Cambodia. My favorite of the South East Asian countries. It reminds me of the place I was born, El Salvador.
There is so much to learn here. I arrived in low season. Not many tourists at this time of year, perfect. I have not been drinking much. Focusing mostly on learning and writing. Not partying much either and keeping a lowish profile.
It is hard to believe that this country was hell on earth just a few years ago. I will begin with a brief history. During the recent genocide carried out the Khmer Rouge 1 in 4 were murdered out of a population of 8 millions. It is estimated 1-3 millions died. Nationwide genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed. In the past Cambodia had been invaded by France, Japan, American, fought with Vietnam and endured civil war with the Khmer Rouge.
When you visit Cambodia today, in 2017, you unable to detect firsthand the suffering the country felt for years. It has a hidden history, not something we are exposed to at school in the UK. I do not want to disclose all the details to you as I believe this is something you must experience and learn about yourself. I cannot put into words everything I experienced. This post will be a mixture of tips, facts and short stories.
I will begin at the start of my trip, tell you a little about what I saw and learned and advice you on places to stay + things to do.
I am currently listening to this: Ros Sereysothea. She was big in the 60’s here in Cambodia but was murdered by the Khmer Rouge in the 70’s. I really love music and very have been enjoying the local music here, I found her while researching Cambodia’s music history. I can’t understand the lyrics but love the guitar riffs in this. She was known for having a very smooth and sexual tone to her voice. Very well liked. They use sexy crisp riffs in a lot of their music. With string and sometimes sax.
Where to stay:
- Onderz hostel for a quiet, clean and chilled hostel. Perfect for those looking for time out. The staff here were magic. Rooftop pool too.
- Funkyflash packers for those looking to party. I would say 18 – 20 year who predominately want to drink and meet other party goers
- Mad Monkey for an in between. Good for meeting people and nice rooms
What to do:
- The night market
- Angkor Wat – I would do the sunset, you nearly always miss sunrise. You could even do both. $37 for a 1 day pass and $62 for a 3 day pass. Small circle tour is enough, unless you reallllly like temples.
- The floating marker
- Bar street
Siem Reap is wonderful. I flew here from Hanoi. I needed time out for myself after a mental and boozy 4 months of travelling. Wanted to take a break from socialising and sort my shit out in terms of flights, money and general plans for the future. Onderz hostel was perfect. Very similar feel to rehab. Everything was relaxed and OK. The rooftop pool was stunning during the sunset and there is always someone to chat to if needed.
During my time here I begun to notice things. The people, the locals. I was more focused on them than fellow travelers. I was sitting reading when I noticed the two boys. Standing on a rooftop, dirty, unwashed, only cloth wrapped around their crotch. They looked hungry, sharing a mango. One of them was throwing up. While the other searched his hair for something. I wanted to help but I couldn’t get their attention. I wanted to leave food for them but by the time I walked out towards the roof they were gone.
I noticed a girl scouting the bins for leftover food, a few meters away her grandmother/mother was also doing the same. I had no money on me as I was stuck with $2 to last me two days. I had just bought water and an ice-cream. Hated myself for that, wish I bought two bottles of water so I could give one away. I should have given them my water. But at the time I was selfish. Begun to understand just how poor Cambodia was, but this was just the beginning.
I got stuck. Lost my card a while back, usually rely on Western Union and Moneygram by but then they were both closed due to a bank holiday weekend so had to wait there until I could pick money up. 6 nights in total. On my last day I visited Angkor Wat. I was so excited. Paid $6 for a small circle tour with my hostel. Doing it with a group is the best idea because you meet people. I met some incredible people. Two people stood out the most, one girl from Holland who was feisty as fuck. Managed to get the guide to take a group of 10 of us early in a mini van to ensure we made sunrise.
Angkor Wat itself was beautiful, so bloody brilliant. I walked around with a group of 3 dutchies, all so lovely. All of us met that morning. Was in my own world though. Absorbing everything. Was magical walking round and taking in the beauty. Thought about the history, about all the million of people who have walked and touched the temple. I highly recommend you visit!
