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Getting Your Cambodian Visa

A Guide For Obtaining Your Cambodian Visa In Laos

If you are like us, you might be visiting a number of countries when traveling through Southeast Asia. Sometimes you don’t know where you’ll be when you need to apply for the next countries Visa. Here we have a guide for obtaining your Cambodian Visa in Laos. We hope this makes it easier for you!

Cambodian Visa In Laos

Cambodian Visa In Laos

Goodbye Cambodia

3 WEEK CAMBODIA TRAVEL GUIDE

3 WEEK CAMBODIA TRAVEL GUIDE

Coming into Cambodia, we knew it was filled with so much beauty whilst at the same time healing from sins of the past. We didn’t know exactly what we were getting ourselves into, but by the time we left, we felt a real connection to this incredibly diverse country!

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

We crossed the border from Laos and were packed into a minibus. No elbow room but plenty of happy travellers. One guy was especially happy as he had just taken a couple of valium and was drooling and falling all over the girl next to him. It was quite entertaining. The road felt as if we were racing in a golf buggy, dodging sand traps, and crossing lanes from left to right.

We were initially planning to stop at Stung Treng but after we arrived, we quickly concluded that this dust bowl of a town was not for us. Luckily, the restaurant we stopped at also organised transport onward to Siem Reap. So we booked and hopped on, this time travelling in style – in the comfort of a VIP minibus with less people and FREE water, woo hoo!

DON’T BE A TOURIST. PLAN LESS. GO SLOWLY. I TRAVELED IN THE MOST INEFFICIENT WAY POSSIBLE AND IT TOOK ME EXACTLY WHERE I WANTED TO GO. -ANDREW EVANS

One of the things we loved about Cambodia was the people. I know, I know…but even more so than Laos and Thailand. We found them so genuine and helpful – they couldn’t do enough for us! And the kids, well they stole our hearts!

CAMBODIA VISA

Local Children Playing

Local Children Playing

Single entry Cambodian visas can be obtained at any international airport along with multiple border crossings.

Be sure to check out the full list of border crossings and nationalities required to obtain a visa from their local embassy prior to arrival.

ASEAN countries (with the exception of Brunei & Mynamar) do not require a visa to visit Cambodia for 30 days.

The country trades with both local currency, the reil, and the US dollar, but for border crossing purposes, you’ll need to bring along some USD. The visa will range from $30-40, depending on which crossing you enter (yes, some points are more corrupt than others) and sometimes you’ll need an additional $2 for stamps. Save yourself a couple bucks and 1. Process the visa yourself (rather than getting the bus agent to do it) and 2. Decline the “health check” (we simply walked past and said “no thank you”). Neither are actually required and are really more of scams to skim an extra $2 out of everyone.

CAMBODIA WEATHER

Beautiful sunset's of Rabbit Island

Beautiful sunset’s of Rabbit Island

Dry & Hot: October – April
October – December: mildest temperatures
March – Aprl: most humid months
Wet & Hot: May – September
75% of Cambodia’s rainfall occurs in these months

SEE CAMBODIA

Sobering sites of the Killing Fields

Sobering sites of the Killing Fields

Check out overviews of the places we visited:

EATING & DRINKING IN CAMBODIA

Kampot - The best pepper in the world

Kampot – The best pepper in the world

You can not come to Cambodia without tantalising your tastebuds with some traditional Khmer food. Loc Lak is one of our favourites, a traditional marinated meat dish served with onions! Fish Amok, which tastes like green curry in our opinion, is another one you have to order – baked in banana leaves, you can’t go wrong.

To stay cool, nothing is more refreshing than an ice cold Angkor beer! Weighing in at an extra 2% ABV, Klang is also an excellent choice.

You can also find the best pepper in the world in southern Cambodia, in a quaint town called Kampot!

CAMBODIA BUDGET

Koh Rong Samloem - Simply Beautiful

Koh Rong Samloem – Simply Beautiful

We budgeted for $49.76 USD/day (for 2 people). Actual was $56.59/day x 22 days = $1,245 total.

