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Phnom Penh

Well, another year, another holiday. Although I feel it's a bit more like another mini-adventure as we only have the flights and the first three nights in Phnom Penh booked. Everything after that will be booked as we go, some will turn out great and some not. Let's hope it's more of the great and less of the not so great!!!

After travelling  for 25 hours we finally arrived at The White Mansion Boutique Hotel In Phnom Penh feeling very tired and but were immediately impressed. Wonderful large room with high ceilings, petals on the bed as a little anniversary perk and very  attentive staff. The only door we actually opened in three days was the one to our room. Having checked-in there was no way we were going to waste the day regardless of how knackered we were. So a stroll to the Riverside, going past the Royal Palace just 15 minutes or so walk  from the hotel, and lunch before eventually returning to the hotel for pool-time. We needed a rest before dinner but couldn't be bother to walk back to the Riverside, which in reality isn't that attractive. Found a restaurant just 5 minutes walk from the White Mansion which we discovered later was recommended by our guide book.

Cambodia 2013

Link to The White Mansion Hotel

Phnom Penh is, from the tourist view point, quite a small city with only a few major tourist attractions, although it's a bit hard to think of the Killing Fields and the related S-21 prison as attractions. Still they had to done.

So Saturday, our first full day, is spent at the Killing Fields, S-21 Prison after lunch heading on to the Russian Market where Jo had to buy some "long" bottoms so that she could get into the Temples and such.

One "must-do" chore was to buy a local internet SIM card for the iPad because without that we were relying on open access WIFI hotspots and as there were hotels to be booked and travel arrangements to be made the iPad was an essential part of our plans.

The Killing Fields

Visiting the Killing Fields and S-21 prison felt like somewhat morbid thing to do on holiday but equally we felt that it would be almost disrespectful not to. Really don't have much to say on this except it was a thought provoking and heart-rendering experience. One wonders how these things can happen!!!!.

During our remaining time in Phnom Penh we ticked off most of the major tourist sites and other local places of interest and managed to fit in some pool-time. Although one afternoon's pool-time was severely disrupted by a storm. The secluded pool's surface suddenly became choppy as gust after gust of wind hit it, and us, and we knew what was coming. No sooner than I had this thought  when the first few large drops of rain fell and we dashed in doors on the hurry up. Within minutes the rain was lashing down and as we watched the storm from our room the crossroads started to flood. After about half an hour the water was nearly up to the axle of an adult's pushbike, about 12 inches or so, and right on our route to dinner.

In between all the see-sighting we made time to book a hotel in Siem Reap, the Frangipani Hotel, a Frangipani is a white and yellow flower, for 3 nights and the coach to get there. A six hour journey lies in front of us and, unbeknown us the first of several very early mornings!!

Siem Reap

Our idea was simply to grab a tuk-tuk to take us to Angkor Wat and then explore on foot but Ath, the tuk-tuk driver explained the sheer size of the Angkor Wat "complex". We had read up on this but totally failed to comprehend the number of temples involved. We ended up hiring Ath for the whole day, and the next, and for a few hours on our last day there.

To save boring you too much I have broken our time at Angkor Wat into days and then the temples. The discerning reader may note at this point that our time at Siem Reap was extended by one day. This was because our options to get to Sihanouke, on the coast, were limited. One option was to return to Phnom Penh by coach and then on to the coast by coach again, minimum of 12 hours, option two, take a river journey to Battambung but this was at best 6 hours, although for one couple the trip took 11 hours, and another coach journey. Our final option was to fly there but the flights were only 3 times a week and the next flight wasn't until Friday afternoon. So the revised plan is to book the Friday afternoon flight, check-out of the Frangipani as planned and move for one night to the Le Meridien Hotel and their pool with no shade!

So we headed off towards Pub Street and spent a couple hours mooching around and, of course, being in a road called Pub Street a couple of beers had to be quaffed. Jo was delighted that the Tomb Raider cocktails were a BOGOFF (Buy One, Get One Free). Spent the evening trying to find veggie meals and discovered the Fresh Chilli Restaurant. Very Good!!     

Our first day in Siem Reap started earlier than expected because our pleasant room overlooking the pool was also facing east and at 6:12am the sunlight burst into our room straight through the thin curtains. After travelling most of the previous day we thought we would catch some more pooltime but changed our minds as we were in Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat.

The Temples of Angkor Wat - Day One

Angkor Thom


Preah Khan

Neak Pean

Ta Som

East Mebon

Banteay Srey

Banteay Samre

Pre Rup

If you have got this far - well done!! You are probably as "templed out" as we were. Ath, our tuk-tuk driver and guide, recommended this temple as a logical end to the day and to watch the sunset but sadly by this time my camera's battery was virtually dry and the sunset wasn't that great.

