandering the streets of Phnom Penh is worth not being able to see Kampot ?
    '

    Now your asking the wrong guy. I think I've written in a few posts that for me Kampot holds no attraction.
    I'd rather take a day trip from PP to Udong. Great walk up the staircase leading to the lovely temples and a fantastic view of the countryside. Then eat and drink in a hammock at one of the many restaurants serving fresh fish and beer.Go to the monk school and see the body of the monk killed by his political opponents. It's an important shrine to Khmer and you'll be invited to burn incence and pray with them.
    Then I'd take a minibus from the main market in PP to Kampong Speu market and a moto a couple of kilometres to the nearby resort.
    Visit the Killing Fields there. (they are all over Cambodia) feed the monkeys, walk by the river and just ramble in this beautiful area of Cambodia. That or I'd take a trip to Kirirom. Maybe on a motorbike. Get to the top of the mountain where it's so high they have pine trees and enjoy the sumptous view of the lake and forests and explore the many trails there.

    The tourist trail is so predictable.

    How about Aural, the highest peak in Cambodia with its hot springs. So much to see.
    Much better than drinking coffee on the waterfront at Kampot which is all its got. Leave that waterfront and 'its just another dirty rundown city.'


    #19 Posted: 10/9/2013 - 15:59

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
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    I think we are getting to the point of saying that most cities are a bit dirty and run down in SE Asia. You have to look beyond that if you're going to enjoy them. Personally, I found Kampot was a good middle ground between the rather squalid and shut-down feel that most of Battambang had and the over-run with tourism feel of Siem Reap. Of course, PP has a completely different fell than any of those three - being the national capital and by far the largest city. I enjoyed most my walks away from the crowded riverfront where there were some interesting neighborhoods to explore - but again, with a short time in Cambodia I think the OP may find a good experience in 3/4 nights in PP. Meanwhile, the pleasure of Kampot for me is getting out of the city (Myself living in one of those big Chinese cities) and taking a motorbike around the countryside, through the salt farms to the ocean, over to Kep, up the river and into the hills. Then, you can come back to a rather quiet city and have a beer watching a beautiful sunset on the river.

    Obviously it is all for your own idea of a vacation - I feel the OP wants variety, culture, history, countryside and city-life. I guess the reason the tourist trail exists is in part because the locations he listed offer this variety with accessibility, something to consider with a limited schedule.

    #20 Posted: 10/9/2013 - 17:57

  • gregmccann1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Geer, I think part of the reason I reacted as stronly as I did is that I am still fuming about the prospect of them building a Chinatown somewhere in Phnom Penh. I really hope this is just some crackpot idea and that it never comes to fruition. Please no!

    And I want to change one thing in my last post: American cities are more fun than Chinese cities. I'll take New York or Chicago over Beijing and Xian any day.

    #21 Posted: 10/9/2013 - 19:23

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    What's wrong with a chinatown? Chinatown in Boston is a cool place. I'm sure before Chinatown emerged there some people were oppossed to that as well. The world doesn't stand still. Why not in PP? Bangkok has a Chinatown, which didn't exist 200 years ago. PP has a large Chinese population so why not?

    #22 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 00:31

  • gregmccann1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Because I can see them demolishing numerous colonial buildings in a charming section of town to build this. Furthermore, they are making it for Chinese tourists so that they can eat Chinese food and shop at Chinese-owned stores. If that is what the Chinese want to do then why do they even bother going to Cambodia?

    #23 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 01:55

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    gregmccann1
    I agree with you entirely. Also their sense of architectural design is appalling. Look at the new government building in Phnom Penh or the marina in Sihanoukville. The sort of thing Mussolini or Stalin might have thought up.

    China is going to own a large slice of Cambodia in the future so I'm assuming their calling the shots.
    Anybody have more details about this projected Chinatown. Can't the Chinese tourists just stick to Naga.

    #24 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 02:05

  • NatetheGrea-
    t092

    Joined Travelfish
    9th September, 2013
    Posts: 10

    I appreciate all the discussion regarding Phnom Penh and will definitely take all of it into account, however it seems like we are getting off-topic a little bit. Can we reel it back in regarding the itinerary?

