A mixed experience through Cambodia
Hello Cambodia! We only had 2 weeks to explore this beautiful country so it was a race against the clock to fit in all the sights and activities that it had to offer.
Our first stop was Phnom Penh. We definitely got off on the wrong foot here. Having been scooped up by a charismatic tuk tuk driver called Curly, we checked into a small guesthouse that advertised “hot water, air conditioning and wifi” (the ultimate luxury package for a backpacker). After tucking into a delicious meal in the restaurant downstairs we decided to take a shower to combat the stench that comes from 48 hours of travel. Imagine the disappointment when we found that there was no hot water. It isn’t like I’m precious, quite the contrary, but when I had my heart set on a comforting hot shower and instead I had an ice cold trickle, I was bound to get a little grouchy. Deciding to check out as there was no hot water in the whole building we landed ourselves in an argument with the reception who wanted us to pay for the room.
“But we haven’t used it!” I objected.
“You see room before you check in. You see the shower!” the man replied.
Clearly he doesn’t know me otherwise he would be fully aware that I couldn’t tell a fully functioning shower from a phone pylon.
The argument escalated and Ed stepped in. The small man ran behind the counter, picked up a belt and wrapped it round his hand so he could hit Ed. Time for us to leave!
Craving companionship from fellow travellers we then checked into a slightly more pricey backpacker hostel for the night. Upon arrival, we were told there had been a mix up with the booking and they had no room. Seriously!? The friendly Geordie manager apologised to us profusely and offered us the “overspill room” free of charge. When he asked for the key from the receptionist she looked puzzled and asked “The store room?” Brilliant. So we spent our night on the floor of their finest store room. “It’s all part of travelling” I repeated to myself in my head.
The next day we had one of the most emotional days of our trip so far when we visited the Killing Fields just outside Phnom Penh. I, like many others, knew little about the mass genocide that took place in Cambodia while the Khmer Rouge was in power. I wasn’t too sure what to expect and when I entered and saw just a few sign posts and one white pagoda I was a little surprised- I had at least expected there to be some buildings to look around. Once I started listening to my audio guide, which described in great detail what took place at each sign, I didn’t need buildings to be able to visualise the horrors that went on there. I couldn’t believe how recently it had all taken place. Any child who was over the age of 10 would more likely than not have a parent who lived through the genocide. The mass graves were littered with tiny colourful bracelets that visitors had left as a sign of respect. It wasn’t until the end of the tour, when I felt sick to my stomach hearing about all the horrendous acts that I realised that the beautiful white pagoda I had seen as I entered was filled to the ceiling with the skulls of the victims. A fitting final resting place and a reminder to all that an atrocity like this can not take place again.
With very mixed feelings towards Phnom Penh, we headed south to Kampot to stay in a small eco-resort. As we drove on our tuk tuk along the muddy road that led to the resort, it soon became apparent that we were not going to make it through without getting stuck. And low and behold the driver soon asked us to get out and walk along the road while he tried to navigate around the deep mud. The resort, Ganesha, was amazing. After the stress of Phnom Penh, the relaxed and remote location was a perfect place for us to unwind.
We stayed in a beautiful riverside yurt and with the rainy season in full swing spent our days lounging in giant bamboo seats, cycling along the muddy paths and playing pool in the evenings in the company of the largest Gecko I have ever seen! . We had no air conditioning and the shower was freezing, but I absolutely loved it!
On our last day, a couple who were friends of the owners decided to brave the muddy track to Ganesha in their 4×4 and got stuck. A rescue mission kicked off. We put on our ponchos and mucked in with everyone else, piling palm leaves onto the roof of the 4×4 to place on the deep mud to help with the grip. While helping with the leaves I managed to walk over a red ants nest and a group of the little blighters scuttled up my thigh and started nibbling. I was hopping and squealing around desperately trying to brush them out, much to the amusement of the others.
After an hour of rain, heavy lifting and a lot of slipping and sliding around the 4×4 was free and we had definitely earned ourselves a drink!
Next stop was Sihanoukville to the East of Kampot. A beautiful seaside spot that backpackers flock to on account of their white sandy beaches and great nightlife. We weren’t so lucky. The torrential rain that haunted us at Ganesha followed us east and continued to dampen our spirits with sporadic downpours every time we were brave enough to venture out. To make matters worse the plumbing system on the beach front was pretty basic to say the least, and we were treated to brown smelly showers everyday. Just as we were ready to pack up and move north, the pitter patter of the rain stopped and the sunshine came out in full force. I was in my bikini in a flash and out baking my pasty skin and playing in the sea as quickly as I could. Within two hours I was bright red while Ed annoyingly continued to turn a deeper shade of gold. Typical!