As part of a trip to Asia, I spent 2 weeks travelling down through Cambodia with my girlfriend, both very easygoing, in our mid twenties and our budget was about 30-35 dollars a day… Our route was from Bangkok – Aranyprathet/Poipet – Siem Reap – Phnom Penh – Kampot – Kep – Rabbit Island – Phnom Penh.
6am train from Bangkok To Aranyrathet, a pleasant journey through the Thailand countryside which takes approx 5 hours and cost 48 baht. (you may want to bring a cushion as the seats are wooden!) Tuk tuk to the border costs about 60 baht, the guy tried to bring us into the place on the right before the border but we just told him we already had visas so he didn’t argue. The border is crazy town! Knew it would be hectic, but it was immense… The farcical swine flu exam, joker guy at the visa counter and then the taxi mafia!! A guy (unlicensed taxi) approached us as we got there offering to take us for 30 dollars (we had hooked up with a French couple so it worked out at 7.50 each), we agreed and then had to fight our way past the guys in the pink shirts to get to his car. These guys wanted 50 dollars. Eventually got into his car and our driver then paid off the other guys, who in turn paid off the police man who had arrived on the scene.
The trip from Poipet on the Cambodian side to Siem Reap took about 2 hours 40 minutes… I was a little disappointed to hear they had sealed up the road before we got there, quite adventurous, I wouldn’t have minded getting a truck to Siem Reap! As expected we were dropped off for the tuk tuks, they brought us to the obligatory place first, but we didn’t like it and he brought to one we knew of. It was full so we stayed at the Heart of Angkor for 8 dollars per night for fan room. We planned what temples we wanted to see, decided we could do it all in one day and booked a tuk tuk to bring us on the grand circuit and out to Beantay Srei and Kbal Spean for 16 dollars. The lake wasn’t of much interest to us and Siem Reap isn’t the most appealing of towns otherwise.
We ate at the Red Piano – food is pretty good, if a little pricey, relatively.
Tuk Tuk collected us at 8am, the journey out to Kbal Spean & Beantay Srei was brilliant. It was a beautiful morning and the roads were pretty quiet. Stopped at some temples on the way, which were very quiet. The hike up to Kbal Spean was tough in the humidity (we had only been in Asia for 4 days!), but well worth it. We took a quick dip under the waterfall, cooled us off nicely for a while… Banteay Srei was quite at noon, and is a wonderful temple. The carvings are so intricate and delicate. We had lunch here before heading back in towards Preah Khan and the main temples.
Even by now we had seen enough to be impressed but the afternoon only got better. Angkor Thom, with the royal palace group, elephant / leper terraces and the magnificient Bayon is astounding. Again crowds here weren’t too bad, and it was nice strolling around in this area. Angkor Wat last, just in time for sunset (didn’t expect much and proved correct as by now the clouds had been overhead for hours), but I can see why so many people flock here. It’s iconic approach and the reliefs are amazing. This was by far the busiest area we had seen all day. But I think the highlight of it all for me was the children around the temples. They are only after your dollars, but if you talk to them they love to converse with you (if they can!). They couldn’t be any more friendly.
We booked to get the 8am bus to Phnomh Penh and ate at the Khmer House. The fish is pretty good!
8am bus to Phnom Penh… 5 ½ hours total, cost about 5 dollars each, including a half hour stop in Kompong Thom. Not a bad journey, although as you’d expect the karaoke can get a little noisey! At the bus station in Phnom Penh, we took one of the tuk tuk drivers to the number 11 Lucky Guesthouse (his suggestion) at the lakeside. An inspired choice, the location is wonderful, although the lake is quite murky and they are pumping sand into it to reclaim the land! Such a relaxed place, we got a fan room for 5 dollars. There are pool tables, internet, movies, 40in flat screen tv, GREAT FOOD (Green Kgen Curry – amazing!!), drivers on demand, loads of other little bars just outside etc etc.
We organised a tuk tuk for the next morning to bring us to S21 prison & The Killing Fields – 8 dollars.
First stop – S21. This place was quiet strange.. The atmosphere is hard to take, but it is well laid out with stories and very interesting. At the Killing Fields it hits home even more just what happened in Cambodia.
A quick trip down to the riverside in the evening for a couple of beers, glad we stayed on lakeside when we got there – riverside is not a very nice place.
We had originally planned to head for Sihanoukville from here and then onto an island, but we decided instead to go to Kampot/Kep and then to Rabbit Island.