    #25 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 06:01

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    "Because I can see them demolishing numerous colonial buildings in a charming section of town to build this. Furthermore, they are making it for Chinese tourists so that they can eat Chinese food and shop at Chinese-owned stores. If that is what the Chinese want to do then why do they even bother going to Cambodia?"

    This is exactly what happened in Boston. And to a degree what happened in Bangkok about 150 years ago. A large number of Chinese immigrants settle. They coalesce into a neighborhood, and the neighborhood transforms very rapidly. It's normal.

    Catering to tastes and styles and language of tourist groups is equally normal. Look at Travelfish where we have discussed this extensively and most people, if they were honest about it, see indigenous people as the ones who work reception and are the wait staff at the restaraunt - in other words cater to their touristic needs. As China has quite accurately pointed out, most people arne't really interested in dealing with anything indigenous except MAYBE the food. That's why everyone goes to the same places. Comfort zone. So this isn't suppose to apply to the Chinese? Look at the area along the river in PP. It was radically different 20 years ago. Nothing stands still. If someone generates the capital and invests it to suit an urban requirement, it's foolish to be nostalgic and go against that. Nobody would ever build anything anywhere using that logic.

    #26 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 06:15

  • gregmccann1

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    All true, Madmac, but I still don't like it. I don't care if it's logical or not, or if I'm romantic or nostalgic. Don't like it. Another article here about how Chinese bypass local cuisine in Cambodia. They need to stick to their own highly over-rated food.

    #27 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 06:25

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    Nate
    I've given you quite a few ideas. if you need anymore detail let me know.

    'I love nature and exploration, but I also love nightlife and drinking, as well as relaxing on a beach.'

    Well, Phnom Penh for nightlife, Pontoon etc. Minibus to Kampong Speu market. See some of those most beautiful countryside in Cambodia. The people are great there because they haven't been overwhelmed by tourists.There are hotels near the market but you will need a motodop to take you out to the resort with its lovely riverside or further if you want. This is stunning countryside. Telephone a bus company on the PP-sihanoukville run to pick you up at Kampong Speu then enjoy the beach.

    Kampot is full of boring old farts trying to look cool reading a paperback outside some crappy theme restaurant.
    ;-)

    #28 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 06:54

  • NatetheGrea-
    t092

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 10

    So you recommend skipping Kampot and Kep and seeing Kampong Speu Market. How far is that from PP?

    #29 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 07:33

  • NatetheGrea-
    t092

    Joined Travelfish
    9th September, 2013
    Posts: 10

    Also, I heard it's possible to rent a motocyle in Kampot. Any other places on my itinerary where I can rent a motocycle for a day?

    #30 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 07:52

  • gregmccann1

    Joined Travelfish
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    If you're going to be traveling south of PP and you're into nature why not check out the Cardamom Mountains. I haven't been myself but this place gets good reviews.

    #31 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 07:59

  • caseyprich

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    You can rent motorbikes easily in Battambang and Kampot. In Battambang I'd recommend a ride south with the 'destinations' that will be outlined on arrival as an excuse for the drive, then a ride up to the north for another temple ruin (and a nicer ride in my opinion) that'll give you plenty of time to cut across the river and check out the eastern areas a little also. That makes two nice days of riding and the evenings to explore the city. I don't see Battambang as a nice place to wander around in the heat of the day, but at night and early morning it is nice to walk around. Kampot is a great place to motorbike around for at least three full days if you just want to explore and aren't really worried about having specific sights and destinations. I will agree that most of the bars and places to eat are catering to tourism - that said the countryside is beautiful and with recent hotels going up (and the casino in the highlands) I think the place will be overrun as an overnight spot for those same Chinese tourists from PP who are looking to extend their stay beyond PP-Siem Reap. So, I'm saying see it now while it is still quiet and relaxing.

