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Old 6th January 2018, 12:14   #1
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A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

The earliest memory of Cambodia in watching the huge temples of Angkor Wat and Bayon on the discovery channel as a kid with my father. Made a mental note regarding the same and in December 2017 reached the goal to see them.

The good thing about my office is once the leaves go in calendar at the start or mid of year, no one dares to ask you to take it back or ask why you have taken the leave. Very few people in my office knew where I was going. Some of the office folks had to do google search to locate this country on the world map with Google helping them to spell Cambodia correctly. I travel solo a lot I informed my family just one week before travel at a big family question to keep the flow of questions limited.

Travel dates: 2nd December to 11th December.

Visa process:
I had applied for E-Visa on the official website of Cambodia. It took only 8 hours for visa to arrive in my mailbox. Just ensure about the port of entry should be same where you are landing.

I had scoured websites to fix my itinerary and even Team-bhp for some threads on Cambodia. Fixed my itinerary as follows:
2nd December: Flight from Mumbai late night to Siem Reap via Kuala Lumpur
3rd December: SiemReap
4th December: SiemReap
5th December: SiemReap
6th December: SiemReap
7th December: Sihanoukville
8th December: Koh Rong island
9th December: Phnon Penh
10th December: Phnon Penh
11th December: Late morning flight from Phnon Penh to Mumbai via Bangkok.

All the hostels were booked by me after some research on sites like Trip Advisor. Those having bed bugs or bad location were cancelled out and I was left with best ones.

Currency used in Cambodia: They use US dollars and change below one dollar is given in Cambodian Riel. I took 450 Dollars with me(300 dollars in cash and 150 in forex card) and in the end 7 dollars survived with me in India. My total expense for the trip including flight tickets came around 65k INR.

Very few places in Cambodia use credit cards. Only place where I used card was Angkor Wat ticket office and Starbucks in Phnon Penh. And when you withdraw money from ATM, a hefty fee of four dollars is imposed and then there are bank changes. My forex card ate up 6 dollars to give me some cash in Cambodia. I also got all money in smaller denomination of US dollars in India as well as ATM in Cambodia. No Benjamins for me.

I took Vodafone I-Roam plan for 10 days worth 3500 INR and it served me well with good internet connectivity and network.

Let's start about Cambodia. Cambodia lies in SE Asia and has suffered a brutal genocide just 40 years ago. It is developing country like India. My personal opinion about Cambodia will be reserved at the end of this travelogue. All the pictures are taken using OnePlus 3T phone. Lets start with travelogue.

Day one: 2nd December (Pune to Mumbai)

I had booked a flight on LCC, Air Asia. The total cost using their low cost value pack was 15000 INR. The flight was at 2250 hours from Mumbai. Actually, the Air Asia X flight goes to Bali with a stop over to KualaLumper. The flight was at 2250 hours and before departing from Pune, I got a message, that flight was delayed by one and a half hour. Accordingly I departed from Pune. So technically, my actual trip starts on 3rd December. I took the trusted Shivneri from Wakad and got down at Chembur, took a brief halt at one of my relatives place in Chembur. Started around 2130 hours from Chembur with a Uber cab and reached airport. Took 40 odd minutes to clear huge lines of security and immigration at CSIA. A lot of international departures from Mumbai around midnight. Air Asia X is international long haul arm of Air Asia. Luckily, unlike the normal Air Asia flights, there was leg space available in Air Asia X flights. It was an A330 plane. The flight was going to Bali and was relatively empty due to volcanic eruptions in Bali. But still I saw lot of honeymoon couples and families going to Bali. I got the whole row of three seats to relax. I got down at KLIA2. KLIA2 is surrounded by swathes of palm tree plantation which is hub for Air Asia and then had a layover of around 4 hours before my flight to Siem reap. Took many pics from flight while going to SiemReap. Let the photos do the talking

Kuala Lumpur international airport LCC terminal
A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-klia2.jpg

Sepang F1 circuit. No F1 races here from 2018.
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Tonle Sap Freshwater lake

A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-tonle_sap_aero.jpg

Day two: 3rd December (Mumbai to SiemReap via KL)

Landed in SiemReap around 1415 hours. The immigration took only 10 odd minutes as I had E-Visa. Fill out the arrival and departure cards given in flights and they staple the departure card to passport. Don't lose the departure card as it is stamped and it is collected while leaving Cambodia.

Siem Reap literally means land of Thais. Siem Reap was invaded by Thai kingdoms a lot.

