Our positive view of Cambodia and Phnom Penh continued after going out for a beer at 50p a glass and then to the local night market for tea. You can’t get more authentic than joining pretty much all locals sitting on rugs in the centre of the food stalls. Some of the stalls had English translations, and some had someone who spoke English to explain what everything was. Superb! We both had Cambodian noodles, and I had one of those duck-chick-eggs – which is a duck egg which is just pre-hatch… Tasted fine, but we did get into the “is it an Egg, or is it Meat” debate! A fine meal for about £1 each.
The next day we went on a quad bike tour for the day, so we got picked up at 7:15 in a tuktuk (100cc moped with a 4+ seater trailer, though we’ve seen 8 in one!), and got to the company where 5 of us (3 quads) went out with 2 guides around the countryside outside of Phnom Penh. Sadly it absolutely chucked it down first thing and we got covered in mud – all part of the fun. Just like quadding in England! Mel did her share of driving, only hitting the guide once, and falling off the road once, but overall did pretty well. The villages were so genuine, poor but not poverty, with loads of kids in school uniform which bodes well for Cambodias future. So many kids coming out to wave and give high-5s, and all with genuine smiles – and only lookup upset if you didn’t wave at them! No ulterior motive, just wanting a wave. Hope it doesn’t turn into some places where Westerners are “kind” to kids, and the kids then associate Westerners with freebies.
The tour took in Phnom Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary which had rescued tigers, bears, elephants and some other animals, and then a chilled lunch on Tonle Bati lake. Finally after loads of riding (100km?), we headed to the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields near Phnom Penh. The audio guide is necessary and it gives a very informative history of events that we were unaware of. A moving place and very much worth a visit despite its sad past, though we would say its more informative and factual than emotional.
After an excellent meal we left Phnom Penh and headed by bus to Sihanoukville – a small coastal town 4 (make that 5.5!) hours away where there are supposed to be nice beaches and where we booked a better-than-normal hotel for a romantic break. The bus is weird – they have Kymer Karaoke on loud for the entire journey – and our seat was below a speaker. Doh. On arrival we found our hotel was a bit over sold and over priced, not the romantic place we hoped. We then went to the beach and were almost horrified… Serendipity beach is awful – litter everywhere, too many tuktuk/taxi sellers, beggers (including an American in a bar asking us to sub him a dollar or two!), child-gift-sellers, and bar/cafe hawkers that made any walk on the beach unbearable.
The beach itself is only 5-10m wide, full of chairs from the cafes, and not really worth a look. Maybe we’ve been spoilt of recent, but this is a bit of a hole. Only come here if you are 18-25 and like cheap parties, or you like the company of “friendly local girls” who were everywhere. Otres beach is supposed to be better, but research showed no decent accommodation; most placed bulldozed last year; dodgy security to/from there, and as such we decided to carry on our journey and pick a better beach when we get back to Thailand.
A real shame that so quickly a clearly nice part of Cambodia can be turned into a dump just to satisfy a particular type of tourist. With respect to the children in Cambodia, we are repeatedly reminded not to buy/give anything to them as it encourages them/their parents to avoid school as they can make a living by scrounging – not good. And whilst there are many homeless children and orphanages, we keep seeing adverts saying “Orphanages are not tourist attractions – do not go”…. Many actually are fake ones set up to get tourist money…. So we’ll be avoiding kids here.
Due to the lack of tarmac roads (as we found on the quads), the way to continue our journey is back to Phnom Penh and then on from there. So another 5.5hrs back to our old guesthouse, where the owner said we were the second set of people to return back from Sihanoukville quickly – so its not just us who hated it. The other people returned the same day!!!
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