Breakdown below:

Accommodation – $224
Beverages – $99
Food – $363
Transport – $117 *
Entertainment – $301 **
Miscellaneous – $139 ***

*includes bus from 4,000 Islands, Laos to Siem Reap, Cambodia – excludes bus from Sihanukville, Cambodia to Vinh Long, Vietnam (in lieu of international flights)

***excludes Advanced Open Water course completion ($515 for 2 people)

***includes visa, stamps, sunscreen, antibiotics,  laundry & ATM fees

OUR CAMBODIA HIGHLIGHTS

Battambang - Bamboo Train

Battambang – Bamboo Train

  • Exploring the temples of Angkor and taking in the stunning sunrise
  • Taking a ride on a Bamboo train
  • Witnessing the magic of the Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus
  • Watching a million bats fly out of their cave for a feeding frenzy
  • Visiting S-21 & Khmer Rouge Killing Fields
  • Completing our Advanced Open Water course
  • Surviving our first night dive
  • Swimming with phytoplankton (they glow in the dark!)
  • Kayaking around Koh Kun Island
  • Snorkelling at M’Pai Bay

CAMBODIA TIPS

Battambang - Circus Act

Battambang – Circus Act

  • The tuk tuk tours are worth every cent!
  • Be sure to get out and walk around the cities to experience them from a locals perspective
  • ATM’s dispense USD – we initially attempted to get out 3,000,000 USD, which is laughable
  • Ensure you have enough cash when visiting the islands as they have no ATM’s and do not accept credit cards
Battambang - Why You Should Visit

BATTAMBANG – 10 REASONS YOU SHOULD VISIT NOW!

BATTAMBANG – 10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT NOW!

Beautiful Battambang! Cambodia’s second largest city is definitely worth a visit. Read along to find out 10 reasons why you should explore Battambang on your next trip to Cambodia.

SUDDENLY YOU JUST KNOW IT’S TIME TO START SOMETHING NEW AND TRUST THE MAGIC OF BEGINNINGS. -UNKNOWN

    1. Bamboo Train. All aboard! For only $5/person, you can experience a unique ride on an old bamboo train. Also called a norry, the French remnants make for a fun adventure. Take a 20 minute ride down the tracks, followed by a stop at a lil’ village (shops selling you anything from cold drinks to t-shirts and postcards), and 20 minutes back. If you run into to any oncoming trains, prepare to stop briefly whilst they quickly disassemble one carriage, let the other one pass through, and effortlessly reassemble the norry. It really is an experience not to be missed!
    2. Phnom Sampeau Killing Cave. It’s $1/person, though they’ll try to charge you $3. Once you’ve paid, you are free to walk up the mountain or hitch a ride on the back of a motorbike for a couple extra dollars. I’d recommend taking a stroll up the mountain, but be prepared – it is quite steep and takes a fair bit of physical exertion. There are two platforms. The first is where you will visit the actual killing caves. These are caves from the time of Pol Pot’s reign, where people were taken to be slain. Some were tortured, whilst others were pushed from the top, down into the cave, bodies piling up beneath. It’s a sobering experience for sure. The second platform houses intricate temples and extraordinary views. Take your time exploring it all before making your way back down via the long set of stairs. Make sure you start your descent by 5pm if you’re keen to see the bats do their thing.


    3. Bat Caves.  At the base of the Phnom Sampeau, is a cave where millions of wrinkled lipped bats  (that’s right, no Botox!) live. Each night, they wait til dusk before fleeing the cave in search of food (insects). It’s an incredible site to watch the plethora of bats make a mass exodus from the cave and fly together across the sky!
    4. Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus.  At $14/person it’s good to know that the money goes to a great cause. Not your average circus. Literally meaning, “the brightness of the arts,” the school works with underprivileged youth to channel their learnings into music, dance and art. Teams work together to choreograph performances which are then shared with the public. It’s truly worth every cent!
    5. Royal Hotel.  This beautiful facility has an array of rooms ranging in price, just minutes away from the market. Relax in the rooftop jacuzzi, eat and drink at the onsite restaurant and explore the local area. Its’ central location and spacious areas makes this a top spot for anyone.
    6. The Riverside.  Be sure to check out the river area in the evening. It becomes super lively for locals and visitors alike! Music blares from the speakers while groups of locals meet up to dance. Kids play footy (soccer) and run alongside the river. People are walking on the stone playgrounds (therapy for the feet) or partaking in exercise on the communal pieces of equipment setup on the sidewalk. It really is a site to be seen!
    7. Tuk Tuk Drivers.   Tuk tuk drivers will rush the bus upon arrival, advertising $0.50 rides. The truth is, they’ll happily take you from the bus station to your accomodation for free, as long as you take them up on one of their tour offerings during your stay. And the tours are worth it – the guys know the sites & where to go, plus it’s a great way to support the local community. We paid $20 for a full days tour.
      Yah Yah - Our Tuk Tuk Driver & Guide