    #32 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 10:14

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 1557

    Nat
    It depends how adventurous you are. I don't mean you'll have forests to cut your way through but you'll have to get a van or maybe the bus going to Sihanoukville at Sorya or GST bus stations. All these places are adjacent to the main market (Psar Thmey) The ticket offices all speak English so you can also enquire about getting picked up from KS to continue to SV. It's usual to telephone the company on the day so that they can inform the driver of the pick up. Just make sure you stand at the side of the road in adequate time and signal him to stop. You would probably buy your onward ticket at the same time if you just mean to spend one day and night in KS. It takes around one to one and half hours to get to KS market. Don't be put off by the dilapidated state of the market and surroundings you are not there for the town. Find a motodop and tell him you want Ampe Phnom Resort. You'll get to a car park and be surrounded by people eager for your custom for their restaurant. You pay 100 real to cross the river and in front of you is the pagoda. In the grounds there is a tall glass case containing the remains and clothes of those killed nearby by the Khmer Rouge. Watch the monkeys don't steal your food. Bear in mind you will probably be the only foreigner there so you will get some attention but all positive and happy. When you've seen enough of the resort take a hike into the surrounding countryside or along the river. Maybe you'd like to swim.
    Kampong Speu is a province as well as a town and also has the gem of Kirirom. This is also on Route 4 going to Sihanoukville and you may consider it but you'd need to hire a motodop for the day and stay in the only hotel which is pretty crappy. If you do go up Kirirom you will not be disappointed. It's a fabulous setting.
    If you go to KS and decide to return to PP just flag down any of the many vans heading there. Should cost around $3.

    #33 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 10:14

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    "They need to stick to their own highly over-rated food."

    Hey, Szeshuan is tough to beat though. With all the Chinese in Mukdahan I can't figure out why we don't have a Chinese restaraunt, and I sure wish we did.

    #34 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 10:54

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 684

    Chinese food is awesome, particularly in Sichuan, Chongqing and X'ian.

    "European" Chinese food can be hit and miss but when done properly is also nice.

    #35 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 11:16

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Kampot imo is not worth skipping especially if you want to ride a motorbike(great location for it). I haven't been where Sayadian is talking about but it sounds like a hassle for the average traveller and googling the location I don't see why he thinks it is better then what Kampot area has to offer for sights etc? One thing being a longer time member on here is that I have noticed Sayadian and a few others give good advice but often lean more to the type of things an expat would enjoy and it often that requires a knowledge of local language, they prefer to go places to avoid tourists and places where they can meet and chat with locals and just relax.

    On to motorbike information.


    In Battambang you can rent a bike to go see the common sights like bamboo train, Wat Banan, Phnom Sampeu(go later and watch the bats coming out) and just cruising along the river. If you do this note you only have to pay at one of Wat Banan and Phnom Sampeu so make sure they give you a ticket or something(I didn't realize this and ended up paying twice). The tourist center in Battambang has really good maps showing you how to get to all these places. Alternatively you could use a tuk tuk but it will cost a bit more, most of the tuk tuk drivers in Battambang are very friendly and have really good English though.

    In Kampot you can ride up to the top of Bokor, it is a really nice motorcycle ride with good views plus you can see the old buildings up there and the new casino. Then go check out the little island south of Kampot to see some neat salt fields. Tek Chou zoo is kind of interesting and worth a stop although don't bother with the rapids as they are a waste of money imo. That right there is a full day of exploring on the bike. The next day you can head east and go explore some of the caves in the area, if you want you can go all the way to the cave north of Kampong Trach as it is probably the best one in the area. On the way back stop by a pepper plantation, I recommend The Vine. They will give you a tour of how the pepper is grown and can also show you an alternate route back to Kampot that has nice scenery and goes by secret lake. Again the tourist center has maps although they aren't as good of quality as you get in Battambang.

    Then can head to Kep if you want, take a look at markets etc and eat fresh crab. Lots of people walk up through the NP there and enjoy it although I didn't have time. Can also go to Rabbit Island as a day trip or to stay there for a night. It is a nice little island to relax on although if you have already been to Koh Rong etc and are short on time I wouldn't worry about missing it.

