South East Asia – 6 – 2 Days in Phnom Penh

Welcome to the 6th blog post in my South East Asia series! Thank you for sticking with me, it’s a little crazy at the moment preparing for the move to Ibiza but here we go with the Phnom Penh post!

In my personal opinion, 2 days is enough in Phnom Penh. Before travelling to this city I had heard mixed reviews, to be honest we did not like it very much. However, if you are visiting Cambodia it is just as important as visiting the temples (if not more important) to visit the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh to learn more about the country’s tragic losses.

Again, we booked through Airbnb for our accommodation. We were actually booked into a hotel room but still through Airbnb which we thought was a nice surprise…. The hotel that we were staying in was called The Bridge and appeared to be very popular with Chinese business men and woman. Our experience at the hotel was not great to be honest. When we were checking in, the receptionist said that there had been a mistake and we were booked into a room for 2 people (not 3). They really were not very helpful and did not try hard to fix the situation. It was quite late when we arrived so decided a room with one bed was a lot better than no room at all (thankfully it was a HUGE bed…). As it was a hotel, breakfast was included. It was nice but had very limited choice…we had french toast everyday..

Night 1

On our first night in Phnom Penh we went to the Night Market and tried some street food. Some were better than others and the fried options were very heavy. It was a cool area though, full of locals just enjoying their evening.

Unfortunately, we did not feel safe in this city and sensed that from the first night. I mean don’t get me wrong we were fine, nothing happened…it just always felt slightly dodgy during the day and night.

Day 1

The next day we wanted to explore as much of Phnom Penh as we could as we had planned to visit the Killing Fields the next day. We got a tuk tuk driver to drop us off in the centre so we could start sightseeing.

The tuk tuk drivers will 100% try to rip you off, so if you have been in Cambodia for a few days try to gage how much you are paying per journey. A 10 minute journey will usually cost 3 USD.

We were dropped off right outside the Royal Palace which is also home to the Silver Pagoda. Unfortunately when we arrived in the morning (around 10am) it was not yet open. So we took some pictures from the outside and moved on!

After doing a little research we knew that we wanted to see Wat Phnom which is set upon the only “hill” in the city. According to the locals, Wat Phnom was the first Buddhist temple created on this site and was built in 1373. It was discovered by Lady Penh who the city is named after. Many people visit this ancient site to wish for luck involving their business deals or exams (I guess it worked as we were over the moon with our degree results days later)!

For lunch we headed to Friends the Restaurant which supports and trains teenagers in hospitality who do not have the opportunity to attend school. IT WAS AMAZING!!!

After lunch we saw that there were stalls opposite that are related to the Friends company, so we went over for a bit of shopping.

We saw that the students were also doing beauty treatments such as nail painting and hairdressing. I left the girls to get their nails done and I went over to the other side of the road to get a NEEDED Khmer massage.

Before heading back to the hotel to chill by the pool we stopped to look at the beautiful Buddhist temples  along the way!

Day 2

After the second breakfast of french toast we headed out the hotel to get our tuk tuk. We asked previously if the guy who took as from the bus station to our hotel the first night would also drive us to the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum. We knew that this day would be distressing but nothing can quite prepare you for learning about the inhumanity of the Khmer Rouge.

We visited the Killing Fields first which is a little outside the city. The entrance was 6 USD which included an audio guide for in-depth information regarding the events that took place there. Afterwards, we drove to the S-21 Genocide Museum to find out about the lives of prisoners before they were taken to the Killing Fields. The entrance fee is 5 USD and an extra 3 USD for an audio guide.

After a long day we spent the evening enjoying the sky bar at our hotel before packing our backpacks again for our bus journey to Sihanoukville then onto Koh Rong Sanloem island!

If you are interested in my other posts about my time in South East Asia or the planning before, below are direct links to my previous posts!

Start of planning

Pre trip planning

Kuala Lumpur

Hanoi

Siem Reap

South East Asia – 5 – 4 days in Siem Reap

After spending 5 days in Hanoi we flew to Siem Reap on a VietJet flight. The flight cost £75 and only took 1 hr 45 minutes. Siem Reap has a very different vibe to Hanoi, the touristy places were a lot more westernised but outwith the tourist places you saw an unbelievable amount of poverty. Cambodia is a fascinating country that is home to the largest religious monument in the world (Angkor Wat) and some of the most untouched islands with the clearest waters. However, the people of Cambodia have been badly damaged by the recent terrors of the Khmer Rouge that only goes back 40 years. This means that many relatives within current families have been directly affected by Pol Pot’s brutal ruling which turned into the biggest mass killings of the 20th century.