      Yah Yah – Our Tuk Tuk Driver & Guide

    8. The Sunsets.  The sun that sets over Battambang brings beautiful colours to the sky. Xxx
    9. Red Chili.  Specialising in Chipolte burrito bowls, for $5, you are in for a treat. Set next to the river, you can take in the sites whilst indulging on a fresh, flavoursome meal!
      Battambang - Red Chilli - Delicious Bowls

      Red Chilli – Delicious Bowls

    10. Coffee Espresso Cafe.  Situated next door to the Royal Hotel, this place is a godsend! We ate there almost every meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner, as they boast incredible food at amazing prices. Ranging from Khmer to Western food, I guarantee you will not be disappointed!
Koh Rong Samloem - Finding The Best Beaches

Koh Rong Samloem – Finding The Best Beaches In Cambodia

Koh Rong Samloem – Finding The Best Beaches In Cambodia

Looking for that perfect beach to relax on during your visit to Cambodia? Keep reading below to find out about relaxing on the beautiful beaches of Koh Rong Samloem and surrounds!

MAN CANNOT DISCOVER NEW OCEANS UNLESS HE HAS THE COURAGE TO LOSE SIGHT OF THE SHORE. -ANDRE GIDE

Relaxing on Koh Rong Samloem

Relaxing on Koh Rong Samloem

The lines of people boarding the ferry seem to be growing rapidly as we find ourselves next to a small Asian lady with boundary issues, rubbing her sweaty arms all over me (yes, Rob finds it quite amusing). They finally open up the top deck and the latest group of people ascend to their own battleground.

We are on the Speed Ferry heading from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem, a small paradise on the Cambodian coast. 1 hour and 2 stops later, we arrive! A long walk down the pier, fish swimming in the crystal clear water below, and we’re given a warm welcome at Eco Sea.

ECOSEA DIVE

With EcoSea being set on a private beach with everything you need, you may be content to hang there the whole time!

Koh Long Samloem - EcoSea Dive

EcoSea Dive – Private Beach

STAY: Self-contained, EcoSea Dive Resort, Koh Rong Samloem has hammock dorms ($3), dorms ($5), shared bungalows ($25) and private bungalows ($40) to suit all budgets

PLAY: Dive! Snorkel! Get wet 🙂

EAT: The onsite restaurant serves a nice variety of food, boasting a delicious all you can eat lunch buffett for $5 and a BBQ dinner for $6

TIPS:

  • If planning to dive before you go, get your bus ticket to Sihanukville, and book at the dive shop as it will include your return ferry trip to the island ($20/person)
  • Don’t miss out on the many opportunities to win free beer – crack the code, pick up a bag of trash or tag them on Instagram #Eco.Sea.Dive
  • Be sure to do a night dive – see the phytoplankton glow in the dark and light up the water – it’s incredible!
  • If you get a hankering to explore, the nearest town, M’Pai Bay, is only a 20 minute walk along the coast, and I’d definitely suggest checking it out!

M’PAI BAY

What a welcoming lil’ fishing village! Upon arrival, I felt as if we were in a beachy version of a Western movie. The paths were wide with a number of ‘saloon feel’ balconies lining both sides. It still has a beach village feel with sand replacing what would usually be a traditional road. It’s entertaining to watch the locals ride their scooters through the sand, artfully balancing young kids, food & dogs while making it look easy.

M'Pai Bay - Fishing Village

M’Pai Bay – Fishing Village

After settling in, we hired a two person kayak and paddled around the neighbouring island, Koh Kun. It took us (OK, mainly Rob) about 2 hours to circle the island. Coral reefs surround the island, so make sure you take your snorkel gear to jump out and have a look along the way! You’ll see incredible neon corals, giant clams, moorish idols, and lots of schools of fish – it’s beautiful! Beware of the sea urchins when jumping in, as they’re everywhere. One guy we were staying with stepped on one and it definitely put a damper on his holiday!

Kayaking around Koh Kun

Kayaking around Koh Kun

At night, be sure to take in the sunset from the best spot on the island – Dragonfly, which has a laid back feel with views over the ocean. Great for meeting people whilst having a krefreshing beverage.