    One thing to note is that the road east of Kampot to Kep was(probably still is) quite dusty so try and get a full face helmet or take glasses/goggles etc to keep dust out of eyes.

    #36 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 11:21

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    For some reason unbeknownst to me, Sayadian hates Kampot. I loved it, so I must be a "boring old fart". Also, the dishes they cooked down around there were a lot nicer than further north in the country.

    #37 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 11:25

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    Been to Kampot three times with three different people and they all commented how boring it is. Also got really bad food poisoning there. The only place I ever got sick in Cambodia and it was a Western run business.
    Is it a hassle getting to Kampong Speu? One bus or van all the way. A motodop (they find you) for the 2 click journey to the resort.
    You googled the place. So what the hell did that tell you?
    I now realise I'm just talking to people who prefer the pancake trail. You know it's no skin off my nose if you hang out in Kampot. I'm just trying to suggest there is more to Cambodia than Angkor Wat, The Killing Fields and Battambang which is no worse or better than any other town in Cambodia but hey it has muesli and pancakes.

    #38 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 11:47

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
    14th September, 2012
    Posts: 540
    Places visited:
    At least 42

    Did you and your friends rent motorbikes etc and go check out all the tourist sights?

    What I found about Ampe Phnom Resort is that it is a good place to go and just relax along river, have a picnic, go for a walk. It has a bridge, killing field display, monkeys, fortune tellers and elephant rides. It has very few tourists and is a local style resort. It sounds like a good place to go if you want to get away from tourists and the "pancake trail" and I am guessing that is the reason a lot of the locals go there.

    Tek Chou Rapids by Kampot is kind of a similar set up although probably not as scenic. I didn't feel comfortable there because I felt out of place and there was little to do. If I had gone with Cambodian friends I might have had a good time though and I am guessing the same thing could be said about Ampe Phnom.

    #39 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 12:50

  • NatetheGrea-
    t092

    Joined Travelfish
    9th September, 2013
    Posts: 10

    Ok. I don't want to skip Kampot. And now that I know I can ride motorbikes there I definitely want to go. However, how can I fit Kampong Speu into my trip because according to what Sayadian has said, it's enticing to me.

    Again, I'm backpacking this country for 20 days, so I'm entirely opposed to heading off the beaten path. I want to spend a nice portion of my trip embedding my self into this culture and with these people and experience the country in a non-touristy way. Do I want to hit PP, SR, SV, Battambang, and the islands, most definitely. But I also want to get a good taste and feel of the countryside, villages, and places far from an abundance of tourists. And Kampong Speu sounds like it could accomplish that.

    #40 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 12:56

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    I went to the 'rapids' near Kampot . It's a nice spot but it makes me smile. Rapids,waterfalls,mountains? Certainly not where I come from. Sure the countryside is pretty around there as it is around much of the country. I was talking about Kampot town.
    BTW The Resort elephant passed away.
    You can hire motorbikes in PP but TBH it's not a stress free ride to KS. How many on here have been to Kirirom or Udong!
    No catch just interested in why these places don't figure on the itinerary.

    #41 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 13:18

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6263
    Total reviews: 10

    Well, the problem you have is the problem everyone has. You want to do everything and see everything but you only have 20 days to do it. Not possible. So you have to make some decisions. Each day you travel is largely a lost day. So if you were to hit six locations, that means you have 14 days left to actually see / experience something. The more you move around, the less you see / do. I personally think you'd want to spend at least 3 days at each location as a minimum. My math means that's five locations.

    #42 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 13:22

  • NatetheGrea-
    t092

    Joined Travelfish
    9th September, 2013
    Posts: 10

    Ok I'm confused about this whole "losing a day when it comes to traveling" idea. Because I calculated how much time it takes to get place to place using google maps and the longest time was 7 hours. Plus, I'd only travel to the next place in the morning, so I don't really see how I'd be losing that much time. If I'm able to leave from one place in the morning and get to the next in the afternoon...I still have some day time and the whole night to enjoy wherever I'm at.

    If anyone can clarify this and explain more about it or correct me, please do.

