When the year started, I knew what my resolution would be, and one that I would (finally) live up to – travel more often!
It started on a great note, with a week in the misty mountains of Uttarakhand in Northern India, followed by a trip to the grand city of Dubai, and a few small weekend getaways packed in between.
Although by the mid of 2018 I had many travel stories to share and amazing memories to ponder over, my heart wasn’t fulfilled. I knew I was in need of another major vacation. So, the search began for my next destination. After a few weeks of research, I knew where I wanted to head to – Cambodia!
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I packed my bags like a true blue backpacker (just bare essentials!), got my documents ready and was all ready to see a new, beautiful country. Because the documents and my passport are the most important part of my journey, I consciously invested in a premium passport holder from Urby. Their pure leather luxury passport holders come in a variety of design, and I chose a slide-in style slim travel wallet in French Red. Its customisable so I got my name printed on the same to make it feel more personal. The colour is bright, making it very easy for me to spot it in my handbag (which usually has a lot of things), and the quality is the finest. While there are a lot more designs to choose from, I wanted something that would hold my cards and passport and easily fit into any of my bags or pant pockets.
A land of majestic temples and pristine beaches, I had my heart set on Cambodia from the moment I saw the pictures on the internet. I had 9 days in hand and wanted it to be a slow-paced vacation where I get to experience each destination at my own pace – so I did something no one expected me to.
I decided to give Siem Reap a miss!
For those who don’t know what Siem Reap is famous for, it houses one of the world’s largest religious monuments, Angkor Wat. Honestly, I don’t have any regrets for giving it a miss, because I did come back from Cambodia with a lot of amazing memories. Plus, this also gives me a reason to go back again!
Six Experiences to Visit Cambodia for:
A history lesson everyone needs to take: Cambodia has a brutal past, one that is not known by many, but needs to be. The way the country has jumped back to life after all the brutality is remarkable. The Khmer Rouge, which was in power from 1975-1979, claimed the lives of more than 2 million people, including children and women. At the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, famously known as S21 Prison, you get to learn about how this high-school was turned into a prison, the history of the people who died, the rulers who were responsible for the atrocities and how it finally came to an end. If you’re visiting Cambodia, it is important to learn about their history. It did increase my love and respect for the country and the locals even more!
A (local) friend to the rescue: With all of the positives, South East Asia also has its share of cons. One of them being tuk-tuk drivers trying to rip off tourists. After a few drinks by the Riverside at Phnom Penh, I had to head back to my Airbnb late at night. Since I had read up before hand, I knew what the charges should be and hence knew it right away that a few guys were trying to overcharge me. Then came along a guy named Chea, who asked me where I want to go and didn’t charge me a penny extra. He even took me to a local eatery late at night as I was hungry! The next day, he gave me a tour of the entire city and was there all along, helping me find the best cheap eats and keep my budget on a check!
Ruins in the mountains: Next stop of my tour was Kampot, a sleepy little town known for its pepper plantations, salt fields and (happy) pizza places! Although my stay at Kampot was only for a night and meant to be a night halt to cut down the travel time to Koh Rong, few people I met at the hostel convinced me to extend another day. Thankfully, I did! The extra day gave me the opportunity to take a bike ride to the Bokor National Park. Once out of the city, you get greeted to lush green mountains and a cool breeze all the way up to the mountains. On reaching the mountain top, you are greeted by some magnificent ruins – truly a sight to behold. A small climb after the church leads you to a breath-taking viewpoint that gives you a clear view of the entire surrounding!
Magical sunsets: The best part of my trip was undoubtedly the islands, Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. Upon arriving at the main pier, I had to take a 20-minute walk to reach my hotel. Although humid, the walk turned into a rather enjoyable one thanks to the pristine beach and a few friends I made on the way. The first night ended up being a crazy one, thanks to the pub crawl and beach party till the wee hours! Obviously then, I couldn’t make it on time for the sunrise the next morning. After a relaxing day by the beach, we decided to head for a walk to the next pier from 4K Beach. As we kept walking, the sky started changing colours. What came next was pure art! Never had I witnessed a sunset so dramatic.
Party with the world: I can say I met the world at Mad Monkey Koh Rong Samloem. A hostel with the ambiance of a resort, Mad Monkey even has a private beach and pier bar! This stay was the one I was most excited about throughout the entirety of my trip. You arrive here on their private boat once you’re dropped off at Saracen Bay. Although the place itself is beautiful, the people I met here were even better! After my first hello with a few of them at around 7 in the evening, we ended partying like the best of friends by 1 in the morning! People from different parts of the world with different perspectives in life – learning about those different things makes the journey even better.
Swimming with the planktons: Saving the best for the last! This was the first time I had witnessed anything as such. After the crazy parties at Mad Monkey Koh Rong Samloem, we used to head out to the beach for an after-party of sorts. Around 3 AM in the night, in complete darkness, we went for a swim and saw the entire beach light up because of the bioluminescent planktons! For a moment, I just sat there, not knowing what to do. I had only seen planktons on the internet and was something I was always intrigued to experience in real life.
Cambodia ticked off all the right boxes. It was just the kind of vacation I was looking forward to and it helped me really discover myself. I have left a piece of my heart back in the Kingdom of Cambodia, and I am pretty sure I’ll be back there soon enough for the rest!