I am new to travelfish.org and I love it! What a great website. I was wondering if anyone could make any recommendations for me as far as places to go and things to do in Cambodia. I will be visiting the country as part of a larger trip in February and will have around 2-3 weeks to spend in Cambodia. I am a 22 year old male, and I will be traveling alone. I do not speak Khmer. I am trying to do something a little different than the normal backpacker routine. I do not want to go to places to "party" all the time. I would like to see some interesting cities and meet some other travelers. I would much rather be immersed in the natural beauty of Cammbodia and experience the true culture of this country. I was thinking about visiting Kep and also going to Rabbit Island. Anyway, if anyone can make any suggestions that would be great! I look forward to hearing from some knowledgeable travelers. Thanks for reading!
For nature I would add a northern leg to the normal Phnom Penh-Siem Reap and beach route. Head to Kratie. Nice little riverside town. Go see the river dolphins. Take a motorcycle ride out in the countryside. Then head up to ratanakiri. Waterfalls, animals, trekking, national park.
That's what I thinks...
With 3 weeks you could include a northern leg indeed.
As for Kep and Rabbit island: It's beautiful but either bring a good book or try to find some companions before you arrive in Kep. It's a quiet town and many couples and families visit so not a a very busy social scene for single travellers.
May be best to use Kampot as a base and meet some backpackers in a guesthouse in Kampot (which is a bit cheaper and more social) and try to organize a trip with a small group.
Perhaps visit Battambang , which is a pleasant town, and volunteer (KNGO in Battambang is looking for volunteers and you can find some posts on this forum) for a few days to meet some locals in a different way.
Agree with the recommendations for Kratie and Kampot rather than Kep as a place to stay. Check out The Magic Sponge or Blissful guesthouses near the salt miners roundabout in Kampot, both good for meeting people. Kep is definitely worth visiting, though a day trip might be sufficient. If you're an island lover, check out Koh Russei (Bamboo Island), accessible from Sihanoukville. It's about an hour and half's boat ride away, and beautiful. My tip would be to head for the side of the island that doesn't face the mainland - there's a little resort called Koh Ru which has about 8 bamboo huts, very basic but just blissful. Take a book and relax for a few days.
If you don't mind some bus journeys, then Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri should definitely be on your list of considerations. Mondulkiri is now only about 6 hours from Phnom Penh, as the road has been improved. Both are great for waterfalls, nature and a slower, more Khmer pace of life.
"I would like to see some interesting cities and meet some other travelers. I would much rather be immersed in the natural beauty of Cammbodia and experience the true culture of this country"
You can enjoy the scenery and meet other travelers, but you can't experience the culture without speaking enough Khmer to meet the people. Culture is about how the people relate to each other, and how can you experience that if you can't communicate with them? Language is culture, and you can only hit the superficial if you dont' learn indigenous languages. That's why I think it's a bad idea to go from country to country. If you want to experience culture, in my honest opinion it's far better to stay in one country for the duration fo the time you have than go from place to place - seeing much, experiencing nothing.
You might consider renting a dirtbike and explore the countryside by yourself. I've done it several times myself and its a great way for meeting locals and to get off the beaten track.
Dont worry about your lack of Khmer skills, since the 90's half the country has been learning English and in most towns and villages there will be as least one person who speaks it understandable. But even without English speakers, bring a pocket English-Khmer dictionary and your hands and you'll be fine.
Some rides worth considering, the eastern loop:
Phnom Penh to Memot and Sen Monerom, then north up to Banlung and Siempang, rent a small boat for yourself and your bike to Stung Treng and back south through Kratie and Kampong Cham back to PP.
(Maybe take a daytrip by boat from Stung Treng north to the flooded forrest, its simply stunning. Should you go out to Laos I strongly recomend this route to the road.)
Phnom Penh to Kep - Kampot and Sihanoukville, from here you can go north to PP or continue west along the coast for Sre Ambel and Koh Kong, then north through the hills (awsome ride!) to Pursat. In Pursat you can go east again to PP or do a loop around Tonlé Sap via Battambang, Sisophon and Siem Riep back to PP. Maybe doing sidetrips to Preah Vihear and Preah Khan along the way.
#7 atawa has been a member since 18/11/2010. Posts: 3
This is a really long post - I don't know if I can help you or not because I'm 40 yrs old asian male, and I just travel by myself and I am the type of person who wants to immerse myself into the culture of wherever I am. I just got back from 2 weeks in Cambodia so I can give you a glimpse into my mindset as I planned my trip. It was my full intention to see one of the beautiful islands you see on tv commercials with white sandy beaches. Koh Rong was supposed to be that island. I did my homework and this huge strip of paradise was supposed to be a highlight of my trip. It wasn't meant to be.
On Nov 1, 2010 our little boat set out for a day trip to Koh Rong and we encountered 10 foot waves. The captain of the boat turned around. We tried to procure a second larger boat but to no avail, there would be no trips to the island on this day due to the strong winds and waters. That's one of the realities of being on an island. If I were already on Koh Rong on Nov 1, I would have been stuck. There's no electricity on this island except for the generator they turn on from 6p-10p. The thought of being stuck on a remote island with no electricity or hot water in the middle of a storm didn't exactly conjure up happy memories. I just said forget about it.