Have a lazy morning in no. 11 before our noon bus to Kampot – about 5 dollars. Needed to work out when we wanted to go back to Thailand so booked a flight for Friday 10th July.
Another fairly uneventful bus journey, we stop for about 15 minutes at a roadside diner type of place. I guess this place is purely set up to service these buses… We pass through Kep on the way – it is very quiet and there are virtually no people around.
Arrive in Kampot to a very weird scene… Some guys on motos, and one tuk tuk – there is nobody else around! Thought it may be a little busier than this! Anyway, we headed out to Bodhi Villa and as soon as we get there realise we may never leave! Floating bungalows for 10 dollars a night / garden bungalow 8 dollars / double room 5 dollars, set on the river – this place may just be paradise. Great food, cheap beers, fantastic hosts and company.
We take a day to relax.. Apart from me helping Hugh the owner with his latest plans – building a gladiator platform over the river for jousting fights! Play cards and have a dip in the river, before going into Kampot to Coco’s for food followed by cans of 8% ABC stout. The walk home was interesting, with us both fairly drunk and the howling dogs (a load shout and a stone thrown is enough to scare them off!)
Hire a moped to do some exploring.First off we go further out the road from Bodhi to the rapids then turn back and head for Prek Ampil beach. It has now been developed into a Coral Bay resort, run by australians (I think)- spoke to Harris the manager who offered us jobs there for the upcoming season – they’re looking for westerners, but the money is pretty poor. We head back into Kampot and down to fish island. The road is fine until you get to the last stretch before the island – it turns into a rocky, sandy death trap! The scenery down here is spectacular though – across the rice fields towards Bokor and pretty much 360 views are amazing. Some snakes and stuff to be seen if you look hard enough on the island.
Later we had food and lots of stout / cocktails at the Rusty Keyhole, the English owner does a mean bbq pork rack. Also has sports on here, we watched women’s Wimbledon final.
Keep the bike for another day and ride to Kep. There are a few people about, there is plenty of exploring that can be done around and inside the abandoned French villas along the coast here. Back in Kampot later for food at Coco’s again and back to Rusty Keyhole for men’s tennis final. Guy in coco’s organises a tuk tuk to bring us to Kep the next morning for 8 dollars – the bus costs 15 per person!
Tuk tuk collects and bring us to the pier in Kep… Longtail to Rabbit Island costs 10 dollars per person return. We arrive to the most incredible place I have ever been. A long stretch of beach sheltered by coconut trees with plenty of hammocks for lazing… The island is very quiet and we get a bungalow with newly built on bathroom for 5 dollars. There are about 30 bungalows on the beach, but no more than 4 were occupied any night while we stayed there. It was like having a deserted island all to ourselves. Emerald clear waters, and food so fresh that is,how shall I say, looking at you waiting for you to order it’s death! There is no electricity – ie no freezers, so meat is as fresh as can be! The food I had on this island was without doubt the best I had in all Cambodia.
Day spent revelling in our surroundings, falling in love all over again, and grazing on the magnificient food, until the sun set and the hum of diesel generators come intermittently - roughly from about 7pm – 10 pm for light.
Sleep time was kinda strange… The noises to be heard were so loud, it was obvious that whatever was making them was in our bungalow. They didn’t deter us for long tho, sleep some came.
We awake with the sun to the most wonderful view towards Phu Quoc island – here you are only a few miles from Ha Tien, Vietnam. There are two hammocks in the shade in front of our bungalow and we spend the day in these – reading, in and out of the sea to cool down etc.
Decide to walk around the island in the morning… This takes about 2 ½ hours. There are about 3 other beaches, were a few fishing families live. Also there are some bunkers from the time of the Vietnam war.
Then back to the hammocks!
Today we leave the island and head back to Phnom Penh to catch our flight on the 10th. Longtail collects us in time to catch the 1.30pm bus. In Phnom Penh, head back to no. 11.
Decide to spend the morning at the markets – Psar O Russei (fairly local market with all sorts of electrical goods and homewares) and the Russian Market which is full of souvenirs. We stock up on some for ourselves and presents to bring home – spend about 65 dollars and got a vast array of stuff from carvings and fridge magnets to paintings and scarves. Afternoon flight back to Bangkok to begin 2 weeks in Thailand…
All in, I don’t feel we rushed our time. Seen everything we planned to, had some busy days and also some outrageously chilled ones – we were on holiday after all! The weather was fine, considering it was wet season. There was a huge downpour on our way to Siem Reap, the town was flooded when we got there. Next day, some short showers in the afternoon – and pretty much the same from then on – morning nice, if very hot then rain round lunchtime – if not probably later. It never disrupted our days or plans. The humidity took some getting used to tho!
