Cambodia Travel Journal
For many years we had overlooked exploring Cambodia beyond Siem Reap, partly because Asia is really big and there are a lot of places that we wanted to visit first and partly because we didn’t know many people who had visited so it didn’t sound especially remarkable.
I’m glad we decided to finally visit because we had a truly relaxing time and we discovered beautiful places and enjoyed the hospitality of the locals and the food.
We had a nightmarish time getting to this beautiful island, but in the end it was all worth it. I would say that this is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve been to. The sand was powdery white and the sea was turquoise. The temperature of the water was just perfect and it wasn’t as touristy as other beaches in Southeast Asia. It was the perfect spot to unwind and to read a few of the books I’ve accumulated in the past months.
We stayed at Long Set Resort in one of the most relaxed areas of the island. It’s best to avoid staying in the main town unless you like to party all day and all night.
You can join some tours to visit nearby islands or to go diving or snorkelling. We decided just to stay at the hotel to enjoy the beach and the restaurant. I did a bit of painting and read a couple of books. We walked along the beach picking up rubbish (mostly plastic bottles) that were washed up on the beach. Some hotels have a rubbish bin on the beach to put the things you find there but in places where this wasn’t available we just pilled the rubbish away from the water. Please avoid buying small bottles of water- if you must buy opt for the largest one available - and plastic straws.
This small charming town by the river is a relaxing spot between Koh Rong and Phnom Penh. It’s a 2-3 hour bus ride from Sihanoukville. There isn’t much traffic in the city centre but you can choose to stay in one of the many hotels by the river, where you’ll have a prime spot to see the sunset and the surrounding landscape.
Side note: Sihanoukville is an ugly coastal town with lots of rubbish and sleazy casinos, where you need to go to get the boat to and from Koh Rong. it’s better to avoid staying there longer than necessary.
There’re a few things you can do while in Kampot. You can take a cruise along the river to see the sunset and to enjoy the landscape; you can also do water sports like kayak, paddle boarding and swimming along the river. If you go to the city centre you can see the durian roundabout (durian is a stinky fruit beloved by many people in Southeast Asia), walk around the streets to see colourful bougainvilleas or eat delicious french cakes and sandwiches in one of the many patisseries found around the town. Of all the things I mentioned we only did the river cruise and the visit to the french patisseries. We wanted to relax so we spent most of the time in our hotel reading or swimming (I also saved a frog from drowning!)
Our stay in Phnom Penh was very calm and enjoyable. On the way from the train station to the hotel we saw beautiful trees with yellow and purple flowers lining the streets and a few parks along the roads where people were exercising. We stated at Plantation Hotel, located not far from the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. The hotel was just amazing! We received a cold tea and a mini-scoop of ginger ice-cream upon arrival which was more than welcome after the long (and oh so hot!) journey from Kampot. The staff was friendly and our room was nice and comfy, but the best part was the swimming pool. I spent a lot of time reading on the steps of the pool protected from the sun by the palm trees and listening to the birds chirping. The breakfast was also fantastic, lots of fruit and bread choices included. I wish I could go and live there.
There are many things to do in Phnom Penh but we had a short time so we only visited the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. The streets around the complex are for pedestrians only so it’s very enjoyable to walk around the area (if you can manage to cross the road to get there). Once you’re inside the complex you’ll see the beautiful gardens and the incredibly intricate buildings. There are a few noisy tour groups that you can avoid if you walk in a different direction to the main route but for the most part it is a tranquil experience. It can get very hot so I recommend taking plenty of water with you. Not far from the Royal Palace there’s a vegan cafe called Backyard Cafe that I highly recommend visiting. They have a good selection of cakes and drinks - I had a coconut drink and a blueberry cheesecake.
Other places that you can visit are the National Museum of Cambodia, the Cambodian Living Arts' theatre show and the Wat Phnom Buddhist temple.
In the 1970s Cambodia went through horrific events and many people were killed during this period. If you want to learn more about this you can visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center.
Essentials packing checklist:
Reusable water bottle
Long sleeve swimwear (for snorkelling)
Phone and camera chargers
All images © Gina Maldonado