I had to take a Tuk Tuk to go to my hostel, mad monkey hostel. Took a Tuk Tuk by paying 9 dollars at the prepaid stand. In hind sight, would have saved two to three dollars if I had walked all the way outside airport. The Tuk Tuk guy were uniformed and guy tried to sell himself to hire for next day. Cambodia drives on left side of road. All you can see on roads are Lexus, Toyota Hilux and Ford Pickups.
Traffic sense is Okay, they don't honk much on streets and are impatient on traffic signals.

The evening was spent exploring the night markets of SiemReap. Mad Monkey is a party hostel. Dorm beds cost 7 dollars per night in a four bed dorm. Not suitable for families at all as music goes on till 2330 hours in night. They have a pub on roof top and it was a nice place to wind in evening after a hard day of exploring the temples. The hostel is good place to chat with unknown people and I had nice time on three nights I spent here. Solo backpacking forces you to talk to unknown people, know their choices and how they lead their life. You open a lot to strangers, share a laugh, talk about your experiences in life and enjoy the evening.
If you go in a group, you tend to stay with a group and try not to wander off somewhere. Only grouse at the hostel was bathing water smelt like metal. Don't know how!

Evenings spent sitting on the roof top pub at Mad Monkey

A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-hostel_mad.jpg

The main street of Siem Reap is Sivutha Road. A small walk of 15 minutes to 20 minutes and I found five Indian restaurants! Took more resolve to eat local food.

Day Three: 4th December

Got up early morning, had breakfast at a local joint which served French bread named as Baguette. They fill baguette with chicken, salads. Depends on what Baguette you order. Also they give you it variety of sauces, some of them are really hot. Started walking down on main street. Tuk Tuk drivers are not as aggressive during the day and they laze in hammock which is tied from one end to other in Tuk Tuk. I haggled a little bit with Tuk Tuk driver to include more temples in my itinerary. I had done some research about which temples I want to cover them and it helped. And the deal was stuck for entire day for 20 US dollars which I felt is reasonable as Siem Reap is tourist place. And the tour started at 0830 hours. I took the cell number of the Tuk Tuk driver so that I can contact him to come pick me up at various agreed points of meet.

First stop was ticket counter to enter temple complex. The ticket counter is far away from Angkor Wat and you have to deviate a little bit from main road to reach the place. I took three day pass worth 62 Dollars for all .This was first place where I used my forex card. And in India I used to crib that we charge 500 INR to 1000 INR for all heritage spots from foreigners. The ticket has your photo on it and no way you can exchange it as it is regularly checked and punched each day.

The first temple I visited was Angkor Wat. Being a Monday, it was still little bit crowded. One striking thing I observed was local Cambodians were not present in large numbers at Angkor Wat for tourism purposes. The flag of Cambodia has Angkor Wat on it. How the students in school draw the flag on their notebooks was question in my mind when they were given task to draw by their teachers? Our Indian flag is easy to draw.

Only one word about Angkor Wat. Huge! Angkor Wat is huge temple built an dedicated to Lord Vishnu built in 12th Century. Angkor means Nagar and Wat means temple. As Hinduism faded in Cambodia, this temple got converted in Buddhist shrine. It has a moat of all its sides and it prevented the jungle from encroaching this beautiful place. All the four walls of Angkor Wat have Ramayana, Mahabharata, sea manthan and war of the khmer people with Chams (Native people of Vietnam and China) described on them.

The classic Angkor Wat shot
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Ravana depicted with vertical 9 heads on one of the walls
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Bhishma Pitamah on bed of arrows
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Clear skies
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The moat boundary
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Next we moved to Angkor Thom.
Angkor Thom is bigger in size area wise than Angkor Wat, and there are many temples in Angkor Thom. The prominent temple among them is Bayon. It is Buddhist temple and has the smiling face of King Jayavarman VII. There are many temples in Angkor Thom, mainly Baphuon and Phimeanakas.

Bayon from distance
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Many smiling faces
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Close up of the smiling face.
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Baphuon Temple. Taken from the top pedestal
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Pano taken from top of Baphuon
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Sleeping Buddha reconstructed with the help of French
A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-sleeping_baphoun_3.jpg

Phimeanakas temple. The wooden staircase constructed for tourists which is now closed
A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-baphoun_4.jpg

The carving near the walls of Leper king.
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We then moved over to Preah Khan and Neak Pran temples.
Preah khan is largely unrestored temple. Nature has take over Preah khan and I saw most of the shiv lingas in broken state. Most of the temple has warning signs not to wonder off the trodden path as it is complete ruins.

