With the holiday season around the corner and a significant stash of leaves available, I began an end minute (and very frantic) research in December for yet another place to explore. Since I had barely two weeks off, anything beyond Southeast Asia seemed too much of a stretch, so I started digging up places close by. And as I read more and more, something about Cambodia intrigued me – maybe it was the history, maybe it was the beautiful pictures of the untouched islands, I still can’t put my finger to it. But one thing seemed clear, that this country was far more than its world renowned temples, and definitely worthy of a visit.
Believe me when I say that creating an itinerary for Cambodia isn’t easy – the more you research, the more you get lost, distances are significant, internal flights quite expensive, and intercity transport options limited. I spent 10 days in Cambodia, and by no stretch is it enough to see the entire country. But I tried to make the best use of the time available, staying in a place long enough to feel its vibe and then moving on to the next.
And after spending time in Cambodia I feel that this country can mean very different things to different people, I guess that is in many ways its beauty. For tourists who stick to the popular path of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia is about its history, world heritage sites and temples and a couple of days is enough to cover all of this, then there are the backpackers who stay on for months, for whom this country represents adventure on a budget, accompanied by cheap Angkor beers. And for me? Cambodia to me is a wonderful mix of many extremes, a country with definite character, holding little treasures that I could have never imagined existed !
Below is my ( very carefully planned 🙂 ) travel path –
I also thought I will share some important details which I realized a bit too late, resulting in some money lost and much misery gained –
- There are no direct flights from Delhi to Cambodia and I flew Thai Airways from Delhi to Bangkok and back. From Bangkok, I took an Air Asia flight to Siem Reap which was the entry point to Cambodia. You can enter Cambodia by road from Bangkok (through bus and train) as well, which will be cheaper and more adventurous, but will take more time.
- To move between cities in Cambodia, I used the Giant Ibis bus service and though I was a little apprehensive while booking, I can now swear by its reliability. The buses are comfortable, clean, safe and a great alternate if you don’t want to spend on internal flights. View the Giant Ibis website here to check schedules and costs.
- We had contemplated driving down from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh but later decided against it and I am glad I did. The roads aren’t great and language is an issue incase you need directions at any point, so I wouldn’t recommend you do this.
- To go to Koh Rong, you need to take the ferry from Sihanoukville. You have 2 options – the regular boat (takes 2 hours) OR the high speed one (takes 45 mins). We booked the high speed ferry through the Koh Rong Dive Center office at Sihanoukville and it was fairly unpredictable (I assume the regular boat is worse). The sea was choppy both while coming and going back and it was delayed by nearly 90 mins. If you have trains, buses and flights to catch, you do need to factor this in.
- We took visa on arrival, both in Bangkok and Cambodia. Getting this in Cambodia was a total breeze, it hardly took any time and I was stamped in under 10 mins. Bangkok however was a pain with long and slowly moving queues. Also, we were flying from Bangkok to Cambodia (Siem reap) within a couple of hours of landing and thought that we could get a multi entry visa on arrival (since our return was from Bangkok as well). However, there is no multi entry visa on arrival so we had to pay twice during our trip which was such a wastage – I would advise you check with the embassy if multiple entry is possible by applying beforehand (I looked up the website and didn’t find any mention of this, however many travelers have posted about this online, so it would be best to check with your embassy). You should also know that visa on arrival for Bangkok is not valid for more than 15 days (thankfully our trip was within that timeframe).
With the practical details out of the way, I will soon be sharing posts on what I did in each place, the wonderful food I ate (which is making me drool as I think about it), my adventures in Koh Rong and much more, so stay tuned!
And before you go, a picture from the beautiful island of Koh Rong (can’t believe this is Cambodia? Neither could I 😉 )