The first ten days of our trip, we were in Vietnam. On the last day of 2016, we flew into Cambodia for the next half of our holiday.
We arrived in Sihanoukville when the sun was already setting. It was New Year’s Eve, and we had no idea what to expect of this coast town. We had only heard rumours that lots of Cambodians come down to for the New Year’s Eve Party. We started our evening with dinner at Sandan, a restaurant that trains former street kids for the hospitality industry. Not only did the concept warm our hearts, the food was also some of the best we had during our trip.
The New Year’s Eve party itself was beyond comprehension. The beach was densely crowded as far as we could see. So were the streets. At at least six different stages, DJs and bands were performing in front of a crowd going crazy. Everywhere – including in the crowd – people were shooting off fireworks. Everyone was giving us beers and kept saying “cheers” to us; as in: the same people doing it over and over again with a single beer. It was bizarre. But fun. This has probably been one of my most fun New Year’s Eve parties ever.
The next morning, we took the boat to Koh Rong Sanloem, an island at about an hour boat ride away. The first night we stayed on a quite crowded beach, but the other nights we moved to the Lazy Beach Resort, which has got to be one of the most peaceful places on earth. Rustic bungalows, great cocktails, calm water, nice snorkelling opportunities, amazing food. This was definitely the most relaxing part of our trip.
From there, and after a very rocky boat ride, we took a taxi to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. We explored the city a bit and also took the time to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This former high school was converted into an interrogation prison from wich over 17,000 Cambodians were sent to the Killing Fields by the Khmer Rouge. This emotional encounter with how horrible humanity can be left a deep impression on us.
Under the Khmer Rouge, from 1975-1979, around 1.7 million people were massacred – or over 20% of Cambodia’s entire population. Contrary to the Vietnam War, there was little international interference. Ironically, it was Vietnam that rescued its neighbour from these atrocities.
From here, we continued to Siem Reap, the city near the Angkor complex; the world’s biggest religious structure. We spent two days in Angkor and took time for the traditional sunrise pic at Angkor Wat, but next to that also visited Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, Prasat Kravan, Srah Srang, Preah Khan and Phnom Bahkeng. We used most of the second day to explore Angkor Wat, and we can definitely understand why this temple of 1.2 by 1.5km large is so highly recommended and on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
On the way back to the airport, our taxi had to pull over with the rest of the traffic, as the roads needed to be cleared for the Cambodian king to pass by.
We enjoyed our time in Cambodia, Angkor was overwhelming, and the island life was amazing. However, on a trip, it’s difficult not to compare destinations and Vietnam was definitely our preferred country. If you ever are around, take the time to visit the sites in Cambodia, but focus most of your holiday on Vietnam.
Here are some of my favourite pics of the Cambodian part of our trip: