Cambodia is a country full of some of the best natural and manmade sights pulling travelers to pass through when in south east Asia. known for its breathtaking temples, the beautiful islands full of white sand beaches, and the horrific history that is still very fresh in a lot of people’s minds. Cambodia is a bit like marmite you’ll either fall completely in love with it or dislike it.
Cambodia is home to the famous Angkor Watt, Killing Fields and Koh Rong islands. Keep reading to find out the itinerary I followed to explore this country as well as my thoughts and feelings on the tours and places I visited throughout the short space of time I spent here.
I spent 2 weeks traveling around this very undeveloped country learning more about the history and culture. I don’t want to start off with such a negative, but I want to share my honest experience for future solo travelers. Cambodia is a country I want rush back to, from crossing the border between Vietnam and Cambodia I instantly felt uneasy luckily a Cambodian lady spoke English and explained the process of getting into the country to me. They take your passport off you for what feels like forever and it just all seems a bit sketchy. To arriving in Phnom Penh, traveling around the country to my final night in Siem Reap I was on edgy the whole time and as a female solo traveler I would advise visiting this country with a friend. The answer to why I felt unsafe will be in my personal travel diary post coming soon.
Before arriving in Cambodia, I has already got a list of things I wanted to see over the time frame I had, I originally planned to stay in the country for a month but after researching what I wanted to see and do and reading other people’s views on Cambodia I decided to cut my trip to 2 weeks.
The following is a list of the tours and trips I completed within the 2 weeks:
The killing fields
It was only 40/50 years ago that Cambodia was under the horrific Khmer Rouge, a regime that murdered over a million people, the killing fields is a place where this happened and is an incredibly emotional trip. If you are to visit Cambodia or just 4 days this is worth one of them, it allows you to reflect and apricate how lucky you are. This trip allows you to really learn about the history of Cambodia and understand that it’s still getting over such a tragedy. A very upsetting day so pre-pare yourself and do not attend hungover, be respectful to others wondering around and it will be a tour that stays in your heart. Best way to get there is by Tuk-Tuk and you pay on the gate make sure to get the audio, so you fully understand all that your seeing. Entry and audio for this trip comes to $6 USD.
The S21 Prison was previously a school but under the Khmer Rouge it was a place to torture working class citizens, once they left here they were taken to the killing fields to be executed. Another tough tour to do it really does leave a lump in your throat as you see the conditions people were kept in, the photos of the innocent people tortured. The most interesting bit of this trip is the talk from one of the survivors, he tells his story and has written a book based on his experience, be prepared to shed a tear. We went here after the killing fields, but I would go here first then the killing fields as this is how they experienced it and it gives you a better understanding of the process and disaster they went through. Entry and audio for this trip comes to $8 USD.
Kampot Waterfall Hike
Me and a group of friends had a day spare in Kampot so decided to go on the jungle waterfall trek, this was my 5th day in Cambodia and the first bit of beauty I saw. A rep from the hostel will lead the trek through a banana plantation and jungle (be sure to wear bug spray I was bitten alive) finally you finish at a secret waterfall, where you chill, swim and have lunch. The hostel doesn’t tell you how difficult this hike is, some of the boys basically ran up the 2-hour trek but someone with asthma and lack of exercise for the last few months a few of us found this really difficult, your constantly in the sun so be prepared to work up a sweat and pack lots of water you’ll need it!! Anyway, with a lot of moaning I finally made it to the top and the waterfall was so worth it. The trip cost $15 USD that includes a tuk-tuk to the bottom of the track and lunch so if you have a day to kill this one is definitely worth it.
Koh Rong Samloem Fishing trip
I stayed on Mad monkey’s private resort when visiting Koh Rong Samloem, it’s a beautiful little beach hut resort but can feel about stuck if your there to long so this tour is a must if you’re staying there. You cruise around the ocean on a long-tail boat and it’s got the perfect scenery to nurse your hangover. The trip is sold as a fishing and snorkeling trip but don’t get your hopes us about the snorkeling, sadly we didn’t see anything exciting nether the less the swim woke us up just in time for the fishing. They then give you time to fish for lunch which you could imagine between a bunch of backpackers got very competitive who could catch the first fish and the most fish sadly I caught none. The local guys that run the tour caught so much fish and grab, so we had enough to fill us, but they also provide chicken and a veggie option if fish isn’t your thing. After lunch you can swim again or lay back and catch a tan. A trip well worth doing to get you out a sea and seeing the beautiful areas surrounding the Koh Rong islands. This trip is only $10 USD which includes lunch, so you really have no excuse.