Sunset at Dragonfly

Sunset at Dragonfly

It’s easy to loose track of time on Koh Rong Samloem. The days were spent kicking back –  relaxing in hammocks, playing cards, drinking beer and enjoying new friends. It really was our own slice of paradise!

Drinks at The Drift

Drinks at The Drift

STAY: The Drift – set up in one of their 10 dorm beds for $7/night or shack up in the double private for $15/night. A recently installed projector provided entertaining communal movie nights.

PLAY: Kayak, SUP & snorkel around the island.

EAT: The Drift – their Egg in a Hole & burgers are to die for; The Fishing Hook – $6 gets you an all you can eat buffet, sometimes accompanied by a BBQ; Lady Cooking – enjoy a number of local Khmer dishes for only $2

TIPS:

  • Wifi is not readily available on Koh Rong Samloem but you can find it in a few locations such as Easy Tiger & Sunset Bar
  • A lot of people reportedly come back from the islands with food poisoning, but for the record we didn’t have any issues
  • Make sure you get your boat ticket stamped st Sunset Bar the day before you want to cross back to Sihanukville or you will not be able to board the boat
  • The Speed Ferry will pick you up from Eco Sea’s pier so ensure you allow yourself enough time to stroll down (or catch a longtail boat for an extra $1)

SIHANUKVILLE

We heard mixed reviews about Sihanukville and can understand why. We stayed in the main backpacker area just down from the pier. It has all the trappings of a typical party town; pubs, clubs, touts, alcohol, drugs and western food. If you are looking for a low key relaxing stay then this is probably not the place for you (though we did manage to escape it all). If however you are looking for a couple of days where you can have a bit of fun then read on 🙂

Relaxing by the beach

Relaxing by the beach

STAY: Monkey Republic – secure a private double room via HostelWorld for $8/night, including a pool, onsite bar & restaurant and free drink upon arrival. This place was really popular so we would suggest booking in advance

PLAY: Hire a scooter and visit a number of local beaches; Party the night away

EAT: Slumdog Curry – their tagline, “the best Indian at Indian prices” sums it up; Maybe Later – for your Mexican fix; Fetta Pitta – Mediterranean magic; Reef Resort – one of the few places open nice & early for breakfast – beautiful, affordable food too!
TIPS:

  • If you’re not keen on the smell of marijuana, Sihaunukville may not be the best place for you – the aroma seemed to be coming from everywhere – from workers to holiday makers, people seem to love the high life here
  • Whilst known as a party town, we found it easy to escape the night life and do our own thing
  • Our list would not be complete without a shoutout to the beaches of both Kep and Koh Tonsay island too!
Koh Tonsay - Remote fishing village

KOH TONSAY – DAY TRIP OR OVERNIGHT STAY?

KOH TONSAY  (Rabbit Island) – DAY TRIP OR OVERNIGHT STAY?

So you want to check out Koh Tonsay, also known as Rabbit Island, but not sure whether to visit for the day or stay on the island overnight.

WHY NOT GO OUT ON A LIMB? THAT’S WHERE THE FRUIT IS. -MARK TWAIN

You need to decide before you go to organise your boat ticket…

BOAT TICKET:

You can arrange your boat ticket through your guesthouse in Kep or Kampot or via a travel agent direct.

Day Trip: $7 USD/person return
Overnight Trip: $10 USD/person return

Take a 30 minute trip across the ocean from Kep, and you’ll arrive on your own little piece of paradise. Exit the boat a few meters out and wade through knee high water to get to shore (note, Koh Tonsay island does have a pier but they don’t always utilise it).

STAY: Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by a strip of beach bungalows which are more or less the same. Prices range from $5 to $15 depending on your desire for a balcony, private toilet and fan. As a reference, ours was $7 including a private balcony and a toilet (though no fan). Being on the beach you get a lovely sea breeze to keep you cool regardless.

PLAY: 

  • Koh Tonsay is a sleepy island, so however long you stay, plan on relaxing! The beach is lined with lounge chairs and hammocks, so find a spot to curl up with a good book and make yourself at home.
  • Beach front massages will run you between $5-$12 depending what type of massage you’re after and preferred duration. I got an hour Khmer massage for $6, which was quite impressive.
  • A deck of cards makes for fun times with new friends on the island. However it can become a bit tricky to control the cards when the wind picks up.
  • If you want to get a bit more adventurous, take a walk around the island and visit the scattered fishing villages. To cover the entire island, plan on 2-3 hours and of course, go early in the day to beat the heat. Facing the ocean, head clockwise. Although the trail is suitable for most fitness levels, it’s important to note that parts of the trek involve ducking under branches, walking through the water and climbing over rocks.