Felt this song was most fitting for the below. The name is just a name. He was not my Mr Darcy but the way he spoke reminded me of Mr Darcy.
During this tour I met an English man. I first met him at breakfast, a true gentleman, he poured my orange juice for me. He was in our minivan, at lunch I sat opposite him. I wanted to know what he did. He seemed quite timid and shy. From his body language and speech mannerisms I could tell he would be fascinating. My gut was right. He was exceptionally intelligent and friendly. He chose his words carefully and thought about how he would respond. A typical well educated English gentleman. His job however was not typical. He was a political consultant for companies who wanted to/or are doing business in the Middle East. His job entitles him to know everything there was to know about potential terrorist threats, potential problems with local politics, hostage negotiation, payment of ransoms and tracking of monies. Not too far off what my dad has done in the past. I understood what he did, felt at home discussing his journey.
I spent the rest of the day chatting to him about all aspects of his life. He was very interesting, modest and humbling. A really genuine guy who wanted to meet and experience things. He spoke about his ex and his current girlfriend, his plans to have a family and propose. We spoke about his family, his life in the UK, his travels, about politics and university, a mixture of subjects. We build a good little friendship and I created a brief itinerary for him as he was going to Vietnam. He ended up coming to Phnom Penh with me and experiencing what I am about the tell you.
This dude was cool, interesting, genuine and I could tell he would make a brilliant friend. I continue to speak to him today from time to time. I am appreciative for all the advice he gave me and for the interesting conversation. He sat with me while I finished the Alchemist on the bus and was there to hear me out after finishing the story. Someone I will not forget. Was a good reminder of home and good reminder of what I actually look for in a man. He made me remember the value of intelligence, integrity and priorities. Thank you.
By the time I got here I had been sober two weeks. I had just finished reading The kite runner and the Alchemist. Both books has made me reflect a lot. I was a blank slate by this point. Ready to take in new information. When I am sober my mind focuses a lot. I concentrate. By the end of day two I drank….a lot. You need to come here to understand why.
While writing this I was listening to this. Love this type of thing. This song is very fitting.
Where to stay:
- Mad monkey – Its is clean, sociable, has a pool and decent events on. The staff are also nice.
What to do:
- Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes – I cannot put into words just how important this visit it. Really. Ensure you visit and make sure you do it before the killing fields. The tuk tuk is approximately $15-20 for the day. We shared between 4. So $5 each. Entry was $6 and included an audio guide. Do this alone.
- The Killing fields – This follows on from the above. Again you must visit. $6 entry including audio guide.
- Meditation – Free Buddhist meditation with the monks at Wat Langka usually at 6pm – 7pm.
After visiting the museum and killing fields I recommend going to the free meditation. The day can leave you feeling defeated and completely gobsmacked. I was furious with humanity and felt so angry that I was not taught any of this in the history curriculum at school. Ignorance is bliss but I hated myself for being ignorant to this.
I wanted a drink. To relax the anger I had build up. Wanted to forget, temporarily. We do things we shouldn’t sometimes, and this led to my first meeting with Max. Everything happens for a reason right?
My business partner
This song reminds me of my first meeting. Not the lyrics but the whole vibe.
I had been drinking a lot. Think I was on my 8th drink by this point. I has just finished a game of beer pong. Got chatting to a lot of people, spotted two lads opposite me, I am a flirt when I drink, just like talking nothing more. Thought they were a couple at first, just the way they looked at each other. I introduced myself. Kept drinking. Max was telling some of his “crazy” stories from the previous night. It was crazy. He has asked me to keep it private for professional reasons. He seemed like a little ladies man….he was attractive so I could see why it was easy. He was not there to pull though, just to have a good time and chat. We chatted about our plans. We both wanted to set up a hostel type establishment. He then announced to me that he does not sleep with business partners. This was funny, I laughed a lot. Pleaseeeee I am the last person any man should try and “pull”. I have no time for it. Prefer making friends. He mentioned we should collaborate and do it together, I thought it was a joke so ignored it but he meant it…we have met up since and in another post I will share more.
How beautiful is this place? This is the song that remind me of this place.
This place is pretty hippy. Very relaxed vibe. I didn’t do much here. Needed to rest. Had a lot on my mind. Was writing a blog at the time which made me feel sad, also had the memories of the war history swirling in my brain. I was also having issues with AirAsia as they messed up my flight to Malaysia and were refusing to correct it. Was losing money. I was stressed. Regardless magical things did happen here.
Where to stay:
- High Tide Hostel – I would not stay here until your a stoner hippy. only $3 a night. Pretty basic but cool. The below picture was taken there. They make rum there too.
- Monkeuy Republic – Really nice rooms. Little curtains for privacy. Very comfy. Was masical here. Will explain below. $4 a night.
- Arcadia – This is a water park on the lake, hostel too. From $7 a night.
Things to do:
I cannot really advice as I did nothing…but I am going back so will update you then.
Maz the story teller
Here is a song which I felt went well with this moment. Mr Winters use to play and sing this to us when we were in year 4, 8/9 years old. Buckingham middle school. I love stories and music so I use to love it when he did this.
This was magical. The previous day I had spoke to no one. Didn’t feel like it. I did not want to smoke weed or take drugs nor talk about spirits and orgies. My mind was not in the game. I was concentrating on my writing. When I arrived at my new hostel it was cool. There was actual aircon which was perfect! Thought I would finish my story and publish. Didn’t quite work out that way. The power went off in the evening and there was a storm. Torrential rain drummed at our hostel door, thunder shook the rooms and lighting was the only source of light we had. I was chilled as fuck. This was nothing. Lived through hurricane Mitch in Honduras 1998. Some of the others were not so relaxed. They watched as I continued to write my story. Someone asked what I was doing. Explained the blog. They asked me to share some stories….so I did. 7 grown adults from all over the world were sitting crossed legged on the floor by my bed listening eagerly to my travel stories, they kept asking questions wanting to know more, to understand. Felt absolutely magical!! Adrenalin pumped through me as I shared tales of the people I had met. After the stories two people wanted to share their stories with me and asked me if I could write about them. I am working on them now, but they are so different and unique that I need to do more research before publishing. These will come in time. Felt so humbled by them. I knew Cambodia was special and felt it more than ever at this point. Everyone in that room was so different. For a moment we came together and shared stories. It was magical. After the storm we all went back to doing our own thing and I never spoke to any of them again. But I will not forget them. Truly unique humans. Thank you.
What do you do when a tuk tuk driver cries because he does not make enough to feed his family day on day? I have no idea. Wish I had enough in my pocket to feed him family for a year. I knew if I took out everything in my bank account we could feed them for a year here but I did not have a bank card, again ran out of cash and needed money myself to survive until my flight home. Not trying to justify myself. I could have found a way. Hope one day I do find a way. Hated myself for having to walk away. I didn’t need a tuk tuk ride so could not give him my business. I had nothing to give him. This place is a mixture of poverty and wealth.
For this section I am listening to this:
Where to stay:
- Onderz hostel – This is the shit!! stay here. I totally love it. It is where I am right now writing this. The staff are wonderful. I will write about them below. So clean. Nice pool and lots of cool people. Not that social not party but it is chilled. Feels like rehab. Perfect! $8.
- Monkey Republic – Party but too much. Decent rooms. $6
What to do?:
Nothing…..beach mostly. A good base to visit the islands and beaches. I sat on some bay docks here 😉 reference to the song.
I could write a book about these guys. All Cambodians. They have taken really good care of me. As soon as I got here they were excited. I am small and brown, like them. They had a lot of questions for me. They kept hugging me and welcoming me to their staff members. I was pretty fragile after KRS. I came back here. I was pale, my face was puffy. Hungover and hurting. I was greeted with hugs and welcome backs. They all remembered me. I left again, one of them was kind enough to drop me off at my new hostel in Otres Beach, agreeing top pick me up in a few days. When I got back I was a bit of a mess. Still no bank card. No cash. All banks closed for a 4 day bank holiday. AirAsia was still causing me trouble with 3 flights I booked via them. Felt defeated. Was tiered, hungry and fed up. They fed me, hugged me, refilled my water, made me feel at home. They gave me Oreos with hot milk. They picked me up. Agreed to trust me and opened a tab for me. Said I could pay when I was able to get money. They told me they trusted me. They even gave me Vogue cigarettes, those who travel with me know I smoke the bitch sticks if and when I do smoke. They show me nothing but kindness when we do talk. They always come up to me and check up on me. All of them. Even the moody manager has started to smile at me. Just to top things off, they know I don’t like onions and peppers so make me special food without me asking. So grateful and lucky. Again thank you.
Koh Rong Samleom
Well…this was the best 3 days of my whole time in Cambodia. I was away from wifi and phone signal for the duration. Met incredible people. Laughed, danced, drank and let loose. My friend and I swam nude on an empty secluded beach without a care in the world. Such a beautiful island. Was similar vibe to the movie The Beach.
This song reminds me of night 1 – all of us in a circle dancing and kicking screaming this song. I got elbowed on the head and sported a very sexy bump for a while. My fellow island Brightonian has some brilliant picture evidence. Once these are released I will share.
Where to stay:
- Mad Monkey – Maybe I got lucky with the group? everyone was so chilled and lovely. A lot of us Brits and was nice to chat about home for once. Did not feel anyone was cracking onto anyone and was super chilled. The rooms were not luxury but it’s island life. Get use to it! There was a mosquito net and little fan + lamp on each bunk. $9 per night. Do not leave food or wrappers out. There are rats, lizard and snakes who come for them.
What to do?:
- Swim – The beaches were wonderful
- Drink – I took my own booze, also spend $100 at the bar. Careful they put it all on a tab.
- Snorkeling – You can take them off the boat before it leaves (tour boat) we swam out to the little rock island. Careful or the sea urchins!! And rocks, cut myself here.
- Fishing trip – $10 for the day. They given you lunch and you cook the fish you catch
- Lazy Beach – 1 hour walk through the jungle. Really cool. The beach is amazing and so clear!! We swam out and hijacked an empty boat. Jumped off and chilled.
- Other beaches – You will find them 🙂
- Socialise – There is no wifi so you have to. Everyone is friendly. Don’t be shy.
- Dance – People chill more than dance but if you make a special effort you can get people up. When they are super waste.
- Fire show – This was cool. The staff showed off their tricks
- Jungle Gym – Yeah there is a jungle gym…it’s pretty good. See pics below.
I have a LOT of stories of people here. Had such a special time. The story which sticks out the most is that of a girl I met here. Someone really special. A beautiful girl with a beautiful mind. I have actually already written this story but it is an entry on it’s own and connects with another. Once I finish my research I will publish.
Instead I will tell you about the night I stitched my finer up.
Dr House in da house!
Listen to this while you read. I was listening to it as I wrote. More dramatic this way 😉
I am not going into too much detail. More quick summery as I feel like an idiot. Went snorkeling, cut my finger on a shell. Small cut, pretty deep, didn’t make a fuss even thought it was bleeding a lot. Put a plaster on it, let it go. The whole island got drunk including the staff. The wound opened and bled again. The medic for the staff team was wasted. Just gave me the first aid kit, something to inject myself with and a sterilization kit + equipment to stitch myself up. There is nothing I can’t do, had never done it before but thought that I was pretty much Dr House. I just weaved the hook round and round. Had injected myself with something. Possibly local anesthetics. I still felt the pain thought but had drank so much I continued. When it was done I wrapped it in bandage and continue to party. The next day the pain was unreal. There was an ex arm doctor on the island, a beautiful Isreali god of a man. He did laugh but I think he was impressed regardless he advised me to take the stitches out as I was in a lot of pain. My face was puffy and pale…if that makes any difference. In the end I just needed to put a plaster on it. It would heal on it’s own. Was only little. My drunk mind and other drunk minds had exaggerated the situation.