Preah Khan entrance

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Nature reclaiming its lost territory
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The lake surrounding Neak Pean. The calmness of the lake!
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On the way visited Eastern Mebon and Prea Roup temple. Both are in very bad shape.

Last temple visited was Ta Prohm. Yes, the temple present in the movie Tomb Raider. Here, nature has taken over this magnificent temple. Archaeological Survey of India is restoring Ta Prohm and I saw information about temple written in Hindi at the start of temple. ASI has done good job in restoring few things of Ta Prohm. Wooden stages are installed at spots so that people can take pics in front of those huge trees.

Below are some pics of huge trees reclaiming Ta Prohm

A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-ta_prohm_1.jpg

Your Truly
A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-ta_prohm_2.jpg

Dinosaur in the carving?
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A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-ta_prohm_4.jpg

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A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-ta_prohm_7.jpg

The key to cover so many temples in one day was I regularly kept myself hydrated by drinking coconut water, eat mangoes, have some fruits as they give glucose and munch on the protein energy bars. Skipped lunch for the day but covered too much distance walking in the temple complex.

Told my Tuk Tuk driver to drop at one place in market of Siem Reap. If you ever visit Siem Reap, don't miss the Blue Pumpkin place. They dish out home made ice cream and I had some good Fish Amok over here in the lounge. I ate ice cream from Blue Pumpkin every day when I was in Siem Reap.

I wound the day by playing quiz in the hostel with other hostel mates on the table. Came second and realised that capital of Switzerland is not Zurich but Bern. This happened in spite of myself visiting Switzerland three times and cost us second place. The hostel had organised a pub walk after 0000 hours as the hostel pub closes at 2330 hours. Don't know how I had energy, but tagged along with all of them.

Pub Walk was one crazy experience. The pub street is barricaded so no two wheeler can enter in night. I had a nice time with hostel mates. Saw some crazy moves done by local Khmer people to the tune of international tunes and people dancing on the streets till 0300 hours. At the around 0300 hours, I called it a day and walked back with my Mexican hostel mate back to the hostel and crashed on my bed.

Last edited by rst89 : 9th January 2018 at 22:49. Reason: Adding pics
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Old 9th January 2018, 22:30   #2
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re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

Day Four: 5th December
Woke up quite leisurely.
I wanted to visit 1000 Linga temple and Banteay Srie but both of them were far from Siem reap and half day was over. The tuk tuk cost 35 dollars for return trip to 1000 linga temple and I was not getting anyone to share the cost. Again Banteay Srei is far from 1000 lingas temple and that would be extra cost. There is also separated entry cost of around 20 US dollars to see 1000 linga temple. These are the perils of solo travel and I was prepared for it. Dropped the plan and decided to visit Tonle Sap, the largest fresh water lake in SE Asia. For 18 Dollars, a Mercedes Van picked me from the hostel and drove some 30 odd kilometers to a community village names as Kampong Phluk. Kampong phluk, is a fishing village on the banks of Tonle Sap. It included ride on a boat which included sunset view. I had three hostel mates with me today, one American and other Mexican for the visit to Tonle Sap.

Country side paddy fields while going to Tonle Sap.
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Tonle Sap is formed due to depression in the area. It is quite big lake and looked like an ocean with no end. It was pretty clouded that day. We were transferred to a boat and we sat on the top deck. Soaking in the views we passed through the village. We came at halt at one place and then for 5 Dollars, some one takes you on a hand driven boat through the thick jungle. I personally felt it was tourist trap and can be avoided but those 5 Dollars went to the girls who was rowing the boat and is local to the village. Indirectly helped her as this is a community village.

Kampong phluk fishing village
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Then we were led to the centre of the lake to witness the sunset. Didn't see any sunset as it was cloudy but saw the below view when we were in middle of Tonle Sap.

Streaks of sunlight with rains on one side.
A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-tone_sap.jpg

It became pretty dark when we started our return. Cambodia should frankly keep its clock ahead by half hour. I was witnessing early sunrise around 0600 hours in winters and that too we are in northern hemisphere. The night was again spent in the hostel pub but today retired early as I wanted to witness sunrise at Angkor Wat. Remember the 62 Dollar ticket should be utilised for the third day.

Day Five: 6th December

Alarm buzzed at 0430 hours, switched off and slept for five minutes and it was 0515 hours! Completed my morning chores in like 10 minutes and I was racing with my Tuk Tuk driver to witness the sunrise. As I told you, sunrise happens early in this part of the country. I raced through the moats of Angkor Wat and sun was rising with birds chirping around. Made in time to witness the sunrise.

The mandatory sunrise shot
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I then spent my time exploring the temple. On first day, I rushed through Angkor Wat. Today I wanted to give justice to this huge temple. Climbed to Mount Meru, the centre of the temple over a flight of wooden stairs. Mount Meru looked magnificent basking in glowing sun light.

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Apsaras in Angkor Wat
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Visited all the carved walls of the temple, walked the whole periphery of the temple and it was 0930 hours.

Sea manthan for the Amrut

A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-sea_manthan.jpg

I called my Tuk Tuk driver and we were back at 1000 hours. I had good continental breakfast at the hostel and proceeded to freshen up. Today was my last day in Siem Reap. Checked out of the hostel after a nice bath and deposited my bags in common room.

Decided to visit Angkor National Museum and with 12 Dollars as entry fees, it is worth visiting the museum. Most of the fallen sculptures are kept here and this museum is well maintained. For a history buff like me, this was a good place. They had good shows on the history of Cambodia during the era when all the temples were built. My two and half hours were spent here.

Indra sitting on his vehicle Airavata, with Shiv and Parvarti on Nandi Bull at the top.
A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-museum.jpg

Decided to have some Indian food and visited an Indian restaurant. Dished out a very good Chicken curry and burnt my upper palate eating Indian food after three days. Came back to the hostel to chill near the swimming pool of the hostel.

I had a night bus to catch to Sihanoukville, a town on the coast of Cambodia. It is roughly around 500 kms from Siem Reap. I had booked AC sleeper bus through a company named as Giant Ibis. It cost me 24 Dollars for the bus. It was a Kia bus and the driver was a good one. He didn't do any rash manoeuvres while over taking as all national highways in Cambodia are two lane affair. We were given a plastic bag to keep our shoes and then allowed to board the bus. I was on one single berth and the opposite berth was occupied by Indian couple.
Tuned out that man was a Tamil. He was born and brought up in Mumbai and was a consulting neurologist working in Chennai. We had a good chat in the night.

Day Six: 7th December
Reached Sihanoukville at 0600 hours sharp. My stay for two nights was at Onederz Hostel. It was only some 100 meters from where Giant Ibis bus stop. Hehe, I had planned so much. At eight dollars a night, this was a luxury hostel.

This hostel was complete contrast to the party hostel in Siem Reap. It was silent hostel and at 8 dollars per night, it was worth it for all facilities it offered. Good Breakfast was only for two to three dollars which included main dish, coffee, fruits and one small water bottle. Lunch started from 3 Dollars and I ate Prawn and Chicken Amok that day for lunch and dinner respectively. Since I arrived early, they told me to wait a bit and I got bed in dorm around 0830 hours. I crashed on my bed and woke up around noon. Decided to laze by the pool reading Scott Kellys "A year in Space". A good book indeed to read about life on International space station. The bathroom in this hostel is shared with scented candles, cucumbers in urinals, they tried to give a feel of five star hotel.

Around evening, witnessed the sunset sitting on the pier and walked the whole beach.
A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-sunset_at_pier.jpg

Vendors were selling shrimps, fish and baby octopus by barbecuing it on a small charcoal stove. Booked myself speed boat tickets to Koh Rong island for 22 US dollars to and for with open return ticket same day.

Hues of sky in the evening
A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-beach_sihanouk.jpg

Spent the night at a Mexican restaurant run by an American guy. Honest conversations flowed that night with the American guy. Do visit MayBe Later, a Mexican pub and restaurant when in Sihanoukville. It is on the main road to terminal ferry. The Mexican food is also mouth watering.

Day Seven: 8th December (Koh Rong island)

Woke up early to catch 0800 hours speed ferry to Koh Rong. I had break fast in hostel itself. Our tickets were checked and the speed boat was full. After settling on my seat, the boat started around 0810 hours. I proceeded towards bow of the speed boat. Sea was a little bit rough that day. Decided I didn't want to get drenched on the bow and came back to seat. We covered the distance to Koh Rong in 30 minutes. A normal boat takes 1 and half hours.

Koh Rong was not an developed island few years back. Commercialization has made in roads to this island. I got 4G network here and electricity is supplied using huge gen sets somewhere on the island. Koh Rong Samloem is also a nearby island and this island is also slowly getting invaded by resorts and bungalows. I got down at ferry terminal of Koh Rong and walked some two to three kilometers to Long Set beach or 4k beach as they call.