EAT:

  • Restaurants are primarily attached to the guesthouses, with similar menus and prices throughout the island, so you won’t go hungry.

TIPS:

  • Most of the boats to and from Rabbit island are not covered so ensure wear sunscreen to keep from frying before you get there
  • Power is only generated between 6-10pm, so make sure to bring a headlamp or torch along
  • Although we loved our time on Koh Tonsay island relaxing on a hammocks, reading books and wading through clear water we were happy to move on to Kep. For us, Rabbit Island was perfect for a onernight stay but probably a bit quiet for any longer.

If you decide not to stay on Rabbit Island, we’d highly recommend exploring Kep. Better yet, maybe you can spend a night at each place to experience the best of both worlds.

We’d argue that this is one of Cambodia’s best ‘Kep’ secrets. Haha, I know – bad joke – but it’s true!

This beach town makes you feel welcomed upon arrival. Hire a bike and scoot around town, we particularly liked viewing all the ran down buildings from a time long forgotten or go on a tuk tuk tour to experience the best of Kep. Laze on the beach all day or kick back in one of the seaside hammocks.

If you get a chance, check out Kep’s sister town, Kampot. This riverside gem is the perfect escape from the beach without sacrificing the laid back vibe.

STAY: Bacoma Guesthouse $12 gets you a private stone bungalow with fan & shared bathroom

PLAY: Sothy’s Pepper Farm – enjoy the free tour and learn about pepper – I know right, Pepper? But it was actually a really cool experience learning about pepper farming

EAT: Crab Market;  Kep Coffee Cafe; Beachside Tacos & Together (Kampot)

TIPS:

  • The omlets, coffee and delicious cakes at Kep Coffee Cafe were some of the best we’ve had so far
  • Don’t miss out of fresh crab from the beachside crab market, caught fresh and cooked whilst you wait, absolutely delicious
  • Bacoma Guesthouse has a projector screen which makes for great movie nights
Angkor Wat - Standing Guard

ANGKOR WAT GUIDE – TEMPLES, RUINS & SORE FEET

ANGKOR WAT GUIDE – TEMPLES, RUINS & SORE FEET

Welcome to the heart and soul of Cambodia! A vast area, steeped in rich history where ancient Khmer language and culture are still prevalent today. If you are like the other 50% of international tourists, your visit to Cambodia, and Siem Reap in particular, will undoubtedly focus on exploring the Angkor Empire and its’ array of temples.

MY WORLD GETS BIGGER EVERYDAY. THE MORE I SEE, THE MORE I LEARN IS OUT THERE. -GERRELL JOHNSON

VISITING ANGKOR WAT ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK

TICKETS

You have three options, all of which must be paid in cash (credit cards are not accepted) –
1-day pass: $20 USD, can be used at all* temples for the day of purchase only
3-day pass: $40 USD, can be used at all* temples for any 3 days within the week
7-day pass: $60 USD, can be used at all* temples for any 7 days within the month

*except Phnom Kulen ($20), Koh Ker ($10) & Beng Melea ($5)

Please note, multi-day passes do not need to be used on consecutive days as long as they use used within the allotted time periods

EXPLORING THE TEMPLES

Of course you can pick and choose what sites you want to see, but for first timers, you really have two main options (though I would highly recommend doing both).

Grand (Big) Circuit

Distance covered: 26km
Time: 5 hours (1pm – 6pm, including sunset)
Tuk tuk price: $15 + $3 sunset = $18 USD/tuk tuk
Temples visited: 6

Pre Rup was built in the late 10th century under King Rajendravarman II. It is sometimes referred to as a Mini Angkor Wat, due to the similarity in spires.

Welcome to a mountain temple. East Mebon is a beautiful pyramid of receding terraces, set to take in the nearby beauty.

As you meander through hollow passages, you’ll know you have reached Ta Som. It was constructed in the late 12th century AD, under Jayavarman VII’s rule.

Neak Pean is a small island temple. After strolling down a long walkway, you will reach the center. The temple is surrounded by water and the coiled serpents around the structure symbolise protection.

A Buddhist & Hindu fusion temple, Preah Khan literally means ‘sacred sword.’ It was built on the site of a former major battle in the late 12th century. Preah Khan is unique in that it’s the only temple from the Khmer era to use round columns in its architectural design.