Ended up very glad we avoided Sihanoukville. Had enough of the hassles and touts, Kampot was really pleasant and Rabbit Island , well, my heart sank when we left.
Our budget was plenty, we never wanted for anything and pretty much spoiled ourselves.
Some tips –
Carry a large mosquito net – they are wrecked in most places if you take budget accomodation.
Hire a motorbike – it’s an amazing way to see the countryside and explore. Only 5 dollars a day and a couple of dollars petrol will take you everywhere.
#1 misterwoods has been a member since 30/4/2009. Posts: 26
Hey Misterwoods. Great report. Loved reading it. Was your budget between the two of you or per person? And was a night on the piss expensive?
#3 humpdawg has been a member since 18/5/2009. Posts: 40
That was between us... Basically beers cost about a dollar, 2/3 dollars for whiskey or whatever may be your poison.
#4 misterwoods has been a member since 30/4/2009. Posts: 26
Humpdawg im in Sien Reap at the moment and it seems to me to be more of a touristy party town that Phnom Penh. There are plenty of bars on Pub Street (yes its actually called that!) where you can get a draft beer for $0.50 all day. The beers here are smaller than back home* which is probably a good thing as they would be unbearably warm before you get half way through them otherwise.
You can get a bucket of whisky or vodka with mixer for about $5 and thats a half bottle of liquor.
If you are choosy about where you go and stick to the cheap options you could get absolutely hammered for about $6! Although im not encouraging that ;)
Certainly for $30 a day (once accommodation is paid for) you can eat and drink all day without worrying about the cost. It can also certainly be done much more cheaply.
*Im assuming you are English too based on the language in your post.
#5 ms1892 has been a member since 23/12/2009. Posts: 38
Irish actually, but we're basically the same.
Getting hammered for 6 dollars! Oh likey likey.
Misterwoods and Ms1892. Thanks for the info.
#6 humpdawg has been a member since 18/5/2009. Posts: 40
'Irish actually, but we're basically the same'
How very dare you! Just because we speak the same language... Next you'll be say we're basically the same as yanks! English are English, I am Irish and nothing else!
#7 misterwoods has been a member since 30/4/2009. Posts: 26
Misterwoods, I don't understand what you're so upset about. What I mean is that whenever I've been travelling and met Irish, English, Scottish or Welsh people we've always seemed to share the same sense of humour and similar lifestyle. My comment was a light hearted joke - not a political statement. No need to read so deep into it.
#8 humpdawg has been a member since 18/5/2009. Posts: 40
I'm hardly upset... But I can see how my sarcasm doesn't exactly come across with a post on a forum! I was being as light hearted as you claim to have been.
no offence to any english or americans out there either - you are all beautiful (in your own way) (",
#9 misterwoods has been a member since 30/4/2009. Posts: 26
Sorry for taking it up the wrong way man.
Hug it out?
#10 humpdawg has been a member since 18/5/2009. Posts: 40
Of course... I'll buy ya a pint next time you're around Walshes in Stoneybatter!
#11 misterwoods has been a member since 30/4/2009. Posts: 26
Sound man. Same goes for you with the Harbour in Bray!
#12 humpdawg has been a member since 18/5/2009. Posts: 40
this was great! would like to see more reports like this one!
#13 Boomtown has been a member since 17/3/2010. Posts: 20
this was great! would like to see more reports like this one!
#14 Boomtown has been a member since 17/3/2010. Posts: 20
Is the harbour the little dark place with lots of spaces and rooms? I've been there, my mates from Bray drink there a lot!
#15 misterwoods has been a member since 30/4/2009. Posts: 26
Yeah thats the one. Trad in one area bands in the other. Unique little spot. Can be great in the summer weekends. Has me wondering do I know any of your mates... ...Small world!
#16 humpdawg has been a member since 18/5/2009. Posts: 40
Small world and an even smaller city! Ciaran Earls / Niav Brennan / Aaron Nolan ring any bells??
#17 misterwoods has been a member since 30/4/2009. Posts: 26
Know people in Bray by those surnames alright but not them. Different age group maybe. I'm 29. Could be brothers or sisters.
#18 humpdawg has been a member since 18/5/2009. Posts: 40