    #43 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 13:30

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6263
    Total reviews: 10

    You'll have the night. Don't rely on "google maps" to calculate times. Bus movement in Cambodia is not going to be fast, and it is going to suck. You have to check out, get to the station, get a ticket, wait for the bus, travel to your destination, get to the hotel of choice, check in and then for sure take a shower and probably eat a meal. Movement is a time eater. Consider the day lost. The night you'll still have, but not the day. And it will suck. Did I mention that?

    #44 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 13:36

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    Madmac is right.
    You have to pack, get to the bus station, the buses invariably leave late. They are slow. The distance from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville for example is around 160 miles but the bus takes five and a half hours. Then you got to find a place to stay etc.The good news is there are now a couple of companies that run luxury vans and mini buses between Seam Reap-Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville and travel much faster in much more comfort. Giant Ibis is one that comes to mind. Definitely a smoother experience and I did the run from PP to SKV with them in four hours. Lots of leg room as well.

    #45 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 14:20

  • NatetheGrea-
    t092

    Joined Travelfish
    9th September, 2013
    Posts: 10

    Sooo, is it natural to feel overwhelmed? It was easy choosing Cambodia, easy booking the flight, and easy figuring out the general gist of what I want to see and do. But at this point, with all the opinions about places, suggestions, and intricacies of this...I feel really overwhelmed. Especially about the itinerary.

    #46 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 15:36

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
    14th September, 2012
    Posts: 540
    Places visited:
    At least 42

    Honestly Nate I would just stick to your latest itinerary. It is similar to what I did and I loved it, Cambodia was right up there with Thailand as my favourite countries on my trip. One of the nice things about Cambodia is that some of the places you are planning on going(Battambang and Kampot) are actually not all that touristy in the main scheme of things. You will have lots of opportunities to to search out local restaurants and to stay at a homestay or something like that if you want to.

    Getting way off the beaten track is possible, and there are a few places in Cambodia that I would like to do it(talked to a guy that checked out Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces and loved it). The problem with getting off the beaten track is that it takes time, you have to travel areas like that slowly to really enjoy them. You can't just show up and look at the sight and leave as the sights aren't what you are often going for. It is the experience, meeting with locals and being accepted into their culture and helping them out. That type of thing takes a lot of time, if you had 2 months to spend I would say go for it and spend a month doing something like that but with only 3 weeks I would be sticking to the main attractions because you will for sure have a great time and will be able to see and do more.

    Also as others have said don't go by google maps for times to travel. Google maps is horribly wrong for that side of the world and bus schedules have a lot of effect as well as you may not be able to get buses when you would theoretically want them(very few afternoon and almost no evening buses in Cambodia).

    #47 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 21:02

  • NatetheGrea-
    t092

    Joined Travelfish
    9th September, 2013
    Posts: 10

    Thanks for the advice! I'm gonna take it and try to be less rigid when it comes to my trip. I definitely don't want to over-plan, I'd rather be a little more free and flexible and just go with the flow.

    One question I do have though is should I worry about booking hotels beforehand or is it fairly easy to get a room the day of arrival in each place, even the islands.

    #48 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 21:18

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
    14th September, 2012
    Posts: 540
    Places visited:
    At least 42

    Cambodia shouldn't be an issue with finding rooms as long as you aren't too picky. I never pre booked anything my whole time in Cambodia. If you are going to want air conditioning, hot water, view etc for a reasonable price then you might need to book ahead though.

    What you can easily do if you aren't sure or want to stay in a certain place is just book once you know you are going to be there. Only the best known places book up days in advance and 1-2 days notice is often enough to get you a room every where else. Pre booking in Siem Reap might be a good idea just because then you don't have to put up with the tuk tuk hassle(just tell them where to take you instead of them wanting to show you all around to the places they get commission).

    #49 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 22:12

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6263
    Total reviews: 10

    Yeah, don't feel overwhelmed. You got a list of places you want to hit and a general direction of travel. If you hit them all, great. And if not, so be it. Maybe you'll meet a girl along the way and decide to spend the rest of your trip in one spot (and no, not a Swedish girl). It's been known to happen. Maybe you'll get to Kampot and say to yourself "Man, this place is the ****. I'm spending the rest of my time here." And there would be nothing wrong with that. Maybe you'll get to Battambang and say "Man, this place sucks" and leave the next day. No worries. Take it one day at a time and have fun. It's the purpose after all.