Day 1 – Evening

We arrived at Siem Reap airport in the evening and had already organised with the airbnb hosts a tuk tuk transfer to make it easy! As I said in the last Hanoi blog post, the Airbnb we had there was incredible! So we also found our next place on Airbnb but it turned out to be more like hotel apartments! IT WAS PERFECT!!! The room was super big, big bathroom, nice amenities, free bottled water, a drink on arrival and the staff were some of the nicest people we’ve ever met.

If you would like money off your first Airbnb use my personal code when booking!

After settling into our room we headed towards Pub Street (main strip) which was only a 10 minute walk away from our airbnb. Pub Street was so much fun! It was so different to what we had seen in South East Asia in terms of the range of clubs and restaurants. I suppose it was less authentic but it was fun to go out to a nightclub again! All the restaurants served pretty much the same food (Khmer curry and rice dishes) as well as international cuisines such as Mexican. We noticed straight away that it was more expensive in Cambodia for 2 reasons. 1. It was more touristy and 2. They also used US Dollars.

After dinner we wandered up and down Pub street looking for the best places for music and drinks.

Avoid COCKTAILS and everything that can be made with ice…you do not want to know where the ice in your drink has probably been…..we saw it getting cut….

Day 2

We woke up and had a super relaxed morning by our jungle pool before exploring more of Siem Reap.

In the afternoon we checked out the Psar Chas (old market) and the Art Market. The Psar Chas also was the food market…..only go if you are NOT SQUEAMISH….dead animals….not quite dead yet fish…..the lot.

As we wanted to start off our visit to Angkor Wat by watching the sunrise over the temples tomorrow we had to get a ticket today. We asked a tuk tuk driver to drive us to the ticket office tp buy a 1 day ticket for 37 USD. You could also buy a 3 day ticket but as magical as the temples are sure to be we may get a little templed out by day 3!

We were keen to book another food tour through Airbnb as we enjoyed the Hanoi one so much. When we researched into the Siem Reap food tours we noticed that they highlighted that they went to the Road 60 area. Therefore….being the cheapskates that we are, we decided to grab a tuk tuk and go it alone.

NO NO NO….DO NOT DO THIS. DO NOT GO THERE WITHOUT A GUIDE!

The funny thing is when we told the driver where we wanted to go for food he asked us multiple times if we were sure we had the name of the place right. Should have been a sign but no….we stuck to the plan and went anyway. Considering we come from very well developed countries we tried our best to only eat in local places….even if it included eating with chopsticks, on the floor, on small stools…you name it we did it! That is the kind of travelling we all liked best and love trying different things! Road 60 was a different story I’m afraid. It was really nice to see the local community just chilling and doing there thing, but the way the flies were landing on every single bit of food, we decided to take a pass on eating there.

Our tuk tuk driver was an angel and stayed to take us back into the centre. He gathered that we hadn’t eaten too much and offered to take us to his favourite restaurant!

After dinner we walked back to Pub Street, dodged the karts selling fried insects such as tarantulas and tried this banana rice snack instead which was amazing (many karts selling this)!

Day 3

I am NOT an early bird by any standards but I knew waking up at 4am would be worth it this day! We had prearranged the tuk tuk with our lovely driver Sophorn (whatsapp is +855 66 532 326 if you would like to get in touch during your visit to Siem Reap – 23USD for a day at the temples) the night before to make sure he would be ready at the villa for 4.30am.

After a dark journey to the temples we were dropped off in a car park by Sophorn who told us that the entrance to the temple that we were to see at sunrise was nearby.

Bring a torch and wear closed toe shoes…..you cannot see what is on the ground and we saw a dead rat….wouldn’t want to risk wearing sandals!

It was 5.15am and we were one of the first people waiting at the gates, awaiting the opening of the largest religious site in the world (5.30am). It shocked us how warm it still was at that time in the morning so only wear enough clothes to enter the site (covered shoulders and knees).

Before travelling to Cambodia I already had such high expectations for Angkor Wat and it did not disappoint. Exploring the ancient temples just after sunrise was one of the most magical and otherworldly experiences I have ever had!

 

Angkor Wat

Phimeanakus Temple

Bayon Temple
Bayon Temple
Ta Prohm Temple – Featured in Tomb Raider

By the time it got to around midday we were so hungry from walking around the temples (it is seriously exhausting). We went to the Banana Leaf restaurant within the attraction, it was okay, quite expensive but what you would expect from a tourist attraction! Not that we were prepared to do anything else besides getting ourselves out of bed at 4am, but it would have been amazing if we brought stuff with us for lunch….

