This was the last leg of my Asian adventure, 5 months, 2 continents, 10 countries and a final Intrepid tour through Cambodia was how it was all going to end! And I was sure this was going to be on of my best adventures yet because I had my brother Nick and Sister Kirsten joining me for the trip. And let me just say these are 2 of the best travel buddies anyone could ever ask for!
Following Turkey I had returned back to KL for a couple of nights before I met with my brother and sister at the airport where we would then be flying on to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam together. The tour started in Ho Chi Minh and we arrived a day earlier so we could spend some time exploring the city and its rich but sometimes depressing history.
We visited the independence palace, the home of the South Vietnamese President during the Vietnam war and the site where the war came to an end in 1975. Took a trip to the very confronting war museum which houses war weaponry and vehicles and an extensive collection of photographs taken during and after the war depicting the terrible things that happened during this dark period in Vietnam. And explored the claustrophobic Tunnels of Cu Chi which were used by the Vietnamese during the war as hideouts, living quaters and supply tunnels. This extensive collection of tunnels spans a total of 250km and is definitely not for the faint hearted. We clambered through 60ms of a tunnel and came out the other side very happy to see daylight again, to think that people were living in these tunnels is unbelieveable AND the tunnels that they were in were much smaller than the one we went through which had been expanded so tourists can fit! Also Nick and Kirsten had some fun shooting an AK47.
We also had some fun enjoying the nightlife of Ho Chi Minh, it was a Tuesday night so it wasnt exactly pumping but we found this awesome little place called Vespa Sofar Bar, we were the only people in there but we had a great time enjoying a few too many Mojitos and DJing our way through the night, the bar gives you access to choose your own music and we’re pretty freaking awesome when it comes to that sort of thing #reidsontour!!
As usual I was eagerly awaiting the start of the tour and the meeting where we’d get to meet the rest of our group. We met Fila, our leader and a Cambodian local from Siem Reap. the rest of the group was a mix of Aussies, New Zealanders and a lone Irish lass. There was Lanu and Nin, New Zealanders living in Dubai, Caitie, Vanessa and Cathy from Aus and Sandra from Ieland. There was also Kyle from Aus, a fellow Queenslander who lives and works just down the road from Kirsten! But he wasn’t present at the meeting because he fell asleep and missed the whole thing! He did grace us with his presence at dinner though.
The following morning we were up early Cambodia bound. We caught a local bus that would take us accross the border to Phnom Penh. The bus stop was a bit of a walk from the hotel so Fila organised a man to pick up our big baggage and take it to the bus stop. I was quite surprised when a man on a small bicycle tuk tuk turned up and I had no idea how he could possible fit luggage for 10 people onto it but this is Asia, anything is possible and to my amazement he loaded it up and weaved his way into the crazy traffic bound for the bus stop.
We made it accross the border without too much trouble and were on the bus ready to leave when we realised that we’d left Nick and Sandra behind, well I shouldn’t really say “we” realised because Kirsten and I didn’t even realise Nick was missing, we probably wouldnt have noticed he was missing until we’d arrived in Phnom Penh if it had been left up to us, oops! #sistersoftheyear
We arrived in Phnom Penh in time to go for a little wander through the town and check out the sunset on the riverbank. We also enjoyed dinner together riverside.
Most people who visit Phnom Penh will visit the Genocide Museum and the killing fields. As heartbreaking as it is to see it’s an important part of Cambodia’s history that has left the country still struggling to this day. I think the thing that I found hardest to understand about all of this that was that these unspeakable crimes against humanity happened in the 1970’s! That’s not that long ago! It’s estimated that 1.7 million Cambodians were killed during the reign of Khmer Rouge, almost 21% of the population.
From Phnom Penh we were beach bound but we had a stopover at a local village on our way. We arrived in the late afternoon and were split into 2 groups and assigned the families we would be staying the night with. Homestays are always a highlight for me and this one was no exception, we were cooked dinner by a local family, given a beautiful dance display by some of the local children and the following morning we were taken to a waterfall hidden in the jungle. Considering the extreme heat a humidity we all eagerly jumped in the falls, as much as I would have loved to spend all day there we had places to be. We thanked our families for their hospitality and then headed on our way with Sihanoukville being our destination.
Sihanoukville is a tropical paradise and the gateway to the Cambodian islands. I was excited to say the least! Beach, sunshine, cocktails and snorkelling… The best kind of way to waste away your day. We enjoyed lunch at a beachside restaurant and had fun people watching the locals and tourists alike on the beach and Kirsten had fun consuming an extremely strong vodka, lemonade bucket. From here we explored the shops and tried to suffer through the extreme heat we were met with.
Today Fila had organised a boat cruise through some of the islands for us. Armed with beers and snorkel gear we set sail for our first stop, a stunning reef teeming with tropical fish and a LOT of sea urchins, don’t put your feet down! Nick and I made our way to a nearby island and had a whole lot of fun jumping off the jetty, Nick has some pretty sweet back flipping/ flopping skills (refer to video below for footage).
We headed to the next island where we would spend the remainder of the day eating a delicious lunch, drinking beers, swimming in the crystal clear waters and working on our tans. Well some of us were working on our tans, Nick and Kirsten in all their pastry glory opted to spend their time relaxing in the shade of a tree. After a big day of doing absolutely nothing we had warn ourselves out and returned back to the mainland.
