A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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In a Nutshell

Like most visitors to Cambodia, we came to see Angkor Wat.

But when friends tipped us of that we could pick up visas for China in Phnom Penh, we decided to hang out in Cambodia’s capital for the five days it took to process them.

Phnom Penh is not exactly a tourist town.  Still we had one of the most memorable experiences of our trip when our tuk-tuk driver invited us to his home to meet his family.  It was truly special, and gave us a tremendous appreciation for the Cambodian people.

While in Phnom Penh we also visited Tuol Sleng prison, the Killing Fields, the National Museum, the Royal Palace – and explored the city’s buzzing cafes and restaurants.

We spent five days at the Fancy Guest House.  Phannak, the owner, has created an oasis in a chaotic city.

It’s not a five star hotel, but Phannak and his staff do a great job, offering impeccably clean rooms at bargain prices.  Plus, he can arrange almost anything for you – from transportation to tours to hotels in Siem Reap.

If you’re in Phnom Penh and on a budget, I highly recommend the Fancy Guest House (Top Ratings on TripAdvisor!) .

Angkor Wat

Phannak helped us book four seats in a 15 person van for the 5 hour ride to Siem Reap (cost = $12/person).  There are cheaper ways to get to Siem Reap, but the van proved to be a reasonable compromise of comfort and convenience.

We three nights in the Siem Reap Riverside Hotel.  It was clean, comfortable and very reasonably priced.  At the hotel, we made arrangements with a tuk-tuk driver to take us to Angkor Wat.

Siem Reap is a hopping town.  There are lots of good (inexpensive) restaurants, interesting shops and market stalls.  All in all, a good place to spend a few days.

Crossing Back to Thailand

From Siem Reap, we made a rather difficult overland journey to Bangkok.  We booked bus tickets through out hotel, and while the price was right, the conditions were less than ideal.

The bus company sold 37 tickets on a bus with seats for 34 (common practice, I know, in Asia).  The bus was crammed with people and backpacks, no air conditioning, no toilets and at least half the journey on an unpaved dirt road.

At the border we had to carry our gear about a quarter of a mile through a sort of no man’s land to be admitted into Thailand.

Once in Thailand, we were put in a 15 passenger van (they tried to cram the four of us into three seats, but that’s another story).  After a bit of a standoff, the bus company finally relented and let us each have our own seat.  The driver of our van was – without a doubt – the most unscrupulous person we’d met on our entire trip.

Still, after a grueling 12-hour trip, we made it to our hotel in Bangkok.

A difficult day, but a story to tell.

Visit Cambodia

Cambodia was a challenging place for us to travel, but very much worth it.

Seeing Angkor Wat was a highlight, but I think what we all remember most about Cambodia was the kindness and optimism of the people we met.

Despite their extraordinarily difficult recent history – and the challenges they still face today – we have not met a kinder or more generous people anywhere we’ve traveled.

It was only by accident and circumstance that we stayed in the country long enough to learn something about its people.  For anyone coming to Southeast Asia, we recommend including Cambodia on your itinerary.

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