Friday, 19 August 2011

Cambodia: The SE Asia ‘Can’t Leave Your Self Behind’ Guide

From A to B – Getting Around

There are no trains currently running in Cambodia so it’s buses for getting around.  The roads in Cambodia are much quieter than neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand, a reflection on the relative prosperity of the average Cambodian.  Socio-economics aside however this is a relief when crossing from Vietnam as the din of a million car horns disappears and a strange hush takes hold. 

Tuk tuks are a good option in towns and you won’t walk for long before you’re offered your hundredth tuk tuk ride of the day.  Tiring as this may be do try to smile and say no politely. Even better, say yes.

Again, mopeds are an option for bombing around towns and out into the countryside.  As ever, take it easy as the roads in Cambodia are often poor and medical facilities, particularly good ones, are few and far between.

Getting to Thailand from Siem Reap is covered in the introductory post to these mini-guides.

Where the Magic Probably Won’t Happen – Sleeping

Bloom Garden Guesthouse, Siem Reap: a really super guesthouse this one.  Run by the charming and chatty Diana, a Singaporean expat, she takes the running of this place seriously.  She seems to like the company of guests and this is a sure sign of a passionate hotelier.  The guesthouse is a little out of town, but they offer bikes to guests free of charge, and a tuk tuk ride is only a couple of USD.  Breakfast is good, the Wi-Fi is fast, and they are eager to help.  The tastefully designed bedrooms come with air con and a fan, and have good bathrooms. 

Nmm nmm nmm – Eating and Drinking

Toucan, Crab Market, Kep: The crab market in Kep is a ramshackle collection of waterfront huts, and this place, stumbled upon by chance, was a delight.  Helen has just leaned over my shoulder and said, simply, ‘stuffed crab’.  She’s right, of course, you don’t argue with my wife when it comes to food.  The stuffed crab was indeed excellent, as were the plate of prawns, ordered off menu, served with a butter and pepper dip.

Yacht club, Kep: This place seems out of place in Kep, a moneyed bastion in a town that was decimated by the Khmer Rouge in living memory.  But it has very friendly staff, good value cocktails during happy hour, and an excellent menu.  The prawn, cream cheese and jalepeno poppers were a favourite.  It is also the best place in Kep to watch the sunset.  With a mojito.  And a beer chaser.

Soria Maria, Tapas, Siem Reap: this place does a ‘dish for a dollar deal’ on a Wednesday night, and is an expat favourite.  Not least because all the drinks are also a dollar.  We grazed on an impressive array of tapas choices, eventually dragging ourselves out, bloated and drunk, but only $20 USD worse off.

Other stuff

Rabbit Island, just off Kep

This is a good day or overnight trip.  Rabbit Island is a 45 minute boat ride from Kep, the return trip giving you plenty of change from $15 USD.  The beach itself is lovely, with some ramshackle wooden bungalows set back from the beach.  Ladies offer good value massages on the beach.  I had two.

Angkor temples, Siem Reap

You can’t really go to Cambodia and not see the temples.  I’ve written about them in a previous post, so will keep this to practicalities.

We were in Siem Reap for three days and spent just one morning at the temples.  This, for us, was enough, but you could easily spend more time there.  For two of our three days we hired a tuk tuk driver by the name of Vantha, and his magnificent chariot that he had christened Black Wolf.  A diminutive and delightful young man he drove us around for two straight days, always returning to a pre-agreed pick up point bang on time.  He was enterprising and educated and had memorised the temple guide book, in a second language remember, taking pride in sharing his detailed knowledge with us as we toured the different temple sites.  We agreed on a day rate of $15 USD.  I gave him $20 on both days. 

I can’t think of a better way of touring the temples than like this, and would urge anyone to seek out a similar arrangement.

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