Backpacking through Cambodia
My trip to Cambodia started as I ran out of time on my 30-day visa in Thailand. I took a bus from the main Bangkok bus terminal prepared to spend the rest of my day sleeping and listening to music.
As we approached the border we were warned about the various scams from the other travellers, such as don’t give your passport to anybody claiming they can get it for you. Just do it yourself. They will try to extort you for money while holding your passport hostage.
Another scam that happens is the border guard who gives you the visa will charge you more money than the visa actually is and the guard pockets the money. The price is actually printed on the visa itself, $30USD, so you know you’re getting scammed if you pay more than that.
I admittedly fell for this one although I got my visa at the Cambodian Embassy the day prior to getting on the bus. They charged me more for the visa and just called it a fee. This is a good scam for them because they could just refuse to give you the visa if you don’t pay. Oh well, they call it Scambodia for a reason!
Anyways, I finally arrived at Siem Reap with only one thing on my agenda, go see Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat was definitely the highlight of Cambodia. I was blown away by the intricacy of the carvings everywhere around the temple and was just in awe walking around taking pictures. None of the other 20+ temples around the area compare to the grandeur of Angkor Wat and after a whole day of temple tours, we were burnt out. We even elected to do another day of temple runs the following day but in hindsight I would have only done one day. Not to say the other ones weren’t cool to see but one day, the sunrise with Angkor Wat tour is best. I didn’t spend much more time in Siem Reap and left after 2 nights to take a night bus to Phnom Penh.
After not sleeping at all on the night bus and arriving early in the morning I walked down to a 24-hour café that my friend, who lived in Cambodia for a few years, recommended to me. They had some Western food which was nice for a change. Nevermind that 5 minutes earlier a local girl riding a scooter home after a night full of partying stopped in front of me and tried to solicit sex to me while I was walking on the sidewalk with my heavy backpack, but I digress… I had some time to waste in the café because it was early and the sun was beginning to rise and my hostel wasn’t open yet so I walked along the river and captured this amazing shot with my Samsung Galaxy S5 on Snapchat.
After this I ended up getting a Tuk Tuk to my hostel and getting a haircut next door. The haircut was only $3 which at the time was the most expensive haircut of my life 😀 despite being only $3. My hostel gave me a free beer benefit when I arrived so there I was drinking a beer at 9am before I took a long nap. When I woke up from my nap, I met up with my friend and I ordered a happy pizza with extra happy. You may be wondering what a happy pizza is and I implore you to google that . So once I was sufficiently lethargic I just watched YouTube videos on my phone in the hostel, nothing special planned that night. The following day I went to the Royal Palace a little lightheaded, clearly still feeling the happy from last night, and the nearby museum. If you’re in Phnom Penh these should be on your list of things to do in the area but they’re not essential. The following day I did what’s on most people’s list of things to see in Phnom Penh, go have a cry at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields. It was not recommended to see both in the same day because it’s emotional overload but I’m a grown-ass man so I said fuck it, back-to-back genocide tours. The tour at Tuol Sleng was better than I expected it to be and they did a good job but goddamn was it emotional. It was so long and emotional listening to the stories that by the time I finished (two hours later) and my Tuk Tuk driver had a nap (true story) I was totally drained. But alas my driver took me to have lunch at his house and meet his family (it was on the way), which was extremely awkward for me but I endured. After a few beers he took me to the Killing Fields where I didn’t spend too much time and kind of rushed through. I got the gist of it. [The Killing Fields reminded me of Auschwitz which I went to later on in my travels] It was a tough day but I’m glad I went and was excited to leave Phnom Penh at this point. I didn’t do anything else here and left the next day on a bus to Sihanoukville.
On my way the bus almost left without me when we stopped for lunch break because I had to take shit but ANYWAY it was a long ride and I finally arrived in Sihanoukville when it started to get dark. I stayed at The Big Easy hostel which was great and ended up staying here for about 10 days and met some really awesome people. I kinda got stuck here for a while but really liked the chill atmosphere and comradery with other travellers. Besides just drinking and smoking dirty Cambodian weed I did all sorts of activities around the area. I went to a pub crawl, did a booze cruise, went gambling wasted, went to a jungle party, and enjoyed the island life on Koh Rong Samloem. I went to Koh Rong Samloem twice actually, the first time for no longer than two days because I cut my foot on something sharp in the ocean and had to get 4 stitches underneath my right big toe. I had to leave the island to get the stitches at a nearby clinic. The clinic made quick work of giving me the stitches and luckily I had health insurance, although the price was only around $300. I might sound like a little bitch here but they didn’t use enough anesthesia and it hurt like hell. Definitely the most painful thing in recent memory. After about a week my stitches were removed just before I left Sihanoukville. Luckily my toe completely healed up before I went on my next adventure to Norway.
If I were to go back to Cambodia, I would revisit Sihanoukville again only because of all the great people I met along the way. I’m a firm believer that the people make the place and this place wouldn’t have been so special without all the great people I met.
After leaving Sihanoukville I had 2 days to get back to Bangkok for my flight out. I went overland by bus as I had done from Bangkok to Siem Reap and got scammed again while at the border crossing into Thailand! This time at the border while switching vans (Cambodia drives on the right side of the road, Thailand on the left) the driver told us to leave our bags in the van and that they would bring them over to the other side. Our bags never showed and the employee told us the van was already 45 minutes away in the opposite direction with our bags. This was a lie but they told us we needed to pay 800 Baht each to get our bags back. Once we agreed to pay, our bags arrived within about 20 minutes. I was not happy about being scammed like this but the contents of my bag are worth more than that 800 Baht to me. Nick-0/Scambodia-2. Thankfully, a cheap lesson to learn and I know now to never let my bag leave my sight.
I arrived back in Bangkok and left for my flight the following day without any more disruptions. I spent the next 3 weeks at home preparing for a very different trip to Norway, Sweden, Germany, Poland, and Iceland!