1. It is home to the biggest religious building in the World

Back in the 12th Century, king Suryavarman II decided to prove to all his Khmer citizens that his kingdom was fit for the Gods. And with this goal in mind, he decided to create Angkor Wat, the biggest religious building in the World. Built in just 37 years, as it had to be finished before his death, it represented heaven on earth and was the kings free pass to heaven once he died.

angkor-wat

Angkor Wat ís the biggest religious temple in the World

2. Tuk-Tuks are not that cool

I couldn’t wait to get on a Tuk-Tuk as I found them really cool, but after being offered one an average of 100 times every day, you end up not liking them that much. Also, the drivers will always try to rip you off: when we got to the south coast, Sihanoukville, they wanted to charge us $14 for a trip that I knew was only $4. Cheeky….

tuk-tuk-driver

Our tuk-tuk driver taking a nap whilst waiting for us

3. The islands are amazing

Even though we are travelling on a tight budget, the south islands are even more affordable to stay in than in Sihanoukville itself, with dorms starting at just $3! Food is also cheap and there are lots of cheap fun things to do like snorkel, kayak, night plankton viewing, zip line, etc. We spent our time on biggest island, Koh Rong, but there are others around.

It will be interesting to see over the next few years how Koh Rong fairs with the development planned for the island. With signs saying construction is imminent across this mostly isolated island, we feel quite priveledged to have been able to see this gem of a location before all the big chain hotels and Western shops and restaurants pitch up.

The only loser, as far as we can see, if that does happen is, as always, the beautiful environment.

Long beach - Koh Rong Island (Cambodia)

Long beach – Koh Rong Island (Cambodia)

4. A “short walk” might turn into a life threatening jungle trek

whilst we were staying on Koh Rong, things nearly did go Koh Wrong when we decided it would be a nice idea to take the ‘short walk’ across the island to see the much more deserted side of the island. ‘Follow the flip flops’ we were told. ‘It’ll only take 45 mins’ the signs ensured us. So we went for it, we’re not that unfit after all….

Almost two hours later and Jaymie nearly had a heart attack when after pushing up high rocks in the midday sun, she realised the only way back down to the beach was via 4ft wet boulders. (slight fear of heights running in the family!) A bit of health and safety had been considered as some nice person had left a rope attached to a hanging tree to let you climb down.

Sweating more than we’d ever done in any gym, or sauna, we finally arrived and ran straight into the most appealing turquoise waters either of us have ever seen.

We totally took the overpriced boat taxi back. And then ached for a week after…. (Well, one of us anyway)

5. Phnom Penh is the new Bangkok

This is the feeling that we got after seeing countless young Cambodian ladies with old, frankly ugly, white men. This is not news to anyone in a city like Bangkok, but it looks like Phnom Penh is taking the lead now and competing with Bangkok for this questionable market.

6. Human stupidity is infinite

In Phnom Penh we learnt about the Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot who decided to kill more than 1 million of his own fellow citizens for not supporting his ideas. We visited one of the hundred of killing fields spread all over Cambodia and understood in graphic reality the nasty ways that they used to kill people. Bones and teeth are still being uncovered during heavy rains. There is a powerful monument full of skulls showcasing with detail their age, gender and which horrific way their lives were taken. A sombre day, but important to remember the darker side of human history.

killing-fields

Khmer Rouge decided not to use bullets to kill people

7. Bargaining is not an option

We have learnt that bargaining here is a must. Nobody is going to offer you a fair price upfront being a westerner. But no worries, we have the recipe for success.

Tuk-tuks are the worst when it comes to rip offs, so follow the next rule if you don’t know what a fair price is for your journey: ask the driver the price and divide that number by 3, offer him that amount (always helps to have that amount to hand) and push slightly up to come to a fair price. This is a real example: we stopped a tuk-tuk to take us to the killing fields in Phnom Penh and he asked for 25 dollars to take us there and back (Ridiculous!) So we offered 8 dollars, he was laughing (as much as I did when he asked for 25 dollars). When he went down to 15 dollars and I pushed to 9, he laughed again, but not that much cause he saw we knew how to bargain. He asked for a final fair price and I just pushed one dollar more. The final deal was sealed at 10 dollars for a return journey.

8. A Hotel Bus is not a hotel

Travelling around in South East Asia is quite cheap but you need to be patient and put up with long hours on a bus. Sometimes the best way to do this is at night with a sleeper bus or as they sold it to us, a “Hotel Bus”. This is somewhat of a euphemistic term, as our hotel looked more like a coffin, rather than a bed. There was just enough room for two averagely sided Westerners (If you’re pushing 6 ft, or a little on the larger side, you’re going to struggle) That, combined with the amount of times the bus driver either beeps its horn, sings along to the radio, or stops to go to the toilet and you’re in for a terrible night’s sleep. You do get a free bottle of water though, as you’d expect in an respectable hotel.

hotel-bus

Cosy room for the night