Phnom Bakheng is surrounded by 108 towers. This is a significant number in both Buddhist and Hindu religions, meaning “sacred.” Phnom Bakheng is infamous for being a place to take in the sunset. After hiking up the mountain, you’ll reach the temple entrance, where only 300 people are allowed at once. During our visit in May (the start of rainy season), we hiked up the mountain but unfortunately were unable to witness a sunset due to weather conditions.

Picture courtesy of Asia Travel Agencies www.asiatravelagencies.com

Small Circuit

Distance covered: 17km
Time: 8 hours (4am – 12pm, including sunrise)
Tuk tuk price: $13 + $5 sunrise = $18 USD/tuk tuk
Temples visited: 6 (technically 14 including the 8 temples of Angkor Thom & 2 Symmetrical Shrines)

Welcome to the 7th Wonder of the World. Welcome to Angkor Wat – the centrepiece of Angkor. Built in the 12th century, Angkor Wat is the largest single religious building in the world, declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992. The temple is built facing the West, which symbolises death in the Hindu religion. As a result, it is thought Angkor Wat was first used as a tomb and is sometimes referred to as the “funeral temple.” It is an incredibly important part of Cambodia’s history, so much so that it is even depicted on Cambodia’s flag. Interestingly enough, the only other country that features a national monument on its’ flag is Afghanistan.

Angkor Thom was the last great city of the Khmer empire. It was comprised of temples constructed between 9th – 13th century as outlined below:

  • The Golden Tower, Bayon, was built nearly 100 years after Angkor Wat, but rivals in fame. It is called the city of faces, due to the surrounding towers which feature bas-reliefs (type of sculpture where shapes are carved so they are only slightly raised against the flat background) of faces on each side.
  • Baphoun is also referred to as the Tower of Branze. King Udayadityavarman II erected the temple in mid 11th century AD.
  • Phimeanakas is an aerial palace that served as King Rajendravarman II’s home in the late 10th century. Legend has it that the celestial temple was inhabited by a serpent, which would morph into a female. The kings of Anchor had to make love to the serpent every night, which eventually led to the kingdom’s downfall.
  • Introducing a temple of sacred stories – Preah Palilay. The temple was built in the late 12th or early 13th century under King Jayavarman VII.
  • Tep Pranam was built in the 9th century. It is also known as the worshipping God. The large Buddha statue was made of recycled material, and it is uncertain how long it has been there.
  • The King’s place, the Royal Palace. King Jayavarman VII resided here after its’ construction in the early 13th century.
  • The Elephant Terrace is a Buddhist dedication. It is thought that it may have once been used as a staging area for elephant fights or a viewing platform.
  • The Leper King Terrace houses a statue of the Leper King, whose identity is unknown. The statue is particularly unusual  because although he is naked, he sits without any sex organs.
    Below the terrace are dramatic bas-reliefs. You can view them by walking through the temple as false corridors were later built for the public viewing.

There are two Symmetrical Shrines that are similar in design, structure and ultimate ruins. Both constructed in the early 12th century AD, under Suryavarman II, Thommanom remains in much better condition today.

  • Chau Say
  • Thommanom

Ta Keo, tower of crystal, was the first temple to be constructed wholly of sandstone. From its commencing in the late 10th century, it remains an unfinished temple for unknown reasons. Still yet, it retains a powerful image due to its brilliant scale.

Made famous by Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider, Ta Prohm remains a photogenic jungle temple. Paramount Pictures were charged $10,000 USD/day when filming here, though their investments easily paid dividends at the Box Office. Upon being constructed, King Jayavarman VII dedicated this temple to his mother.

Banteay Kdei is a fortress, built under King Jayavarman VII. Sometimes called the Citadel of the cells, it was built in either the late 12th or early 13th century.

For additional information about individual temples, be sure to check out Tourism Cambodia, which contains up to date information on all things Angkor.

STAY: Hi (Hostelling International) Siem Reap – $17 USD gets you a private ensuite room with AC, TV & fridge – $5 USD gets you a dorm with AC – with both options you also get: wifi, free breakfast, restaurant & access to swimming pool at their sister location (5 min walk)

PLAY: After exploring everything the temples have to offer, check out the nearby markets & Pub Street – be sure to check out Temple Skylounge

EAT: Mueng Cafe – specialising in Khmer & Western food; iViva – get your Mexican fix!

