After a reasonably stress-free border crossing where a grumpy Jackie Chan look-a-like scanned our fingerprints, we arrived in Phnom Penh. It was a bit of an anti-climax as it was dark outside but as the toilet on our bus had been leaking we were pretty happy to hop off (even if it was into a swarm of tuk tuk drivers).
Although the city feels a bit dis-jointed, I really liked exploring Phnom Penh. Our hostel was in a leafy residential area just outside of the centre so it was great to see the non-touristy side of the capital. We haggled our way around the markets, wandered around the sights and generally got lost (I don’t always have a great sense of direction).
We also visited Cheoung Ek, one of the several ‘Killing Fields’ used during the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970’s. To stand on the same ground where such atrocities had occurred just a few decades ago was a truly haunting experience. By some of the mass graves, bones and clothes of some of the innocent victims where still visible. While it was both an upsetting and sobering day, I was truly impressed by how the Khmer people have preserved the site and the honesty with which they’ve presented the happenings at the fields.
Next stop on our journey was Kep, a small fishing village south of the capital. While we were only stopping by to visit Koh Tonsay, an island nearby, we managed to have a cycle around and find an amazing place for dinner. Nothing quite like having a cocktail on the beach with a jazz singer crooning in the background.
The next few days were spent on Koh Tonsay (or Rabbit Island) chilling in hammocks, eating fresh shrimp, sipping on cocktails and generally embracing beach bungalow life (including not showering!). After some back-to-back city hopping, it was really nice to settle in one place and we really could not have picked somewhere more idyllic.
We heard that there were development plans and that a resort was being built on the island soon so we were very grateful to visit while it still has it’s rural charm. I had such a great time that after a few days I was really sad to leave the sand, the sea and the adorable kittens!
Our journey to Kampot was an interesting one. Late bus that never materialised so, of course, some guys mate drove us while he was also delivering ‘packages’ around the town. Ohhh Cambodia. On a friends recommendation, we headed 10km north of Kampot to Arcadia, an amazing, ‘lost boys’-esque hostel on the river. Rope swing? Check. Diving platform? Check. ‘The Blob’? My boyfriend DEFINITELY checked that one!
While we were there, we hired a bike and a convoy of us headed into the mountains of a national park nearby the explore the abandoned city at the top. The journey and view as we ascended was incredible until, suddenly, we were driving at cloud level and you could barely see 10 metres ahead. So surreal. The cloud was so thick that we almost drove past this abandoned casino and hotel and it wasn’t until some of the mist shifted that it came into view. So creepy!