Ferry terminal at Koh Long island
A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-pier_koh_rong.jpg

There were very few people on the beach. It is white sand beach with clear water. The waves here are timid. Settled under a tree which was only few feet away from the sea. Left my small bag under that tree and swam in the shallow sea. No vendors and very less people movement on the beach. Hence, I was carefree of my belongings.

All shades of blue at the beach

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There was one scuba diving center in the beach. With so much clear water, this island is heaven for scuba diving. For whole day, lazed under the tree, swam the waters and read my book, all for the entire day on repeat mode. I had lunch at one of the few shacks doting the island. It was peaceful day.

Again walked back to the terminal ferry point to catch the speed boat around 1645 hours. The last ferry leave the islands around 1700 hours and then it is private taxi to mainland. We picked up some people from Koh Rong Samloem and then started back to main land. The sea was not that much rough and we made it before sunset to the main land. Luckily no one puked on both rides of speed boat though all were given plastic bags. I had dinner on hostel itself and called it a day.

Day Eight: 9th December

Today I had planned to visit the capital of Cambodia, Phnon Penh. Again I had booked a seat on a mini bus owned by Giant Ibis. The total distance is around 220 odd kilometres. The fare was 11 Dollars and the bus was relatively full. We started at 0930 hours. It was a two lane highway all the way from Sihanoukville. Since, Sinhanoukville is the only port of Cambodia, saw lot of container traffic going to the port. All the heavy duty trucks were from Dong Feng corporation or Mitshubishi Fuso. Saw some Vietnam registered trucks also.

We had some overtaking scares on a two lane highway with the other vehicle in opposite direction being forced to off-road a little. Came across a small ghat section and there highway was three lane with right most lane reserved for heavy trucks to climb. We made it to Phnon Penh in some five odd hours. Navigated the traffic of a city and bus dropped me near Russian market. Took Tuk Tuk to my hostel.

Good thing about Phnon Penh is all streets are marked with numbers and no way you can miss a place. The hostel which I had booked was Envoy hostel. This is an art hostel. The hostel had lot of art installations as owner of hostel is an active fellow. He was sorry that he didn't have time to take us for walking tour of Phnon Penh as he was busy with his artwork scheduled for some art festival. This hostel is also falls in quiet category and at seven dollars a night, it is quite reasonable. This hostel lies in BKK area of Phnon Penh with some French style bungalows of colonial era dotting the maze of roads. Spent the evening roaming the streets of Phnon Penh and visiting the Mekong river front. There are lot of Indian restaurants in Phnon Penh. This time I lost the count of them.

I also visited the independence monument in the evening.

A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-independence.jpg

A good thing about Phnon Penh is bike Taxis. Flag anyone down and he stops and comes near you. For one dollar, they drop you from one place to another. Here, Tuk Tuk drivers are more and are omni present in all corners of Phnon Penh. Also, our Bajaj RE rickshaws have invaded the streets of Phnon Penh. They can be booked using some local app. Chinese people have invested a lot in Cambodia. The skyline of Cambodia is expanding vertically due to it.

A good thing about Envoy hostel is they have a white board in the reception area informing other people that this person is going on a city tour in Tuk Tuk covering so many points in the city. The rates are fixed for Tuk Tuk for half day or full day city tours of Phnon Penh. I luckily got company of two Australians and for 6 dollars per person, the agenda was set for tomorrow to visit Killing fields (Choeung Ek genocidal center) and Tuol Sleng Genocide museum. I wish the same system was in Siem reap so that I would have visited the 1000 linga temple on sharing basis.
I had a nice dinner in one the chic cafes doting the BKK area of Phnon Penh.

Day nine: 10th December

The two Australians were ready at 0800 hours and I hopped along with them to visit the Killing fields. It is around 15 kilometers from the city. The Tuk Tuk driver avoided the main road and we took some alleys to reach S21 Killing fields or Choeung Ek genocidal center.

Choeung Ek genocidal center:

Some history and back ground of Cambodia. I have added my own perspective. It will be very short.

I feel the roots of discord in Cambodia were sown long back in 1950's when Vietnam was divided in North and South as per Geneva conference in 1954. South never merged with North in 1956 and North Vietnam waged a war with South. And you all know how America jumped in the suicide mission to save democracy. You might be wondering what has Cambodia to do with this all. The supply lines to North Vietnam passed through Cambodia and Laos. Remember, America had sprayed orange agent on crops in Vietnam to kill crops. Then they started bombing these supply lines. It is estimated America dropped more bombs than World war two on Laos and Cambodia. The rural part of Cambodia was constantly bombarded and rural folk were not getting any respite from bombing.