Bring lots of water, light snacks and sun cream!

At night we tried an Asian fusion restaurant that was close to the airbnb called Lilypop which I would highly recommend!

Day 4 – Morning before the bus

We woke up with a bittersweet feeling about leaving Siem Reap and our beautiful airbnb! For breakfast we found a vegan cafe that was also closeby called The Source Cafe. The smoothie bowl and pancakes were insane!

We repacked our backpacks again (which were getting harder to carry by the minute) and headed to the Giant Ibis Bus station by tuk tuk. We booked our tickets online before arriving and they cost 12 USD each for the 7 hr bus journey to Phnom Penh. After taking this bus, then choosing another bus company for our next journey, I would recommend you (where possible) to stick with the Giant Ibis company as they seem the best for safety and comfort (they even gave us water and a pastry)!

To conclude this long blog post (that I hope you have enjoyed reading) I would like to say that depending on how long you want to visit Angkor Wat for should depend on how many days you should stay in Siem Reap. Personally, I think we stayed slightly too long in Siem Reap considering we were only visiting Angkor for 1 day. However, the airbnb we found was incredible which allowed us to fully enjoy our time there! On our travels we had already recommend to so many people the airbnb/villa that we stayed in because the pool was beautiful and the staff were so friendly (they even left us a little present and thank you card on our last night)!

As usual, any questions just contact me through email, wordpress, facebook or instagram!

South East Asia – 2 – Pre-Trip Planning

It’s only 3 weeks until I head off to South East Asia and the countdown is officially on!

This blog post is going to be about how I have prepared for my first long-haul trip so far and will include how I have planned my accommodation, budget, medical care, activity planning and packing.

Accommodation

Am I really going on holiday without staying in an Airbnb? Probably not… unless its with my parents! I have stayed in many Airbnb’s around the UK and Europe and highly rate them for their affordability and experiences! To date, all my Airbnb’s have been clean and full of friendly locals willing to offer advice about the destination.

So far we have booked to stay 3 nights in Kuala Lumpur for £84, 4 nights in Hanoi for £171 and a beach bungalow on the island of Koh Rong Samloem for £132 for 3 nights.

We have another accommodation further down the island booked through booking.com and only need to book a couple of nights in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap!

If you would like money off your first Airbnb use my personal link when booking!

Budgeting

I have been working between part time and full time hours between university since the start of the year and have been trying to put £200 aside each month. In addition, the reduced section at the supermarkets have also been surprisingly helpful….I’ve started saving a lot on my weekly shopping and tried some new dishes! I was also lucky enough to borrow a backpack from a friend for the trip which has saved me between £60 and £150!

Medicine

We got a couple of injections from our local doctors a couple of months in advance so our bodies had time to absorb the medication. The travel nurse was very helpful advising us about the best medications to bring and injections to get according to the places we were travelling to. She advised to bring anti-malaria tablets, lots of suncream, anti-histamine, antiseptic and to buy an insect repellent with at least 50% of DEET. We will also include some Electrolyte powder in case of dehydration and normal painkillers.

I have also purchased travel insurance for £45 that covers £10 million for medical charges (better to be safe than sorry)!

Planning

Like I mentioned in the previous  I have loved looking at the Lonely Planet guidebooks for information about the history of the destination, must see attractions and a few off the beaten track suggestions.

In addition, I have been following various travel bloggers such as Highlands2Hammocks, Flip Flop Wanderers Marie Fe and Jake Snow who have all given me cool tips and serious inspiration for travelling South East Asia!

Before we were going to book more internal flights and accommodation last week we looked over our mini travel itinerary. THANK GOD we did because we would not have had time to breathe, never mind enjoy our experience because our plans were jammed packed! Unfortunately we have decided to miss out Da Nang, Hoi An and the Elephant Valley Project but this choice will definitely allow us to immerse ourselves in the culture of each city even more now!

Packing

It’s still a few weeks away so there is no point getting my clothes all creased yet…plenty of time for that! Butttt I have already decided that I will pack:

– 3 pairs of shoes (trainers, sandals and flip flops)

– 2 long skirts

– 1 play suit

– 2 dresses

– 1 shorts

– 2 pairs of light long trousers

– However many t-shirts I can fit

– Scarf/ shawl for visiting the temples

– 1 swimming costume and 2 bikinis

– 1 microfibre towel

– 1 beach towel (sand cloud)

– Small make-up bag ( moisturiser, BB cream, waterproof mascara, lip balm, matte lip gloss and a duo eyeshadow)

– Water bottle

– Travel adapter

The benefit of travelling with other girls is that we can share toiletries/ make- up etc!