I thought about visiting the outer areas of Battambang , Kampot, and Kep as other people had recommended them to me. These were beautiful places not terribly far out of the way. The travel books had mentioned that malaria was not too big an issue if you stayed in the bigger cities. Malaria and dengue fever were very much on my mind the whole trip.
During my trip to Angkor Wat my guide and I talked about malaria and dengue fever. The people of Cambodia were so friendly, warm, and unspoiled. Unspoiled meaning, they didn't seem bothered by the fact that they didn't have much money. They asked me lots of questions about America and my own family and life here. Most Cambodians I encountered spoke enough english to carry on a conversation and I wound up having very long conversations just about every day with someone.
Getting back to malaria, my guide was 30 yrs old and told me that when he was 20 he contracted malaria. He had been living in a small village south of Siem Reap his whole life. They do a blood test to see if you have it or not (they have the whole process down cause people get it all the time). If you do have it, they give you meds and you get better.
The mosquitoes in Cambodia are everywhere. You will learn this the minute your plane touches down on the soil. You can spray all you want, they will find the one little spot you didn't spray and get you. And if you decide to do Mondulkiri, Kep, and the other areas people have recommended you have to start to worry not only about malaria and dengue fever, but land mines as the country is still littered with them.
You have to think, what if you get sick? Will there be a clinic nearby to treat you? If you stay in the bigger cities like Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Snooky, the answer is yes. I choose to stay in the big cities on this visit. Visiting Siem Reap allowed me to see Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the pride and jewel of Cambodia, the 8th wonder of the world, and if you travel to this country and don't bother to see it, I can honestly say you missed out big time. You can't say that for Mondulkiri, Kampot, Kep and the other places people have mentioned.
The other thing I wanted to see was the Tonle Sap. The Tonle Sap embodies the life of so many Cambodians since many are fishermen and the Tonle Sap seemed like the lifeblood of pretty much the whole country. I arranged a tour with the Taraboat Company near Siem Reap and I got to ride on this huge freshwater lake and see a floating village as well.
I wanted to experience the beaches at Snooky but that all depended on the weather, which did not cooperate. I did get to meet some really interesting people and had a one hour conversation with the manager of a movie theater who had been learning English for about 6 years now.
I had to experience Tuol Sleng and the Silver Pagoda because that's a big part of Cambodian culture, so I did that when I spent a couple days in Phnom Penh. I like that city very much, it has a lot going for it and I'm looking forward to going back and exploring more.
Next time I go I think I would spend more time in Snooky and visit Kampot, and Kep, and maybe even go across the border to Vietnam since it seems everybody was doing it (Phnom Penh is really close to the border, like just a few hours).
I don't think I would bother with Battambang or Sisophon because after seeing how poor and rural Siem Reap is, I can imagine what those places look like and I know there's nothing there for me to see. The waterfalls near Snooky were really fun and cool to be around and I can imagine what the waterfalls might look like the further inland I went.
#8 mahadragon has been a member since 17/11/2010. Posts: 6
'That's why I think it's a bad idea to go from country to country. If you want to experience culture, in my honest opinion it's far better to stay in one country for the duration fo the time you have than go from place to place - seeing much, experiencing nothing.'
That about sums it up for me too and I think, going back to that old debate,makes you a traveller as opposed to a tourist or backpacker.
As far as learning Khmer goes, I've picked up a bit but I still can't get an iced coffee with milk.The phrase in Khmer is a nightmare to a Westerner.If any of you are in Cambodia or are going, ask a Khmer to say it for you then try and copy.It gives them endless fun.
I disagree with the others who are suggesting to skip Kep. It's true that you probably won't meet a lot of single people there, it's definitely not a party scene. But it's absolutely gorgeous, relaxing and compared to many other tourist stops in Cambodia, unspoiled.
And if you are friendly you will meet people there. Even the guesthouse owners are usually willing to have a chat.
#11 giblet has been a member since 29/11/2010. Posts: 39
We spent about a week in Cambodia.
Touring the Angkor temples is a must and the money put towards hiring a certified, English speaking guide from APSARA is definitely worthwhile. There are few posters explaining the various features, murals and history. Unless you have a PhD in ancient Khmer culture or have been there before, $25 USD for a guide is awesome. Plus, they can teach you some Khmer while you are driving around. We spent 2 days with our guide and it was great. You will want to arrange for a tuk tuk to drive you around the complex and temple area (about $15). Angkor Wat at sunrise is touristy but cool, as is going to the top of the mountain for sunset.
Battambang is also worth a visit for a day or two. If you are going in the near future, definitely do the Bamboo train. It's a lot of fun and brings money and English to the small towns outside Battambang. Also a must are the Killing Caves - a site of the former KR tragedies. Ask your guesthouse (which is the way to stay in Cambodia) for more info - they are great resources for information.
If you don't mind a bit of random adventure, there is a boat that runs from Battambang to Siem Reap ($20 USD) that can take anywhere from 7 hours to 14 depending on water levels and the boat you are in (for us in November, it was about 7 hr),. Just bring your own food and water on the journey, with lots of sunscreen.
Lots of NGOs to help out with depending on your interests.
The other posts in this discussion provide some really good ideas for other areas of Cambodia I wish I had known about. Good luck!
#15 KarenSteveCalgary has been a member since 5/12/2010. Posts: 2
If you get a quality guide, it is worth $25. I know that I learn things about from Cambodia from local people all the time, but it is difficult to do if you are new to the area and don't speak Khmer. And you want someone who really knows their stuff about Angkor and can speak English...
I had one of the best experiences of my travels in Kep so make sure you head down that way. I had a horrible time in Sihanoukville so checked out Kep and was glad I did. Really chilled out place and plenty to do to fill a few days. One evening I was walking along the beach at around 5pm and a group of local men were sitting around drinking beers and eating crab, they shoved a beer in my hand and I stood drinking with them for a good hour or so. Simple but memorable experience. So yeah I'd recommend Kep.
#17 Bman1986 has been a member since 15/12/2010. Posts: 5
Sihanoukville has much more of a party/backpacker scene, especially on the beach. There are a lot of people, children selling stuff. loud music and taxi girls. Obviously there is more to Sihanoukville, but it's not a place I would suggest to the OP based on his post.
#19 giblet has been a member since 29/11/2010. Posts: 39
It wasn't really any one thing in Sihanoukville, I just hated everything about the place. Tried going to the beach but was completely smothered by children trying to sell me things, women grabbing my feet trying to massage me, little girls crying because I wouldn't buy a bracelet, I even had to rush out of the sea because I saw a young guy rifling through my bag. I went to chill out on the beach and it ended up being the most stressful 24 hours of my trip to asia. Plus a backpacker went missing while I was there which was enough to make me pack up and head to Kep. Just nothing positive to say about it.
#20 Bman1986 has been a member since 15/12/2010. Posts: 5
I've never been there, but I heard it had good nightlife. Parts of Bangkok can be nonstop assault on the senses, but I've grown to enjoy that, so that's OK now. Too bad you had a lousy time there. I consider myself fortunate in that I've never gone anywhere and ended up hating it.
So far it's the only place I've been that I haven't enjoyed myself, I'm sure there's plenty of people that like the place but I'm not really into the 'party scene'. I was even a little disappointed in the beach, a fair amount of rubbish on the beach and the water didn't look particularly clean. I actually really like Bangkok, I expected to hate it but I love how vibrant it is.
#22 Bman1986 has been a member since 15/12/2010. Posts: 5
For me I enjoy the Bangkok dance scene (salsa). I know just about everyone who dances there, and it feels like old home week when I go. Also one of my classmates is now a Senior Colonel (A rank the US Army doesn't have - but never mind) in the Thai Army, and I like getting together with him and talking the old days at school and Thai politics. A damn good guy.
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#25 urleandy has been a member since 26/1/2011. Posts: 7
I lived in PP for a while, and when I first moved, I found a good way to explore the provinces (without speaking the language) was to meet up with the Hash House Harriers. They meet at 2.15pm on Sundays at the train station. They travel to nearby provinces and run or walk through them every week.
Another way to easily see some 'off the beaten track' places are to catch cheap ferries from Phnom Penh to Silk Island. I'm not sure where else they go, but it's a nice way to see the countryside.
Motos are obviously a good way to get around, too.
#26 Giddy007 has been a member since 31/1/2011. Posts: 5
I loved Sihanoukville (Snooky). If I went back to Cambodia I would go there. There's a popular market near the city center, can't remember the name. I purchased a wooden rice scoop (cause I lost mine) and it's the most beautiful piece of 'silverware' I have now, it was like $1.69. I plan to go back and get the rest of it (spoons, fork, plate, etc). The Khmer people REALLY know how to work with wood, so beautiful.
I think if you're white the people will harass you more because they know you have money so maybe your experience is different than mine. I'm Chinese so I blend in better and I'm used to people being aggressive so I don't freak out. You can watch my personal video to Cambodia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOhgU6e9Rzo I saw all the touts with their hats coming to swarm me and I just laughed and took the hat and put it on her and told her it looked good, haha! Make conversation with them and laugh, they are people too, just trying to make a living. They are actually quite friendly.
I had so many long conversations with the people in Snooky because the weather was bad so I had to stay on the mainland. I ate at Moon Shack 3 because the waitresses were cute and they kept hitting me on. People are laid back everywhere in Cambodia (except Phnom Penh) so you can have long conversations everywhere, you just have to look for it.
I saw the beaches but didn't spend much time. I wish I did, I never got harassed or massaged on the beach or saw any taxi girls. It was totally on the up and up for me. In fact, I don't think I saw any taxi girls the entire 2 weeks I was in Cambodia and every massage I got was also on the up and up.
#27 mahadragon has been a member since 17/11/2010. Posts: 6