Published: February 9th 2009January 6th 2009
Immediately after entering Cambodia I had a good feeling about the place. It had charm, spirit, history and smiles all round. I could see it was going to capture me in a way Vietnam just wasn't able to.
Once in town a few of us jumped into a tuk tuk and headed to the popular backpackers area by the river where I booked into a room for 5$ a night.
That evening I befriended an Israeli guy who'd been travelling/living in Asia for the past 3 years. After hearing of his adventures over dinner I thought it wise to take advantage of his travel spirit and knowledge and so for the following week we hung out venturing through Cambodia together.
In true crazy Israeli style the man challenged me to explore the capital city via push bike.
So there I was amongst the famous Asian hectic roads riding what must have been the oldest bike in Cambodia that had long ago worn down its breaks. I guess i should count my self lucky the tires lasted as long as they did!
Anyway, somehow I made it to the centre where we spent the day wondering through
the many crowded markets stopping at every other stall to try the traditional Khmer cuisines my favourite by far being the sweet sticky rice...damn you Nadva...I warned you about my sweet tooth. Now im going to need my daily fix.
It wasn't good enough tasting all this wonderful food, we wanted to know how it was made so we signed up to a Khmer cooking course.
Ten of us met up the following day at a cooking school held on a lovely roof top terrace looking down on the city. Our tutor was a young man that'd been saved from street life at an early age and trained in the profession. He'd actually started to make a name for himself and has been on various TV channels across Asia. A far cry from homeless life on the streets ridden with filth and drugs.
We learnt how to make good old spring rolls, Amok, and the sweet sticky rice that i'd discovered the day before.
Little did i know at this point that my time in Cambodia was mainly going to be spent eating delicious food.
Between Nadav and myself we couldn't get enough of the stuff. What's a girl
Im getting a blessing from a monk in the middle of the street after I gave him some food as an offering.
to do ay!
The day was finished off with an amazing buzz round town as the locals celebrated Independence day with gatherings by the river for fireworks.
After a few busy days in the city we headed to the south coast in search of some clear blue water and golden sand.
Instead of going to the popular area for tourists we hopped on the back of a moto and drove 5km down the road to Otres Beach. Less discovered, less populated, and therefore less developed than most places.
There couldn't have been more than 100 people along the tranquil 1 mile stretch of beach. There was nothing but a dirt road, simple wooden bungalows and the odd bar with super sized comfy seating to lounge in.
So there I was in paradise with nothing to do but eat, sleep and sunbath but ohhhh no god damn Nadav thinks its hilarious to wake me up at 6am and kick my ass down the beach as we attempt to be healthy and go for a morning run and yoga. After 4 month of little exertion on my part my body was in shock. It wasn't a
pretty sight. I did however manage to gather enough breath to curse at Nadav during the whole run for waking me up and from the looks of it the local children got some amusement from the whole ordeal too. To be fair although i wouldn't admit it at the time, it was actually really rewarding. The scenery at sunrise was amazing and it felt good to get the lungs working once again.
The next couple of days drifted by with little to do than chill out, read and have Nadav giggle at my attempts of yoga. As much as the place is magical it was time to move on.
KRONG KOH KONG:
Next stop was the small town of Krong Koh Kong.
Not many people stop here but use it as a way of crossing the boarder into Thailand.
It is a frontier town of smugglers, gamblers and prostitution. Not really somewhere that desirable but Nadav needed to leave Cambodia as his visa had run out and I was happy to explore less trodden towns plus I don't believe you can judge a country until you've seen both sides of the coin.
The guide book wasn't wrong.
There really wasn't much to do so guess what...we found the local market and proceeded to munch our way through the towns food supply. And yummy it twas.
Nadav headed into Thailand and I made my way back inland. Firstly I had to backtrack slightly as the only route to Siem Reap was through Phnom Penh. I stopped back here for for one night which allowed me time to pay my respects to the thousands executed by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1978 as i didn't get round to it on my first stop.
There wasn't much left to witness of the killing fields as most of it was destroyed and weapons stolen but they did construct a memorial building. Encased inside the stupa were almost 9000 human skulls that'd been dug up during excavations in 1980. Horrifically you could witness the many broken skulls showing that they were bludgeoned to death for the sake of saving bullets.
Even more heartbreaking was the former high school that had been turned into Security Prison 21, the largest detention and torture centre in the country. It was powerful standing in former classrooms now present with blood
stained tiles and abandoned metal beds with chains still attached.
Many of the rooms now displayed pictures of the thousands of men, women and children killed and remains of cells and torturing objects. Not one for the squeamish.
10 hours west was the famous town of Siem Reap. The life support system of the country with the 8th wonder of the world - Angkor Wat.
The evening I arrived I took a tuk tuk to the grounds where the wats stood and caught the sun setting from one of the temples. On the walk up I befriended 3 Australian guys and we arranged to meet the following morning to explore the rest of the abandoned city.
So off goes the alarm at 5am as i crawled out of bed to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat - the most inspired and spectacular monuments of them all.
After attempting to take the ultimate picture we got stuck in and ventured into the ruins for the day.
Each temple has its own unique structure. Over the 4 centuries the Cambodian devaraja strove to better the temples of their ancestors in size, scale and symmetry. The
Fizz cooking school
place was stunning . Its impossible to concede the scale of the city. Its so large you have to drive from place to place. Most people take up to 3 days to see the whole thing. Personally I was happy with one.
There are more photos below