Next time I write a blog post it will be after Asia!! In the meantime check out my Instagram  and Facebook 😀 

Dugi Otok – Croatia Series #4

This is my 4th instalment in the Croatia Series, here is number 3 if you haven’t checked it out!

Translated Dugi Otok means the “Long Island” in Croatian and it’s the 7th biggest island in the Adriatic. We loved our time on this island and could have easily spent a couple more days exploring the many hidden spots!

We stayed in Jura’s Guesthouse for 2 nights in Luka which is South of the island. He really was the perfect host and we could not have discovered so many secret parts of the island without his knowledge.

Day 1

We travelled from Zadar to Dugi Otok on the car ferry which was very straightforward despite the stormy weather. The journey lasted roughly an hour and a half and we sailed into the port at Brbinj.

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Thankfully once we got onto the island the weather brightened up!

Our first stop on the island was to visit the lighthouse at Veli Rat which is North of the island. I think we enjoyed the swing more than the kids did…..

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Veli Rat Lighthouse

By the time we got to the Jura’s B & B we were ready for dinner. He recommend we try the restaurant that was a 5 minute walk from the accommodation and it was amazing!

If you would like £25 off your first Airbnb stay use my personal link when booking.

I can honestly say it was one of the best meals I had on the whole holiday. Konoba Supina had the most perfect outside dining area right next to the marina and served the freshest fish!

luka

Day 2

Unfortunately we had only 1 full day on the island which was extremely busy because Jura gave us ideas for so many places to see!

A little piece of advice…there is only 1 petrol station on Dugi Otok and it’s located in Zaglav!!!

After we filled up the car we headed first to the Golubinka Sea Cave which can actually be found on google maps! Jura said that this was the perfect place to snorkel and swim into the cave. Make sure you go before 12pm as that is when the sun is hitting the hole in the cave to make everything illuminated! It was such an incredible experience (wish I had a GoPro to capture the moment)!!!

I would not recommend this activity if you are not a strong swimmer of claustrophobic. 

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After the snorkelling we drove to one of the submarine pens in Dragove that were used by the Yugoslav People’s Army. This spot is now freely accessible to the public by foot or boat.

By the time it got to the afternoon we were just wanting to relax and Veli Žal was the right place to do it. Even though the supposedly most “beautiful” beach on the island (some say even in Europe) is Saharun. I loved this beach even more as it was less crowded and I would say cleaner.

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Veli Žal

Obviously we had to check out the hype at Saharun beach as well! It has been named “Croatia’s secret beach” and can be found at the North of the island between Bozava and Veli Rat. It was a lovely change because this was the only sandy beach we visited in Croatia. The turquoise bay was very calm and perfect for easy swimming!

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After our day exploring we wanted to have dinner at what was known to Jura as the best restaurant on the island, Koniba Regula. However….of course we did NOT book in advance and it was fully booked so we headed to a tasty pizzeria opposite.

Unfortunately we had to leave the island in the morning to journey back to Germany via Lake Bled and Salzburg.

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Until next time Dugi Otok!

 

 

 

Southern Germany Trip – Stuttgart and Karlsruhe

Stuttgart

On day number 2 of exploring we drove back into the industrial hub, home to the global manufacturers that are of course, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. However….I dodged all the car museums in Stuttgart ( a tough task in itself) and focused on some of my interests.

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So truth be told…..I went shopping…had my first Vapiano experience…took some cool pictures and visited a 217m high bar otherwise known as Fernehturm Stuttgart.IMG_2316IMG_2309IMG_2559

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Flavour of the day was again a traditional Swabian dish…called Maultaschen. I have promised myself that I will try cooking this back in Scotland! It’s basically a large ravioli parcel with meat and spinach through it. The chef was also kind enough to share the knowledge of the dish with me. Legend has it that the pasta dough acts as a disguise so that the Swabians can continue to eat meat during lent!

Karlsruhe

On the third day we spent some time in Karlsruhe. Karlsruhe is another university city around an hour from Stuttgart. This city was home to the former weapons factory but is now known for it’s vibrant student culture and of the beautiful 18th Century palace.

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Oh and I wasn’t allowed to end my 3rd day in Germany apparently without trying my first Schnitzel…which I had with my new favourite food as a  side dish….Spätzle! IMG_2309IMG_2372.JPG