In October 2013 I got the chance to go on my first trip to Asia, which was a 3 week trip around Cambodia with my family. After a long day of travelling from Switzerland (via Bangkok) we arrived in the capital Phnom Penh, where we spent a couple of days riding around on the remorques/tuk tuks visiting the Royal Palace, some of the markets and the historic Killing Fields.

From there we had a couples hours taxi ride to the coastal town of Sihanoukville. The drive was an interesting experience, with our driver answering his two phones and clearing his nose and throat every few minutes, while mainly driving in the middle of the road and constantly honking his horn. After a night there we took the 'Party Boat' over to Saracen Bay on Koh Rong Samloem. A small island about two hours off the coast which would be many peoples idea of paradise - cabins right on the white sandy beaches and limited electricity.  It's a good place to spend a few days swimming and relaxing (although the first night there also happened to be the full moon party, with music going all night). And weirdly, being almost half way around the world on this small island in the Gulf of Thailand, we met someone I used to go to school with who now leads dives on the island.

After the return journey to Sihanoukville, we spent around seven hours travelling by taxi's to Battambang via Phnom Penh. Battambang is a fairly quiet town (compared to the others we visited) with lots of old French Colonial architecture, with some parts looking quite similar to how I imagine the architecture in New Orleans to be (from pictures and video I've seen of it). There isn't as much to do here, but we did get to go on the famous Bamboo Trains which was quite fun. Ours was driven by the only female train driver, and her 1.5 year old child who already had a good idea of how to work the motor.

From Battambang we travelled to Siem Reap by boat. Longer and more expensive than by bus, but probably much more interesting and memorable. From research I had read you'll either love it or hate it - with some people writing the trip can take from 5-12+ hours and heard about overcrowding, break downs, long delays or having to finish the trip by bus due to low water levels. Luckily the rainy season was just ending so water levels were high (creating a few shortcuts), and we ended up on the less crowded of two boats leaving that morning. And although not the most comfortable seating (with people using the life jackets as extra cushions), we were at the front of the boat which was a bit more open and away from the noisy engine. The trip ended up only taking 6 hours without any delays. Going by boat you see how many of the locals live as you pass through many of the floating villages, which was interesting to see and would recommend it if the water levels are good.

Arriving in Siem Reap you are swarmed by tuk tuk drivers - and after piling all our luggage into one tuk tuk we made our way to the hotel.  That afternoon we went to get our passes for the temples at Angkor Wat - and from reading another tip if you get it after 5pm, your ticket doesn't start until the the next day, allowing a 'free' visit for sunset and quite a nice time to first see the famous Angkor Wat temple.

Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples were impressive and interesting, and we spent 5 days exploring them, though it was much busier than I was expecting. The majority of temples were packed with mainly Chinese tour groups in their matching hats, who all want to pose for the same photos in each place. So taking photos without any people was difficult - especially at sunrise. At sunrise you have to get there early or compete with hundreds of other people to be at the front of the reflecting pond to get the 'must do' sunrise shot. And entering most temples you have to pass through one or two waves of vendors, who sell everything from slightly useful things like torches, rain ponchos and books to a variety of souvenirs.

From Siem Reap we returned to Phnom Penh by Giant Ibis Bus. Again it was an interesting experience, driving through the rural countryside while watching most likely pirated copies of the second half of Transformers (as the driver had already watched the first half) and then The Amazing Spiderman on a screen at the front of the bus. It also had pretty decent free wifi access (until it was turned off) - something you don't even get on many European buses/coaches. And all that for just $16. In fact wifi access in Cambodia was quite impressive, with free (and decent speed) wifi access in almost every hotel and restaurant which I wasn't expecting, and very useful while travelling.

After a few more days around Phnom Penh we returned home. I found Cambodia a nice country to visit, and it was good to be able to see so much of the country in quite a short time. All the people we met seemed nice and friendly, and it also felt quite safe and was able to walk around with my camera most places (even at night) without having to worry. I'll actually be passing through there again in August 2014 on a backpacking/photography trip with my cousin.


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