Backpacking Guide Cambodia



I always thought I would prefer Thailand and Laos over Cambodia. I thought Cambodia is dirty, dangerous and covert by total poverty. I was never so wrong. Cambodia was my favorite country. Gosh I loved that country. I loved the people, the temples, the cities, the nights out on pubstreet, I loved Koh Rong Samloem with its awesome nature. 
When I was in Thailand I even thought about skipping Cambodia because so many people had bad experiences. Yes Cambodia might be more dangerous than Thailand is. But as I always say, sometimes you are just at the wrong time at the wrong place and sometime its peoples own fault, because they just forget the simplest safety rules. Phnom Pen indeed is dangerous. A lot of people get pickpocked there and its true, the city is dirty and some people even call it "shithole". Because of my lack of time I skipped that city. But Siem Reap, Angkor Wat and the Islands where amazing. I just spend one night in Sihanoukville, so I can't tell much about that city. 
Anyways, I have met amazing people in Cambodia and I had a great time. I would never again think about skipping a country just because some people in facebook groups had a bad time. 

Border crossing from Laos

So first of all I m going to start with the hell of a ride into Cambodia. Over the boarder from Laos. Holy shit, that was one of the worst bus rides ever. But well, it was still kind of a fun story. 

I had a trip booked from the 4000 Islands to Siem Reap. According to the plan it should take about 10 hours. Well it took us 18. After leaving the Island I got into a bus to the boarder. Well crossing the boarder is a total rip of. 
The company will tell you to give them the passports, with the passphotos and all the other necessary stuff. They will do everything for you and give the passports back in the bus. (That is true, they won't keep them). I also gave up my passport, because I did not want to have all that stress at the border. 
You need to know, that either way if you give up your passport or if you do it by yourself you will pay approximately the same amount. Because the border to Cambodia is really a small one, people there will take "stemp" money and "tea" money and whatever money and if you start arguing with them, it won't really help. The girls I met later on, went by them self and in the end they got into long discussions and nearly couldn't enter Cambodia because of it, and they payed maybe a dollar less. Really, its just some dollars. Its not worth all the long discussions with the guy at the boarder who doesn't really care. 

So after giving up my passport we drove to the Border. We got dropped of, walked over the boarder (its just a little street somewhere in no where, doesn't really look like a border) and waited at a little "Restaurant" until we could get into the big buses that should drive us to Siem Reap. Holy shit that was chaos. Everyone tried to get in the buses. And in the end there were of course more people than places. It can be really annoying and stressful, but its like that. It is always stressful and especially in Asia bus rides are never five star class, its always chaos. 
So we all got into the bigger buses but as I said there were more people than places. So the busdriver improvised and took little plastic chairs and put them in between the seats. Gosh this bus looked like it would collapse any second. Everything was so old and broke. After some more time the border patrol came into the bus and gave back the passports. 
Finally we got on the road. But we really just drove 20 minutes in the middle of nowhere until we stopped. We were all unsure what happend, but the busdriver got out and never came back. (Well he did come back but it seemed to be a decade of years). So after some time some people left the bus and went outside, finally a women got information about the problem and why we stopped. So well , apparently the bus broke down. Jippie. Total breakdown. The driver and some people tried to fix it up. After one hour of sitting around it seemed that everything worked again and we kept driving. Ten minutes later the bus broke down again. The driver announced that they would call minibuses to pick us up. Two hours later, (we were all outside in the middle of nowhere waiting for the minibuses), a minibus showed up. Imagine 60 people trying to get into that minibus. Well hell of a journey. After three hours finally all minibuses appeared and we started driving again. After only one hour we stopped for a freaking Restaurant. What the actual fuck? Good thing was that I met two lovely girls (one from Germany and a french one) we spend our time together and tried to get the best out of the situation. After some overpriced food we kept driving. It was already 12 hours that I had left the 4000 Islands. We really stopped another time at a Restaurant. Total rip of, really. So finally after 18 hours of switching several buses, of waiting in the sun, of weird restaurants we made it to Siem Reap. Jippie, what a shitday haha. 


General Information Cambodia

Money

In Cambodia you either pay with Dollars or with Riel. Most places take Dollars and you get change back in Riel. You sometimes can pay in Dollar and Riel and sometimes just in Riel. So best idea is to get Dollars out of the ATMs and keep the change that you get in Riel in case some places do not take Dollars. It might be confusing the first times and you calculate a lot but you get used to it. 

Locals

I experienced the locals to be friendlier than the ones in Thailand. I don't know if its just me, but they seemed not to be so annoyed by the tourists. Also the Tuktuk drivers where not so demanding and more relaxed. The people working at restaurants seemed to be pleased to have you as their guests and one time when my phone batterie died one women working at a restaurant charged my phone with her cable and gave it back to me when we left after dinner. 
One time I went to a local bookstore in a little "Shopping mall" in Siem Reap. Two schoolkids where doing homeworks there and as they saw me they were super excited to see me. They called me "mrs" and asked how I am doing and I asked them what homework they where doing right now. They were super sweet and showed me what they're learning. And now it was not a trick to steal my phone or money.
Anyways, those are just some stories of the locals I experienced over there. 

Food 

You definitely need to try Amok and a Khmer Curry. After living of Sandwiches and Food Buffets in Laos I really liked to eat curry and noodles and Soups. 


Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

Hosteling 

The maybe most famous Hostel in Siem Reap is the Mad Monkey and it is by far the best hostel with the best atmosphere that I experienced in my whole Asia trip. 
The Mad Monkey is a Party Hostel. With rooftopparties, Beerpong, glowing in the dark or traffic light parties. Every evening they have another theme party and its always fun. During the afternoon you go exploring Angkor Wat, explore Siem Reap or rent a bike for some afternoon ride. 
Another popular hostel is "Funky Flashpackers".
Hostel prices starts at aroun 3 dollars per night. 


Nightlife 

The nightlife happens in the Pubstreet. Its like Khao San Road in small. There are some pubs and clubs and mostly you end up in the "Temple". 
Beer and alcohol is extremely cheap and in comparison to North- Thailand and Laos Party here doesn't end at 11pm. 
Mostly we started partying in the hostel and all left for the Pubstreet at midnight. We went to The "Angkor What Bar" where you find backpackers and locals dancing. Afterwards you keep on dancing on the streets. Sometimes some people start some weird dancebattles and all in all the atmosphere is really fun. We often ended up in the Temple club and went to bed around 4am. 

Angkor Wat

The best way to explore the old temples are by taking a Tuk Tuk. The driver will drive you around the Temples the whole day for around 15 dollars. He will drop you off at the entrance where you buy the Ticket. Afterwards you decide with the driver what route you want to take, he'll show you a map and often they offer the long and the short tour. The first stop is Angkor Wat (the main temple) and later you meet your driver again at the arranged meeting point and he drops you off at the next temple. 
Never forget that you should try to cover up, even when its extremely hot outside. We where there with 40 degrees Celsius with long pants and shirts that covered the shoulders. It was unbelievable hot, but in another culture it would just be fare to follow the rules. 

What you should do (if you are able to wake up early after a heavy night of partying) is to go see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. It might be the best time to enjoy the temples without those big crowds of people. 

Another thing you definitely need to explore is the "Tomb Raider" (Ta Prohm) temple. The temple is amazing, with huge trees growing over the old ruins. Big roots are covering the stones and in general it just looks amazing. You can easily get lost there. 


Other things to do in Siem Reap: 

[] get a massage
[] visit the floating villages 
[] Angkor night market
[] Angkor national museum


Koh Rong Samloem & Koh Rong

To get to the Islands you buy either a slowboat or a speedboat ticket at the habour.
The Slowboat costs less than the speedboat and takes about 2 hours. The Speedboat just one hour. 
There are two Islands, the popular Party Island Koh Rong and the relax, chill Island Koh Rong Samloem. 
Both Islands are awesome. Koh Rong Samloem has beautiful beaches, untouched nature, a wild jungle and a chill vibe. 
Koh Rong has a fun atmosphere, a lot of party and a fun social lifestyle. Unfortunately the beach, especially the main Beach where all the hostels are located, is very dirty, full of tourists and weird smells. Its hot and not very nice. If you want nice beaches you need to go further. 
Anyways I did visit both Islands and I enjoyed both concerning different criteria. 

Koh Rong Samloem



So if you want to get to Koh Rong Samloem you need to take the Slowboat that will drop you of at the Island before heading to the Main Island. 
KRS has amazing white beaches. You will find some tourists here and there but not much of them. The Island is very much untouched. There are three different beaches: 
The Lazy beach, Sunset Beach and the main beach. To get to those beaches you need to do hikes threw the jungle. The trails are hard to find sometimes so its better to ask around. 
I stayed at the Mad Monkey Hostel and I needed ages to find out how to get there. I had two guys with me and after asking around we found the trail. It took us 40 minutes to get there. It was hot and exhausting to hike threw that jungle. (We found out later, that there is a boat twice a day picking up tourists and bringing them back to the Hostel.
The Mad Monkey is the only real Hostel on the Island and is a little backpackers resort with great food, a private beach, amazing Bungalows and Dorms and in general a paradise like atmosphere. 
So what to do on that beautiful island? You cant do so much besides hiking in the jungle, chill at the beach, have a fun night at the Hostel or doing a little bit of snorkeling. There is a diving place at the main beach where you can rent snorkels.

Dont forget: There is no ATM and no Wifi (mobile Data works very bad), no supermarket and no Pharmacy on the Island! There is basicly nothing. 


Koh Rong


I need to say I was a bit disappointed when I arrived in Koh Rong. 
(I took the slowboat that dropped me off two days before to the other Island) 
The beach was dirty, it smelled weird, it was humid and way to many people. I did not really liked it. I ended up in a still very fun Hostel called Island Boys. 
You will see that there is just a long beach with one hostel besides the other. The farer you go out the pricier the hostels and Bungalows get and as well the nicer the beach gets. 
So on that main beach you will find tons of people, restaurants and Hostels. If you want to have some more peace and a nicer beach you should follow the main beach going east. You will find a great place to go snorkeling and hang out at the beach. There is a great place where you can get awesome pizza and chill. There is also another beach   (Long Beach) on the other side of the Island. You can do a hike threw the jungle or take a boat that take you there. It is awesome to see the sunset there! Its amazing. 
So after a long day of snorkeling and chilling around you should definitely to the Pubcrawl. Yes Koh Rong has a pub Crawl and it was super fun. (I need to say I cant remember much of the nights out, because I was.. well pretty drunk... but thats whats fun about Koh Rong). 

Here as well: There is no ATM (you can get some cash at Dream Catch in), basically never working Wifi,  there is a little pharmacy and some little stores. 



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