Angkor extends over 400 square kilometers and consists of more than 1000 temples, after already traveling Asia for 2 months I had seen some pretty impressive temples, but nothing can compare to Angkor Wat. Most hostel recommend the sunrise temple tour but after talking to others I heard it was full of tourists that you struggled to take it all in. The day I decided to go was my mum’s birthday who passed away a few years ago, always a tough day, so I decided to spend the day exploring the temples alone which I didn’t regret at all, having the day to yourself meant you wasn’t rushed and could really take in the temples for all their beauty. Even though I’m a solo traveler Id hardly spent much time on my own at all, so it was a nice change to realise how lucky I was to be exploring these amazing sights Asia had to offer. Even if you just visit Cambodia to see Angkor Wat it will be worth your time. I didn’t do an official tour I just got my own tuk-tuk to temples which was very cheap $10 USD and then the entry to the park for a 1-day pass is $37 USD but you can do a 3 day pass for $62 USD or a week’s pass for $72 USD. You can see all the temples in one day, so I would waste your money paying or a multiple day pass.
My Cambodia Itinerary:
Day 1-4: Phnom Penh
Day 5-6: Kampot
Day 7-10: Koh Rong Samloem
Day 11-13: Siem Reap
Places on my itinerary:
The following is a list of places I visited and hostels I stayed in:
I started my Cambodia travels in the capital of Phnom Penh after getting a 6-hour bus from Ho Chi Minh. I stayed at Mad Monkey Hostel the beds in all the man monkey hostels are massive and super comfy so was a nice change coming from Ho Chi Minh and as we arrived pretty late all we wanted to do was sleep. Phnom Penh is home to the killing fields and S21 prison, intriguing markets and a delicious food scene from all cultures. From the minute I stepped into this city to the moment I left I didn’t feel safe as a female traveller at all, the streets are full off seedy men and the hostels warn you that bags get stolen daily so your constantly on edge and can’t walk the streets alone which I is a shame because sometimes it’s nice to have a wonder to get a real feel for the place. The tours here are so worth doing but you can do them both in 1 day and then get out of there. The night life isn’t great, and the locals aren’t very friendly, a place I would sadly not visit again as a solo female traveller.
I was so happy to finally be out of Phnom Penh and into Kampot, this was until we arrived at our hostel Mad monkey, we were welcomed by very rude staff, luckily the pool area, rooms and bathrooms made up for the welcome as these were all lovely. This hostel is promoted as a party hostel but when we were there it proved very quiet and not much going on at all, if I were to go back I would definitely stay at Arcadia as I had friends there that loved it so much. Kampot is a cute up and coming riverside town with lots of cute bars and restaurants. 1 night here is plenty to see everything you’ll want to see and breaks up the journey to the islands. If you’re someone who enjoys weed then you’ll love this town as they sell ‘happy’ pizzas in almost all restaurants, I didn’t try so can’t comment how happy they make you but if that’s your scene its worth checking out.
Koh Rong Samloem
I can’t say much about this island itself as we decided to stay on a private beach resort mad monkey owned on one small section of the island. All I can tell you is expect an awfully long boat trip from Sihanoukville they say it’s a fast boat, but it takes forever, and you actually have to get 2/3 boats not simply the first one that gets you to the main island. However, once we arrived on the private beach resort it was the most beautiful place. The Mad Monkey puts on a lot of evening entertainment to bring everyone together such as fire shows on the beach, and a lot of drinking games. All most everyone ends up in the sea for a late-night swim at midnight to see the plankton!! I’ve seen it in Thailand a few times but on this beach it’s so incredible and so worth the night swim.
Siem Reap is the tourist hub of Cambodia, due to it being home to Angkor Watt and the backpackers favorite Pub Street. Siem was a very busy city full of traditional night markets and more Tuk-Tuks than you could imagine, hassling you to use them every second they get. The hostel I stayed at in Siem Reap was probably the nicest and cleanest throughout my whole Asia travel, Onederz. Awarded the best hostel in Cambodia, it had 2 swimming pools, the most amazing bathrooms and a cute lounge area, the staff here was super friendly to allowed us to use the showers and pool before we had checked in. The only downside to this hostel would be the social aspect, I was actually travelling with someone id met when I stayed at this hostel, had I been a solo traveler I think it would be a hostel that’s very difficult to meet new people and you’d end up alone a lot of the time, so I recommend staying here if you’re in a couple or with a group of friends. Siem was overall a fun place we drunk on pub street one morning after coming straight of the night bus and it will be one of my favorite memories from my travels for a long time.
Places I didn’t visit but wished I had:
If you’re thinking about traveling Cambodia I hope my experience hasn’t completely put you off, the famous sites are worth a visit I just recommend not going alone. If you have any questions on why I wouldn’t go back or advise on what to avoid feel free to message. My day to day travel dairy will be up shortly to explain a lot more about my time in Cambodia.