TIPS:

Wear comfortable shoes, you will do a lot of walking and if your shoes are subpar you will end up with sore feet

The tuk tuk experiences are worth every cent!

Do the big circuit before the small one to get a better appreciation for the sites with half the crowds

Although we didn’t get a guide, we believe it would be well worth it for the small circuit including Angkor Wat, expect to pay around $20 USD per day

S-21 - Prison Cell Access

PHNOM PENH – THE KILLING FIELDS TRAGEDY

PHNOM PENH – THE KILLING FIELDS TRAGEDY

Capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, welcomes you with an array of people, traffic and sites. However the history that lies within this town and within this country still mars the hearts and souls of its’ people.

On April 17, 1975, just after the Vietnam and Secret Wars, the fate of Cambodia changed forever. Led by Pol Pot, the Democratic Kampuchea regime, (also know as Khmer Rouge), set out to ‘revolutionise’ the country, only it ended in one of the largest genocides the world had ever seen.

WHAT CONNECTS TWO THOUSAND YEARS OF GENOCIDE? TOO MUCH POWER IN TOO FEW HANDS. -SIMON WIESENTHAL

Phnom Penh showcases the stories of these tragic events at both the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (also called ‘S-21’) and the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center (also referred to as ‘Killing Fields’).

TUOL SLENG GENOCIDE MUSEUM (S-21)

Starting at S-21, you quickly realise things aren’t what they seem. As you take in the sights at the beautiful schoolyard, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that it was used for such malicious things – unthinkable acts, torture and death.

You begin to gain insights into the secret network of prisons the Khmer Rouge used to torture and kill its’ opposition. You listen to the harrowing tales on the audio tour as you walk through and see where the events took place. Innocent people were arrested on the streets and brought to S-21 to be interrogated and coerced into confessing to crimes they never committed. As a result of their confessions, they were killed. During this time, people became numbers and numbers became bodies.

The detainees had to obide by a ridiculous set of rules – “Don’t be a fool for you are a chap who dare to thwart the revolution” and “While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.”

Of the nearly 20,000 prisoners detained at this center between 1975 and 1978, there were only 12 known survivors. The suffering and death that took place within this compound is sobering. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could be so cruel.

What was wrong with these sick bastards?

CHOEUNG EK GENOCIDAL CENTER (KILLING FIELDS)

From S-21, prisoners were loaded into trucks and taken 15km south of Phnom Penh to Choeung Ek, where they were executed and buried in mass graves. Choeung Ek was only one of 300 odd ‘killing fields’ throughout Cambodia.

The audio tour leads you around the path where  you’ll be forced to stomach the reality of it all. Mass graves of men, women and children cover the earth, many of which were excavated to give the remains a resting place in the memorial. The most sobering site we saw was the ‘Killing Tree.’ It’s hard to believe, but bodies of babies were smashed against the tree before being thrown into their graves. Tragic.

As the regime began to weaken, the party began to turn on itself. Pol Pot became more cynical and anyone on his side that had turned against him suffered the same fate as the innocent victims that went before them. One mass grave holds the bodies of 166 headless men, said to be traitors – with bodies of Cambodians but heads of Vietnamese. Looks like karma caught up with them!

It is confronting to see skulls and bones of the perished. It is heartbreaking to think this happened at all, much less in my generation. And earthshattering to think it could happen again!

Both of these sites have built beautiful memorials to honour those that were lost as part of this tragedy.

Whilst the Cambodian people are still dealing with these tragic events in their own ways, great efforts have been made to rebuild the strength of the country and its’ people, making it a truly remarkable place to visit!

For an even greater understanding of these events please refer to the following timeline.

STAY: Happy House (trust me, you need some happy after witnessing the effects of the Khmer Rouge) – there are 3 in the city, so make sure you know which one you’re headed to. Private rooms were very basic, though what it was lacking in charm it make up for in location. The chain received great ratings on Hostel World, which makes me think the dorms are probably worth it

PLAY: While it’s not so much ‘playing’ S-21 and the Killing Fields are a must see

EAT: Market – plenty of local flavours at local prices; Sher-e-Punjab for some of the best Indian we’ve had to date!

TIPS:
Amidst all the tuk tuk rides, be sure to get out and walk around the city to experience it from a different perspective
Be sure to visit S-21 before the Killing Fields to gain a better understanding of the history of the area

Check with your hostel for Vietnam Visa services, we found Happy House to be the same price as local visa service providers with less hassle