The Temples of Angkor Wat - Day Two

Ta Prohm "Tomb Raider"

Angkor Thom (Again)

Angkor Wat

One thing I haven't mentioned was the continual stream of people selling their wares, from children only just older than toddlers, and after 2 days Jo finally succumbed, knowing that she shouldn't buy anything but she did!!!

We had made a provisional booking at the Sokha Beach Resort as the room's description on the website stated west facing and we weren't sure exactly what this meant but on arrival we were given a free upgrade to a Pool/Ocean view room. Yay an upgrade!!!! A pleasant enough hotel with private beach.

During our time in Sihanoukville we spent one visiting three local islands for sight-seeing and snorkelling but the water clarity wasn't very good - just a metre or two and there weren't many fish. We were probably spoilt in Borneo!!!

Sihanoukwille wasn't really our style so we booked three nights on the island resort Koh Rong Samloem Villas but more of that later.

Sandan Restaurant

I think this is worth mentioning, the concept of this restaurant is to assist "abused" young adults into a career with on-hands training, although, when discussing this with one of the teachers the word "abused" should be replaced with "neglected". The food is really very good and the service is a little bit of hard work but just by eating there you are helping the students to learn. It was certainly good enough to go back for a second time.

Our Tuk Tuk driver and guide at Angkor Wat Mr Heng Ath.

Bamboo Island

Koh Rong Samloem Villas

bullet points extracted from their website :-

brand new resort built
variety of accommodation
authentic Asian fusion kitchen
relaxed lounge
exotic cocktails

and images from their website

But here's the reality

We booked 3 nights at this resort based on their website. However, the reality was way below expectations. The white sand and turquoise sea on the homepage bears no resemblance to the actual beach. The "open sky showers" simply are not, as the roof is corrugated plastic and we had no water twice in 18 hours. As for the "Fusion Asia Cuisine" we were offered rice, curry and vegetables buffet style. Well, even describing as "buffet style" is an exaggeration and the most exotic cocktail on offer was rum and coke!!!

If all the above doesn't put you off then bear in mind that this is supposed to be a recently opened resort, Spring this year, but the one and only blanket was torn, when the wind blew the sky was visible, rain dripped on to the mattress and electricity daytime only. Construction was on-going destroying the peace and quite.

At $35 per night should be backpacker price, say $10 per night.

Checked out after the first and only night and caught the only boat off the island at 4:30pm!!!

We had arranged a taxi up pick us up from the harbour at Sihanoukville and drive directly to Kep, just 20km from the Vietnam border, and as we had no WIFI on the island, we were still deciding where we would stay and asked to go to the Vanna Hill Resort, we're checking this resort out before booking.
Finally arrived at the resort about 8:30 in the evening and several rooms were available. After the previous night's experience we choose one of the best rooms, a pleasant, light room on a hill with en suite, a broad terrace which connected to the next chalet. In between the chalets was a covered terrace with comfortable sofas, chairs and tables but it wasn't until the morning that we saw the view which looked over the pool down towards the sea. Well managed grounds and hundreds of butterflies. This resort will definitely do us for 3 more nights.


Rabbit Island

As the resort wasn't on the coast we booked a day trip to a local island, Rabbit Island, and things started off smoothly but after only a few hundred metres from the coast the boat's rudder fell off and we had to be towed to the island. Had a coffee and thought we would stroll around the island. Shortly after setting off we entered a local village where the bay was cluttered with plastic bottles, really an eyesore, but looking closer you could see that the bottles supported ropes on which sea weed grew and the locals were harvesting it. At this point you really need to know I have a phobia about snakes, so as we continued our walk I suddenly stop dead in my tracks as there's a metre long green snake basking in the sun right across the path. SHIT!!!! Still, we wait awhile and it slithers off into the jungle and a few minutes later we resume our walk but with lot more attention and a beating heart!! After an hour and half we had virtually completed the walk and with only one bay to go, we stopped for a breather and more water. Quietly sitting there having a cigarette and water I couldn't see the owner stealthily approaching me from behind with a pair of chop sticks poised to remove a 75mm centipede from my hair - ooops just not one of those days.  

Sunset Vanna Hill Resort

From Room 118

Well, very much the final stages now, returned to Phnom Penh by taxi and stayed again at the White Mansion but on the 4th floor this time. The room quality was much the same as the 3rd floor with the main differences being the balcony was much larger with a table and chairs but the window height much lower. I called it our "hobbit" room.

And finally, just a footnote. On the return flight to Bangkok we were talking to a lady from Stockholm who asked if we thought it would be safe to eat the sea-food from on-flight catering and we just got talking. She stayed only a few minutes from where we stayed in Phnom Penh but I got the impression that she haven't eaten out at all and that makes me wonder if perhaps we do our holidays the hard way??

But I think that our mini-adventures are far more fun and sometimes it doesn't go the way we had planned or hoped  but we do experience sooooo much more.