Sadly we couldn’t stay at the beach forever and we left early in the morning to return to Phnom Penh for a night before we would be making our way to ANGKOR WAT!!!!! We got back in time to explore the Grand Palace, hit up some of the local street food ($1 for an amazing plate of noodles!) and fit in an afternoon boat cruise along the Mekong River. Nick got struck down with sea sickness, probably not such an enjoyable experience for him but the rest of us had a great time. You know he’s not well when he cant even finish his beer!
On the way to Angkor Wat we had a night in the small town of Kampong Cham located on the Mekong River its not exactly a tourist hot spot and I do suspect we might have been the only guests in the only hotel in town. But sometimes it’s the unexpected places that turn out to be the best. The whole group opted to do an afternoon bike ride to a local community situated on an island nearby. In the dry season you can get to the island using the longest bamboo bridge in the world but since it was the wet season the water had risen and the bridge was completely underwater, so we took the ferry across. They really know how to pack a ferry full in Cambodia, this isn’t the kind of ferry you’re imagining either, I’m talking about the kind of ferry that doesn’t even look like its going to make it across the river. When Fila insisted we all wear life jackets, I understood why. Somehow the ferry reached the other side in one piece. We set off through the village and found ourselves bombarded by gangs of kids around every corner hitting us up for high fives, some of them actually got a little bit violent, lucky they were super cute.
Now I’ve mentioned before that I don’t have a great track record when it comes to bike tours but Kirsten’s record is even worse than mine. I knew we were in for a bit of trouble when our guide opted to take a shortcut along a narrow path between two fences, I felt like I was doing pretty well and I was confident that I was going to make it out without a fall, it was at this point that I heard a crash behind me. Nick and I turned to find Kirsten lying in a pile of fence behind us, after we’d checked that she was ok we burst into laughter. She’d fallen off her bike and taken out a fence with her, this was possibly one of her best bike crashes to date! We hauled her off the ground and Nick did his best to fix the fence she’d knocked over. We still had some narrow terrain to navigate but Kirsten managed to make it out without any further trouble and we caught back up with the group to make our way back to the ferry.
Our guide on the bike tour invited us to his house for a traditional Cambodian dinner that evening and it was delicious! Like I said sometimes it’s the unexpected days that turn out to be the best!
Our last stop in Cambodia was the town of Siem Reap, the home of the infamous Angkor Wat temples. I was sooooooo excited!!! When we first arrived we had lunch at Fila’s family restaurant and we had the pleasure of meeting his beautiful wife and adorable 1-year son Peter. From here we headed out on tuk tuks for a short orientation tour of Siem Reap and then hit up Pub Street for dinner. We didn’t go to crazy though because we planned on watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat the following morning.
We were up bright and early and bound for the Angkor Wat temple complex, we had a big day of temple exploration ahead of us and what better way to start it than with one of the best sunrises I’ve ever seen! After sunrise we had a quick breakfast stop before re entering Angkor Wat from the back entrance to explore this magnificent temple complex further. Following the Angkor Wat temple we visited the Bayon temple,crazy busy but crazy awesome, Banteay Srei, built of pink sandstone and finally we finished up at Ta Prohm, the tomb raider temple, where the giant trees are taking over the temple, IT WAS AWESOME!!!
After a long day spent temple running we’d definitely earnt ourselves a drink so we retuned to Pub Street made the most of what its famous for. We had buckets at Angkor What Bar, Nick ate a fried tarantula, Kirsten ate a fried grasshopper, Kyle ate some fried snake and Fila happily enjoyed a giant fried scorpion. I opted out of the crazy food and enjoyed my vodka lemonade bucket instead. From here we set off on a pub crawl through pub street, there was lots of cocktails, Nick and Kirsten opted the role of DJs at one bar where we also got our hands on some fluoro paint… it was a good night!
With one last day in Siem Reap and Cambodia we opted to do the best thing we could possibly think of… quad biking through the countryside! And it was awesome!!! we finished the day with a visit to the Phare Cambodian circus (it was fantastic) and dinner with the group. Our time together was quickly coming to an end so we had to make the most of it!
From Siem Reap we had a 12 hour bus ride to Bangkok in Thailand. We’d been warned that crossing the Thai border was never an easy thing but I still wasn’t prepared for it to take over 2 hours to get through the customs check! When we arrived we said our goodbyes to Cathy and Vanessa because they were heading to the airport early and the rest of us made our way to Khao San Road for our farewell dinner and a bit of a tast of the Thai nightlife.
With one last day in Bangkok and one last day of my whole trip, Nick, Kirsten and I set off fro the grand Palace of Bangkok, this was my third visit to Bangkok and I still hadn’t had the chance to visit the cities biggest tourist attraction yet! When we got there and Nick saw how busy it was he conveniently remembered he’d already visited it before and decided to wait for us outside. It really is a spectacular palace complex but the sheer amount of tourists and the hot sticky weather did make it a little bit painful! We hit up somemarkets as well, went out for dinner and another hit of Thai nightlife before we called it a night because we had to be up ridiculously early the next moring to make our way to the airport.
And just like that my 5 month Asian adventure came to an end! I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to my trip and Cambodia is a very special place! Check out my Cambodian video for a better look into all the fun we had on the trip!