Apart from that, there was political struggle between the monarchy led by Prince Sihanouk and he was ousted in a coup by a General, General Lon Nol in 1970. Prince fled to rural area. General Lon Nol was not in favour of continuing supply lines to North Vietnam and tried to stop them. Now North Vietnam attacked northern parts of Cambodia as supply lines were crucial, Prince Sihanouk took this opportunity to start an armed struggle from rural areas and with the forces of General Lon Nol on other side, Cambodia plunged into a civil war.

Now begins the dark chapter of Cambodia. It was in this mess, that Khmer Rouge emerged taking support from the north Vietnamese communists. They were led by Pol Pot and his trusted lieutenants. Eventually, Khmer Rouge, an army roughly consisting of uneducated rural folk who overran Phnon Penh and from April 1975 to 1979, it controlled Cambodia and was driven out of the same Vietnam which raised it in 1979. And then Vietnam and the world discovered the horrors of Genocide where two million Cambodians were killed out of population of eight million.

Khmer Rouge was led by a man named as Pol Pot. This French educated communist believed in an idealistic society where everyone is equal. He made paper currency useless in one day, drove out entire population of Phnon Penh and Siem Reap to rural areas. Most of the sculptures and Buddhist temples were destroyed during this period. Actually people were forced to destroy Buddhist statues. Even if you visit Siem Reap, you will see most of sculptures head chopped off.

All the teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials and any one educated were purged from the city, told to construct houses or new villages in rural area and told to start farming. Naturally, the experiment failed and they were told to mix with actual rural people. But still famine stuck Cambodia. Moreover, there was systematic killing of people by brainwashed soldiers of Khmer Rouge of educated people as they were though to be root cause of problems in Cambodia.

Bullets are expensive in war era. So people were killed using axes, hoes and spades by strike on heads. First they were tortured in confessing that they are agents of CIA and KGB. After a written confession is written, they were taken to killing fields, killed and dumped in mass graves. Killing fields are scattered all around Cambodia. Most people were killed in cold blood. The children were also killed as the Khmer Rouge policy was that no one should grow up to take revenge on them.

The Killing fields (Choeung Ek genocidal center) had an entry fees of six dollars and we took Audio guide with us. It was painful to hear everything on Audio guide. There were pits from where remains of people were excavated. There were many pits in the killing field. Now also, during rain, bones of dead people come up to surface and staff of centre collects them and keeps it. It is was really heart rendering to hear all the experience on audio guide.

Memorial in the killing field
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The mass burial pits
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Skulls excavated form pits with colour coding telling how they were killed
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The tree where babies head were smashed as pointed out by Duch, a trusted lieutenant of Pol Pot
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After visiting the killing field, we hopped on Tuk Tuk to make way to Tuol Sleng Genocide museum. Originally a school, during the purge from city to countryside by Pot Pot, whole Phnon Penh fell empty. This school became the grounds of bringing in intellectuals and they were tortured here. Anyone deemed even as a lazy individual was put through torture. The torture was monitored by a Duch, an insider of Pol Pot. I had taken the audio guide here.

The Tuol Sleng Genocide museum
A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-school1.jpg

The battle hardened Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia in 1979 as they were tired with border skirmishes with Khmer Rouge. They were routed in two weeks and they retreated to jungles of Cambodia. The Vietnamese forces found this school and in cold blood, Khmer Rouge killed 14 people undergoing torture as they were fast approaching Phnon Penh. Rest of people were told to march forward with the Khmer Rouge.

The death of 14 people were documented by a Vietnamese photographer. They were chained to a iron bed with their feet tied to a chain on a fixed rod. Some bodies were in mutilated condition. The exact class room where the bodies were found with the iron bed are still present. Even the tile pattern of school floor matched with the position of bed placed in classroom. The photos are harrowing to look.

The iron torture bed
A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-school2.jpg

The people interned in this school is well documented along with teenage Khmer rouge soldiers who tortured the people. The graves of 14 people whose bodies were found is in the school compound. Some people who were told to march with Khmer rouge when the Vietnamese forces approached escaped during the march. One such person was a painter and he was first tortured for being a CIA agent. His name is Bou Meng and he was present in school when I went there. When Duch came to know he was a painter, he was told to draw portraits of Pol Pot and he was given better condition to live in the school. He with the help of a translator described his torture experience. I listened how he was tortured and he told us all how he was given the electric shock and lost his hearing capability in one ear. I was hearing torture experience all day on audio guide and hearing it in person was a frightful experience for me. I slowly retreated and ran away from the school while dropping the audio guide at designated place and walked briskly to my Tuk Tuk. I couldn't bear the actual torture descriptions anymore. Luckily, the two Australians were in Tuk Tuk and we came back to the hostel. I don't have words to describe more about the hardships the Cambodians suffered just 40 years before!

