Time for Magic Travel Blog’s Trip Update 3! It has been about seven weeks since we last did an update. We wrote this post eight months after we left Perth on 1st November 2011. It is hard to believe we have been travelling for so long.
Our first trip update covered our travels through Malaysia, into Thailand, up to Chiang Mai where we went to the dentist a lot. We ended the first trip update just before we headed off to do the Mae Hong Son Loop.
Our second trip update was recorded in Vientiane. We had completed the Mae Hong Son Loop, headed into Laos, toured the country side and ate a lot of French inspired baked goods before heading back into Thailand, yet again.
What have we been up to this time?
Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia
We finally left Thailand for Cambodia. Despite all the research we did this leg was certainly one of the more troublesome we have done.
Andrew wrote a very thorough guide on how to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap without flying. We caught the late morning train from Bangkok to the border town of Aranyaprathet and stayed the night. In the morning we crossed over to Poipet, Cambodia's border town. Poipet wasn't the nicest town in the world. It is legendary for scam artists, corruption and casinos.
We entered Cambodia on a Business Visa. All we had to do was tick the box, no extra paperwork required. It cost us $5 USD more to get one, $25 USD in total. Plus the added expenditure of a passport photo tax of 100 Baht which was added to your visa bill even if you provided the passport photos.
What is the difference between the Cambodian Tourist and the Business Visa?. Cambodia's Tourist Visa is $20 USD for 30 days. You must leave the country in 30 days and then you can re-enter. The Business Visa costs $25 USD for 30 days. You can then extend the visa for 3 months, 6 months, 12 months for a fee. You don't have to leave Cambodia if you don't want to.
We then caught a taxi from Poipet to Siem Reap after being followed by a small crowd of touts of various sorts. We tried to find the public bus companies but failed miserably. The taxi ride was fine and we got to Siem Reap relatively scam-free.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Unbelievably, we spent seven weeks in total in Siem Reap, Cambodia. There really isn't much to do in Siem Reap after you visit Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the various other Angkor era temples. We stuck around anyhow and enjoyed our relaxed time there.
Siem Reap was where we said our last physical goodbyes to some awesome friends - Zoe and Kenton. Our paths have crossed half a dozen times as we've travelled around Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. We will hopefully see them in person again soon.
For four of the seven weeks in Siem Reap, we stayed at the Claremont Angkor Boutique Hotel. Our stay here was very pleasant. Our room was lovely, we asked for a table and two chairs and they provided. The breakfast was great and we even had a kettle to use during our stay. Oh, and a pool table and a swimming pool. Highly recommended.
We learnt a lot about the importance of money in Siem Reap. For us, it was strange handing out US Dollars for most things. Menus were priced in US Dollars and you were expected to pay in US Dollars and not the Lao Kip. We received a number of US Dollars that were ripped, torn and too wrinkled to pay with, so we are now stuck with them. Another important tip is to use Canadia Bank for all ATM withdrawals as they don't charge a fee!
Joining a fellow traveller, we headed on a food tour of the local markets in Siem Reap. This tour cost us $5 USD each and although it wasn't the best food tour we have been on, we did get to sample quite a few items of food that we normally wouldn't try. Andrew particularly enjoyed eating cockroaches.
Better food can be found all over Siem Reap and we certainly went out of our way to find it. We ate a lot while we were stationed here. Check out our top thirteen places to eat in Siem Reap post. What we would do to have some smoked pork from the Haus Breman German Restaurant again.
Because we stayed in Siem Reap for over one month, we shared with you the cost of living in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We recorded everything we bought for four consecutive weeks. We only went over our monthly budget by a couple hundred dollars. Not bad really. We do like to eat a lot!
One last post about Siem Reap, and we showed you three different things you could do instead of visiting Angkor Wat. You really have to look for things to do in Siem Reap. Luckily we enjoy hanging out and not doing much!
We caught the local bus from Siem Reap out to Battambang in Cambodia. At the end of the journey we arrived to a very happy and smiling tuk tuk driver holding our names up on a board. How nice!
For nine glorious days we stayed at Battambang My Homestay Guesthouse. Our accommodation was luxurious and we received local Khmer breakfast every morning and a bowl of fruit every night. There were even bicycles for us to use during our stay.
We headed out on a flying tour of Battambang where we checked out the famous Bamboo Train, Wat Banan, the tasty wines and brandy at Cambodia's only winery, and the very sad Killing Caves of Battambang. Quite a pleasant day on a tuk tuk despite the tragedy of the final stop.
Something everyone should consider doing if they have the time is to get dressed up in Khmer traditional clothing, have your hair and make-up done and have glamour shots taken. It truly was a fun experience and we have awesome photos to look back on!
Next, we headed to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. We travelled the distance by local bus and the ride was nice enough. By the time we reached Phnom Penh we were both dreaming of the comfort of train travel.
We stayed in Phnom Penh for seven days and although it wasn't on the favourite list of cities on our travels we could see the attraction as a place to live for a while. There is a lot to do in Phnom Penh and a vibrant expatriate community. We showed you five things to do in Phnom Penh which included visiting the Kingdom Brewery.
In between the fun events, we headed to the Killing Fields and S21 for a Cambodian history lesson. The Killing Fields in particular are a must visit when in Phnom Penh as they provide an audio guide in any language which takes you on a sensory overload tour of the place.
Lastly, we wrote about the North Korean Pyongyang Restaurant in Phnom Penh.
Our last port of call ended up being Sihanoukville where we spent our last seven nights in a fancy resort called the Beach Club Resort. We loved this place a lot and we would head back to Cambodia just to stay a month or three at this resort. The accommodation was fantastic, as was the food and staff.
Beyond the resort, there was beach to swim in. There are a number of beaches near Sihanoukville, all with their individual quirks to enjoy.
If you really aren't into laying on a deck chair by the sea or by the pool we hunted down five different things to do in Sihanoukville.
Sihanoukville was a really nice place to visit. The town and surrounding areas was the cleanest we had seen throughout our travels in Cambodia. It's not Tokyo or Singapore clean but its pretty good for Cambodia. Even the tuk tuk drivers were friendly.
We recommend you put Sihanoukville on your list of places to visit in Cambodia as it would be an awesome place to live for awhile.
Changing Travel Plans
We were in Cambodia for just under ten weeks in total. Or two and a half months. That was enough for us. Cambodia does have a lot to offer tourists and expats however the time had come for us to move on.
This is where it gets interesting. Many months ago, before we left Perth, we decided that we weren't going to fly anywhere unless we really had to. We were going to travel the world overland by any means - trains, buses, motorbike, ferries etcetera.
After Cambodia we were meant to head over the border into Vietnam. After a lot of deliberation we decided that we were going to break our no flying rule and fly from Phnom Penh to somewhere else. The temples, bustling sweaty streets and steamy jungles had all started to blur together. We needed something really different to shake things up...
What is happening in the future?
Well, first we are heading back to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia for at least a week as we really haven't given Kuala Lumpur a chance yet. While there we'll be sorting out some visas for our post Malaysia destination. Then, we are unsure where we will go to in Malaysia. All up, we will be in Malaysia for about three weeks this time around.
After Malaysia, we are heading to Taiwan! Yay! We will be house sitting two places while we are in Taipei. The first will be with two cats for a week. The second house-sitting gig will be looking after two sugar gliders for just over five weeks. Hopefully nothing will go wrong with any of the pets, especially the sugar gliders as neither of us have even held one before!
We look forward to sharing all of our stories from house-sitting in Taipei, Taiwan. It should be fun. Wish us luck!