All in all it was an amazing experience and I wish to do it again!! Was great to meet everyone there and see you at Glasto James 🙂
This place was pretty hippy too. I saw a lot of poverty here. But what trumped it all was a chance encounter. This song is suited for the tale I am about to tell. Fit’s the mood I was in. I love Nneka. One of my favorite artists of all time. I was in a dream here. The beach and damn, that sunset. That sunset was unreal ❤
Where to stay:
- Otres beach 1: Pat Pat guest house – They are selling this place for $200,000. Really nice but I was the only one there. $8 per night.
- Otres Beach 2: Footprint – They are also selling this place for $80,000. Not so cool. $4 a night but constantly busy. A lot of drug usage. Good for those looking to party.
What to do:
- Swim – There is a beach with an insane sunset – see pictures below
- Drink – $1 deft beers, why not. Be aware on Otres beach 1 bars close early.
- Scuba diving + Island hopping – you can get a boat from here to Ko Ta Kieve
- Night Market – in Otres Beach 1 there is a a market
- Wednesday Jungle Party – Self explanatory. At Cheffufle.
- Hair braid – Local girls will come up top you and offer to pamper you for a small cost. Take it. You will be helping them.
I don’t have much for you about this place. I did see quite a bit of poverty on the drive here. But I couldn’t do anythings about it. At this point only had $10. With no Western Union or Moneygram open. The sunsets were beautiful. On day 1 some of the island family were there too, then met with Max. Day 2 I was on my own with the guy who worked at the hostel. He tried to talk to me and told me there was a birthday at Mom’s kitchen but I was not happy.
I met a young 10 year old girl. She has been coached on funny phrases to say to entice us into buying from her. Thing like “lovely jubbly” and “open your heart open your wallet”. Her name was Ali. I wanted to know about her. We played her her favorite song, Ed Sheeran – shape of you. She told me she goes to school from 6 – 11 then had lunch. After the girls roam the beach selling bracelets, hair braids, threading peoples legs, anything until the late afternoon. Everyday. They were feisty. Good sales girls. They liked school but they also liked selling. The girls loved music. They brushed our hair, even giving me hairbands for free. They liked doing this. They were so sweet but serious about business, trying to get as much out of us as possible. I didn’t have much on me but got a braid.
The woman with the smile
This is the only version I could fine but fits well.
Her smile. Changed me mood that day. I was down in the dumps. Felt like the universe was working against me. I had a deadline with a ICBR that day which I could not hit as I did not have anything I needed. I was going to be kicked off the course in China. I had no money and no way of getting any. No bank card. It was a four day weekend so all the bank would be closed until Wednesday. AirAsia had fucked me over with three flights and refused to fix it. I lost a lot of money that way. I also had a reality check from someone, was brutal. He shat on my hopes. I felt pretty low. Stupid as they are not real problems just annoyances. Just wanted to punch the universe in the arse 😦 I don’t get sad often but when I do I get really really sad.
Then she came, a woman I saw every day during my time on the beach. She was kind to me. She could see I was down. I tried to smile at her but my face always gives me away. I was frustrated and fed up. Couldn’t hide it. She put her hand on my shoulder, looked and smiled at me. Gave me this sugar and bread candy thing and told me tomorrow would be a better day. Then she left. I felt like some weight had been lifted. Went back to my dorm and did get some shit sorted. AirAsia are still shit, still had no money but appreciated the beautiful sunset I was watching and enjoyed my sweets.
Sometimes just a smile, a touch, sweets and a few words are enough to make someone happy. I was happy that night. Be kind always! you never know how much someone needs it.
That is all for today ladies and gents. My time so far in Cambodia has been amazing! I hope you come out and visit this beautiful country. I still have a few places on my list to visit 🙂 Hopefully my card arrives Wednesday and I can move on…
Peace out ❤