The rest of the day was spent exploring Phnon Penh on bike taxi. I visited Wat Phom, a Buddhist temple on a small hillock. Then I visited the royal palace. At 10 Dollars as entry ticket, this place can be skipped. Also I had grown a little bit tired after walking and roaming so much. The royal palace is well maintained but can be skipped.

Royal Palace:

A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-royal_palace1.jpg

A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia-royal_palace2.jpg

Straight came to hostel, took a bath and rested. Today was last night in Cambodia. Came in common room and I had nice time with hostel mates. I had dinner in one of the street corner restaurants where I again tasted the Fish Amok with rice only for 3 Dollars. Ended the day with hot chocolate from Star bucks which was the second place to accept cards in whole Cambodia.

Everything was walking distance from my hostel and I retired for night.

Day ten: 11th December

I had late morning flight to Mumbai from Phnon Penh around 1100 hours. Took Uber here around 0800 hours from the hostel. When we use Uber abroad, it doesn't accept UPI or PayTM as payment method. It accepts only credit card. A Toyota Camry arrived at my hostel. I had honest conversation with the Uber driving partner. Since Uber is trying to capture market here, I was charged 1.22 Dollars for a Total fare of 9.22 Dollars. 8 Dollars off!

I had booked Bangkok airways flight at 1100 hours. Phnon Penh airport is small and here check in counters open only two hour prior to departure. Checked in for my flight. Reached Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport in one hour. I had a transit time of three hours and then my flight of Jet Airways was at 1500 hours. I was surprised when one more security check happened near boarding gate. Reached Mumbai airport at around 1815 hours. Flight ticket cost was around 18K. The seat assigned me in jet Airways flight had sticky seat belts. I complained about it and I was give a seat with extra leg room near emergency window.

By 1845 hours I was out of airport, then a Uber to Chembur and Shivneri to Pune. Reached around 2300 hours in Pune.

Personal views and anecdotes about Cambodia.

1. Cambodia is a developing country. Like, India we have issues like garbage dumped on side of road. Personally, this was completely different experience for me compared to back packing in Europe.
2. A whole generation of educated people has got wiped out in Cambodia. You can easily experience this when you are interacting with Cambodians. The children who survived Genocide were raised in country side with no good schooling or teachers who taught them.
3. The Government of Cambodia is actively promoting tourism. People are getting trained to speak with us in English. There are official guides with ID cards and dress code in place at major attractions. No touts or hustling at tourist stops.
4. Commercialisation has started to invade in Cambodia. In next 5 years to 10 years, it will be next Thailand in case of tourist facilities. Prostitution and selling of drugs was openly solicited in night at Siem Reap. On the islands, I saw sign in the pub to care of your friends in case of drug over dose and not let wander your friends in sea. Also, in case of spas, saw girls approaching aggressively in night for services. This is experienced not by family guys but single guys like me in main market area of Siem Reap.
5. Understandable English is spoken by Tuk Tuk drivers over here basically for communication purposes.
6. People here are humble and not rude. It results good experience in Cambodia.
7. Chinese people have invested a lot in Cambodia. I saw sign and shop plates written in Mandarin at many places in Phnon Penh.
8. Textile industry is booming in Cambodia. Again Chinese money here. I remember picking a "Made in Cambodia" monkey cap from Decathalon, Hyderabad two years back.
9. Uber driver on the last day was an honest and humble guy. Uber in new in Cambodia and most of Cambodians except young generation doesn't use Uber. He complained about lack of jobs here and Chinese companies employ Chinese citizens and don't give them to Cambodians. He aimed to be a chemical engineer. The current government in Cambodia is close to Chinese government. The current government is trying to kill opposition by arresting the leaders. Elections are approaching Cambodia and current government wants to remain in power in next term. Hence, they are trying to kill the opposition.

Cambodia is a definitely a country that cannot be missed on a backpackers must visit place.

Last edited by rst89 : 9th January 2018 at 23:20.
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Old 9th January 2018, 23:26   #3
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re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

Note from Support: Thread moved to the Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 10th January 2018, 08:01   #4
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re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

Brilliant Travelogues. Not many tourist go to Cambodia from India and that too alone. It was brave of you to travel alone. I really appreciate your adventure.

