Cambodia has been in decadence ever since the fall of Angkor Empire. It was colonized by the French in the 19th century and on the 20th century suffered heavy carpet bombing by the USA, the horrors of civil war and the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror. Much of the population still subsists on less than the equivalent of US$1 a day. Tourism is a very important income for the country with increasing numbers of visitors attracted by its temples and beaches.
Cambodia in 30 days itinerary:
Siem Reap – 7 days
Battambang – 3 days
Koh Rong Samloen – 10 days
Kampot – 6 days
Phnom Penh – 4 days
Where to stay: Siem Reap Pub Hostel – 5$ per night in a 12 female dorm
Where to eat: Street food at the night market
How to move around: the city centre is fairly compact and flat to get around on foot, however, you need to hire a tuk tuk or a motorbike to visit Angkor. Due to the heat, lack of shade and large distance between temples is not the best idea to visit the temples by bicycle.
What to visit: Angkor site. You can either purchase a pass valid for 1 day (37$), 3 days (62$) or 7 days (72$). Most people choose to visit Angkor Wat at sunrise so be aware the queues from 5am.
Tip: if you buy the one day pass ticket after 5 pm is valid the same day until sunset and the next day, just ensure it doesn´t get stamped as it would invalidate it for use the next day.
Where to stay: First Hotel – 7$ per night for a private room with bathroom
Tip: if the water is high in Tonle Sap Lake you can take a boat to go from Siem Reap to Battambang, the journey is beautiful along small rivers passing by charming floating villages.
How to move around: the centre can be mostly explored by foot. You can rent a motorbike to explore the surroundings or hire a tuk tuk driver for about 10$ per day.
What to visit: Phnom Sampeu, a hill with the Killing Caves of the Khmer Rouge and a Buddhist monastery. Don´t miss the bat cave at sunset when millions of bats come out.
What to do: Battambang Circus: a fun, energetic and exciting show which supports the NGO school which works with disadvantaged children and teenagers.
Volunteering: I spent one day teaching English at Khmer New Generation Organization (KNGO) an NGO based in Bospo Village.
Koh Rong Samloen
There are no roads in the island so the only way to move around is by foot trekking through the jungle or by boat for 5$ per trip. This means you better decide where to go in the island before getting there. These are the main options:
Mpei Bay – the main town in the island with plenty of budget accommodation, cheap eats and beach parties. Khmer families live here. There is a nice beach 10 min walk south. Don´t miss the 6$ all you can eat buffet dinner at The Fishing Hook restaurant with seafood, fish and the best vegan and vegetarian dishes I had in Cambodia.
Clearwater Bay: Driftwood hostel is the only option here, is cheap to sleep in the dorm or hammock but the food is pricey and very limited. Is 45 min walk from Mpei Bay. The beach is really beautiful, clean with hammocks and swings to chill.
Mad Monkey: this party hostel has a private beach. Both accommodation and food are quite expensive. You can either get here by boat or a 1 hour hike from Saracen Bay.
Saracen Bay: the whitest softest sandy beach I have never seen. Not many cheap options to sleep here as is very popular with packaged-holiday tourist.
Sunset Beach: a truly hidden paradise, super quiet and beautiful beach with breathtaking sunsets. You can get there trekking about 40 min from Saracen Bay or by boat. Really basic but beautiful accommodation here starting for 5$ a dorm in Huba Huba and the scuba diving resort.
Lazy Beach: similar to Sunset Beach, reachable in 20 min walk from Saracen Bay. There is only one place to stay and eat there.
Where to stay: Monkey Republic has probably the best dorms ever for 4$ a night.
Where to eat: Captain Chim´s for cheap eats and Simple things restaurant for healthy and western food.
How to move around: Kampot’s main attraction is its relaxing riverside setting which you can explore by foot. Motorbikes are really cheap and the best way to explore the surroundings and see the famous pepper plantations.
What to visit: Bokor National Park, about 1-2 hours out of Kampot where you can find the abandoned French hill station and the isolated upland nature reserve.
Kep is also worth a visit, there are plenty of restaurants offering delicious crab dishes.
Where to stay: Lovely Jubbly Villa has a swimming pool and dorms for 8$.
How to move around: like most Asian cities is very chaotic for pedestrians so is not the most pleasant place to walk around, there are also a lot of warnings about thief’s stealing bags from the motorbikes so be careful. If you are not a very experienced driver, I would not recommend to rent motorbikes or ride bicycles here.
Cambodia experienced one of the worst genocide of modern history, committed by the dictator Pol Pot and his Red Khmer party, who wanted to institute an agrarian communist system. Sadly, the top tourist industry’s selling points are the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 Prison), s school converted into Cambodia’s most important prison in 1975; and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, a former Chinese cemetery where the Khmer Rouge killed many thousands of their victims during their four-year reign of terror.
Tip: you can arrange a share tuk tuk with other travelers and visit it in one day for about 12$ per tuk tuk. Is cheaper to negotiate with the drivers directly instead of arranging it with the hostels.