    #50 Posted: 11/9/2013 - 23:51

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    Just a last note. As Geer says getting off the beaten track is fun and that was precisely why I mentioned Kampong Speu. You can get off the beaten track without going on long trips, which Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri are. KS is on the main road to Sihanoukville (Highway 4) and there are a host of places to visit from there. Ditto Kirirom (on Route 4)
    Again it depends how you feel. Battambang, by the way is a large city though it doesn't feel that way because it is so spread out. I think you might enjoy a trip down to Pailin from there as it's lovely countryside. I found Pailin a sinister town. It still has a fair population of aging Khmer Rouge. Try and stay on that main route SR-PP-SKV and do some excursions off the main roads.

    #51 Posted: 12/9/2013 - 01:28

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd March, 2010
    Location China
    Posts: 1218
    Total reviews: 53
    Places visited:
    At least 48

    Nate - agree with the above, sorry if we are overwhelming, we are all just a bunch of folks who like to shout our opinions loudly. Your trip looks good to me and I think planning to be a bit loose with it is a good idea. I think the last one you posted was good.

    On the note of booking hotels ahead of time, some people do that (like myself) if there is a place you know you'll be anyway and you have a place in mind you really want to stay at. For example, the day you arrive in PP on your flight - it is always nice to have that spot booked, but leave your return stay opened as after you explore the city you may want to change the neighborhood you were staying in for the nights before your flight.

    Personally, if you KNOW you'll be leaving PP on day ___ for Siem Reap, I'd consider booking ahead there, because you can get a pretty good idea of ideal spots. By which I mean that one of the places I was happiest I stayed in Cambodia and most of SE Asia (not counting beach bungalows) was http://www.travelfish.org/accommodation_profile/cambodia/western_cambodia/siem_reap/siem_reap/all/3980. I liked it because it was in Wat Bo area away from the central part of the city, but just a 10 minute walk across the river. The people working there were great and they had a shady little lounge that was often the host of other accommodation guests because with not infrequent power outages the generator was a bonus.

    So - if you get a good tip you might want to book that ahead, especially if it is a set date you'll be there anyway. Remember when you get to Kampot that if you want really relaxed but out of the way, the spots like Bodhi Villa are out of town but very popular with young 'hip' backpackers and could book up before your arrival. There are plenty of spots along the river you can book as well in town if you'd rather be in the mix, as much in the mix as you can be in Kampot.

    #52 Posted: 12/9/2013 - 01:40

  • AbigailatPe-
    nhandInk

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
    9th November, 2010
    Location United Kingdom
    Posts: 179

    Hi Nate

    Your itinerary seems to have a lot of beach time. Not going to argue with that, but you might not need/want two days in Sihanoukville if you're headed to an island where the beaches are cleaner and the ambiance is calmer. Boats for the islands tend to leave about 9am, so if you arrive the afternoon before, there's time to get a boat ticket and have a beach BBQ in the evening before heading out to the island. Stay not too far from the pier on Serendipity and you'll either catch a boat from there or get a pickup to take you to the port.

    Transport options to Kampot /Kep are increasing all the time - you might find a direct service from Battambang, which would break the journey to S'ville. Alternatively, stop over in PP. As well as the Giant Ibis there's the Kampot Express minibus service which is worth checking out. I'm firmly in the love Kampot camp - I'd recommend a visit to The Greenhouse for sunset, and I've had many happy days on a moto exploring the countryside, visiting the bat cave, stopping for a coffee at a village stall ...

    I can understand why you feel overwhelmed, but as long as you have an understanding of where you'd like to go and allow for travel to be longer and more tiring than you thought, and keep an open mind to things you find out about when you arrive, you'll have a great time. Enjoy!

    #53 Posted: 20/9/2013 - 00:16

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