Tourist even from western countries used to avoid or still avoid travelling alone to Cambodia as it was and I believe still is in some part, a safe heaven for paedophiles. US and European countries are known to scrutinize their citizens sometimes on return from Cambodia if they are travelling alone.

But all said, even I am planning to travel this year when I am in Singapore.

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Old 10th January 2018, 11:31   #5
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Re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

This Travelogue has now gone to my "favorite travelogues" list!

It speaks more than a mere causal roaming and packs interesting in-depth information about the Cambodia’s history as well as things-to-do in it.

Originally Posted by rst89 View Post
Cambodia is a definitely a country that cannot be missed on a backpackers must visit place.
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Old 10th January 2018, 11:42   #6
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Re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

Very good log this is. The best thing is the amount of information that your travelogue packs with. A must read for those who are planning to visit Cambodia.
Cambodia was on my radar, mainly for the Ankor Wat during our Thailand visit in 2014. However, due to lack of information and time both, we skipped Cambodia and stuck to touristy places of Thailand.
Thanks for this lovely and informative travelogue with great pictures. Keep travelling!

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Old 10th January 2018, 12:59   #7
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Re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

A wonderfully penned log. You have provided a lot of information about the place and also a glimpse into its history. The write-up about the Khmer Rouge days and that tree used to kill children sent a shiver down my spine.

Rating a well deserved five stars!
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Old 10th January 2018, 13:11   #8
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Re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

Thanks for this travelogue. This is the kind of laid back trip that I'd prefer to do. Have bookmarked this in case I need some destination choices for end of 2018.
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Old 10th January 2018, 14:36   #9
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Re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

Thanks. I had made a visit to Cambodia late 2017 and had resolved to write a travelogue, but never got around to it.

One thing I noticed in Cambodia is that you rarely see anyone frowning. They are either smiling or look contended. This is remarkable given the trauma and living conditions.

People generate warmth and good will.

In India if you are walking on the road and not frowning, people would wonder what is wrong with you.
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Old 10th January 2018, 16:20   #10
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Re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

Very nice and detailed travelogue, wonderful to see someone from India visiting Cambodia and capturing beautiful sites/temples there, felt as I was travelling with the travelogue.
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Old 10th January 2018, 18:14   #11
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Re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

Originally Posted by chandrda View Post
Brilliant Travelogues. Not many tourist go to Cambodia from India and that too alone. It was brave of you to travel alone. I really appreciate your adventure.
Originally Posted by Nick_Wanderlust View Post
This Travelogue has now gone to my "favorite travelogues" list!

It speaks more than a mere causal roaming and packs interesting in-depth information about the Cambodia’s history as well as things-to-do in it.
Originally Posted by saket77 View Post
Very good log this is.
Thanks for this lovely and informative travelogue with great pictures. Keep travelling!
Originally Posted by gunin View Post
A wonderfully penned log. You have provided a lot of information about the place and also a glimpse into its history. The write-up about the Khmer Rouge days and that tree used to kill children sent a shiver down my spine.

Rating a well deserved five stars!
Thanks guys for the appreciation!
It is my first travelogue on Team-BHP

Last edited by rst89 : 10th January 2018 at 18:36. Reason: Grammar
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Old 10th January 2018, 18:32   #12
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Re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

Thanks for a great write-up @rst89
This felt like a trip I never went on. Actually, about 8-9 yrs ago, one of my friends had asked me if we could go on a backpacking trip to Cambodia. I had the funds then, but somehow wasn't convinced to go.
With the description you have given and the snaps attached, I now feel I should have

Well written. And something that will sure help people looking for a solo trip like this.
It would have been really helpful if you had added links to the places you suggest should be visited.
Thanks a lot for walking us through.
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Old 10th January 2018, 20:04   #13
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Re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

Originally Posted by rst89 View Post
The earliest memory of Cambodia in watching the huge temples of Angkor Wat and Bayon on the discovery channel as a kid with my father. ......
Great travelogue, thanks a lot for it! I am visiting Cambodia for a month in February on a Business trip. This is of great help!!!!
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Old 10th January 2018, 20:23   #14
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Re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

Originally Posted by rst89 View Post
. Very few people in my office knew where I was going. Some of the office folks had to do google search to locate this country on the wo
Count me among them. I was wondering how on earth the hindu temples made it to that country. Then i realized its not Colombia.
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Old 11th January 2018, 09:38   #15
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Re: A solo backpacker's guide to Cambodia

Nice travelogue rst89. This is a must read for anyone traveling to Cambodia.
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