You guys, T and I went to Cambodia for Christmas vacation A YEAR AGO and I haven't shared any photos or a recap or anything on this blog, until now. (Except when I wrote "Tony and I argued almost every day of our vacation.")
At the time, the arguing sucked, and I'm sure there were a few times I cried or shouted or sighed, "Our trip is ruined!" But when I went through photos for this post, all I could remember were happy things. We had a really good time in Cambodia.
We started our trip in Siem Reap, where we woke up super early our first morning to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat.
It was worth it.
But let's keep things real... It was crowded and if I backed up, this was my view.
I remember thinking how awesome it was walking over these old, uneven stones. It truly was breathtaking.
Our amazing hotel packed us a picnic and I remember thinking, If you had told 21 year old me—who had never been on a plane—that someday I'd be having a picnic at Angkor Wat, I would have laughed in your face.
The grounds were much bigger than I expected.
I remember just staring at all the details, basically being like, Wow! over and over again, the entire time.
Tony went to the top, but I chose not to because I am not good with heights. That stairway is much steeper than it looks here, I promise. Afterwards, Tony told me that I probably made a good choice because even he felt a little nervous coming down because it was so steep and the railing was a bit shaky.
Side note: I've had a couple people scoff at me if they find out there's things like this I sit out while on vacation. My deal is this: If I think I will regret not trying something, I will make myself try it. If I don't think I'll regret it, why put myself through being (sometimes) super scared and anxious? For example, we visited Datong a couple years ago and I knew I'd regret not going into the Hanging Monastery. For this trip, I couldn't see myself regretting not climbing this staircase.
We should have made sure to get a photo of the two of us. D'oh!
Tuk-tuk selfies, always!
We visited a few temples and after each one, our driver would ask if we wanted to see another. Honestly, after a couple, we were kinda over it, but wondered if he would judge us if we opted to return to the hotel before noon. Finally, we agreed we didn't care. We had been up since 4AM after all, so we asked him to take us back around 1PM.
This is what we returned to. (Heart eyes emoji, am I right?) In Siem Reap we stayed at La Niche D'Angkor Boutique, which we booked through Agoda. It's probably my favourite hotel I've ever stayed at. And probably the only one where the hotel in real life is just as good, if not better, as what the website photos showed.
Haha we were impressed by the pull top beer caps.
So many pool-side drinks!
We both really liked Cambodian (Khmer) food. This was a sampling of different types of amok, which was my favourite dish throughout our stay; T's favourite was lok lak.
We visited the night market one night, and while a lot of the products were knick-knacks, we ended up buying a beautiful woven blanket. Before picking it out, we watched an older woman bent over a loom, weaving one of many blankets and scarves available in their small shop, which was really more of a stall. We were able to ask questions about technique, colour, material. The blanket is one of my most treasured souvenirs.
We probably spent a couple hours hanging out at Sister Srey Cafe, where we ate lunch, read, and people-watched.
We tried a few different drinks. All were great!
Again, you guys, heart eyes emoji. That pool and the greenery. I want to go back.
So much Angkor beer.
From Siem Reap, we took a bus to Sihanoukville, where we stayed at Pat Pat Guesthouse on Otres 1 beach. Again, we booked it through Agoda. It definitely wasn't as fancy as our previous hotel, but it was clean, the owners were nice, and the location was perfect. Plus, they had a pool table, which Tony loved.
Every morning we would wake up, eat breakfast, and then cross the road and take up residence on beach chairs for the day, with the above views. I would drink an iced coffee, later some fresh-squeezed juice, eat lunch, then move on to cocktails or Angkor beer.
Tony was convinced to take us on a 3-island boat trip for a day, and honestly, it sucked pretty badly, but it made for some memories (our boat almost crashed; giant, scary, flying bugs) that make us laugh now.
This moment! This photo! I cannot even believe that I am posting it on the internet but it is just pure happiness! This was after our sad boat trip, right after being returned to Otres, where we plopped ourselves at pretty much the first restaurant we came to because we were so thirsty and hungry. (The breakfast and lunch included with our 3-island boat trip were pretty sucky.) I ordered deep fried bananas with ice cream because how could I not? And as I ate them, I turned to Tony and said, "Look at me! I am sitting here, in my bikini, with my rolls (I probably pinched them for emphasis) hanging out, eating deep fried bananas and ice cream and I don't even care who sees! I am so happy right now! This moment is perfect! Today was perfect! Take a picture!"
This is probably a symbol for what my 2016 goals should be.
I couldn't help myself. I'm a 12-year-old boy.
Has there ever been a more photo-worthy lunch? Pineapple rice, pineapple shake, and beef lok lak with a side of Crazy Eights!
I was so excited to find ice cream because we had taken a very long, very hot walk in Sihanoukville and I kept whining, "I want chocolate ice cream!" I'm fun to travel with.
More Crazy Eights! This time beside a pool, with cider!
Vanilla Coke! Cherry Coke! Dr. Pepper! Grape soda! Convenience store heaven.
By this time, we had moved on from Otres (womp womp) but were still in Sihanoukville. I don't remember the name of the hotel, and while it was nice, it doesn't matter, because I am telling you, if you go to Sihanoukville, just stay in Otres. The beach is much nicer and much less crowded. Trust.
We finished our trip in Phnom Penh, mostly because I wanted to visit the Killing Fields. It sounds morbid, I know, but I researched it beforehand and felt like we couldn't visit Cambodia without learning more about such a tragic but important part of the country's history.
I was a little worried that it would feel very touristy and that I would feel like I was somehow demeaning the citizens' and victims' experiences, but it was so respectfully done. When you pay the entrance fee, it includes an audioset with earphones and has a numbered playlist of sorts, so you can tour the site at your own pace, listening to information and stories from real people. Tony and I stayed together, but he listened in Mandarin and I listened in English, and we just stopped once in awhile to talk about what we were hearing and seeing.
We both agreed it was a very worthwhile visit and it made us appreciate the country and the people that much more. Everyone we met in Cambodia was so friendly, always smiling, and when you think about what happened there less than 40 years ago, well, it just brings things into perspective.
Another place we visited was the S-21 Prison, now known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. It was informative because they had rooms with posters, photos, and captions, but I did feel very haunted and sad while I was there, and almost like I shouldn't be there. Maybe I would have felt differently if we had hired a tour guide?
Eventually I told Tony I wanted to leave. It was after looking at victims' photos and I just kept thinking, If this happened to me or Tony, would I want people to see photos of us like this? I think it's important for people to know what happened, and bear witness in a way, even all these years later, but I think if this happened to me or my family, I wouldn't want to be on display that way, to potentially be remembered only as a victim, instead of the person I was, with a life and a smile.
On a more light-hearted note, across from the museum is Bubbles Tea & Ice Cream. Tony and I actually visited here twice, the first time being spontaneously the night before we visited the museum, after finding it on Trip Advisor. That first visit we shared two different ice cream flavours, and the second, we tried two different bubble teas. Nothing but positive things to say—the flavours were perfect and the staff were very friendly; the owner told us the story behind the business and a bit about his family, and one of the employees invited Tony to play dodgeball!
While we were in Phnom Penh, we stayed at the TeaHouse Hotel. There were a few customer service snafus, but overall, it was a good place to stay. The location seemed good and we loved their open-air lobby, which was a perfect place to hang out, talking and enjoying a drink. It's actually where we made our "Happy Plan 2015."
Now, let's see how long it will take me to share highlights from Bali... Meanwhile, you can read more of my travel adventures here.