34.CHRISTMAS IN CAMBODIA & THE HOTEL BUILDING SITE!...
After a 6 hour bus journey from HCMC Vietnam, L and I arrived a little dishevelled in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It was Christmas Eve and we were looking forward to spending the next couple of days relaxing by the pool after having had a 'full on' 3 weeks in Vietnam. Our Christmas accommodation was one of only 3 places I'd booked whilst we were still in the UK. The other two being our accommodation over New Years and accommodation for the very first 2 nights of our trip, in Thailand. A short tuk tuk ride to the hotel soon revealed however that our home for Christmas was in fact... part building site! The chap from reception walked us through the building site to our room, which was typically the room right next to the extension that was being grafted on to the existing building. The sound and smell of plastering, concreting and tile cutting, wasn't exactly the intended memories for Christmas 2017 we were looking for! Without the need for an exchange of words, L and I were both very much on the same wave length. After explaining to the guy on reception that we were not happy and with no other rooms available, most likely because they were still being built, we performed a lighting quick search on booking.com to find an alternative place.
Our new Christmas digs were an extra $2 per night and we took the last room available. This place turned out to be far better than our building site accommodation in a number of ways. Firstly there was a pool table, ping pong, a swimming pool and lots of cosy communal spaces with seating and bookcases full of books to read, not that we managed to find the time during our stay. Secondly we managed to score an invite to a Christmas Eve party in the pent house which was rented to a couple of ex pats. Needless to say L did not need much encouragement in order to go and peruse the buffet.
After Christmas and a further few days we embarked on a six hour bus journey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. It was on this bus journey that both L and I came to realise that busses were really not our thing. Getting from A to B then C to D by our own means whether it be peddle power, motorbikes or camper van was defiantly much more our scene. Unfortunately for us we still had to take another 4 long distance busses whilst in Cambodia...
The Angkor temples were top of the agenda for stuff to do in S.R and like a million other people it has been on my bucket list for many years. A certain amount of bartering with a tuk tuk driver the night before secured an early morning pick up for seeing the sun rise at Angkor Wat, somewhat of a must do experience. Our 4.30am pick up in conjunction with buying our day pass the night before, enabled us to secure a decent foothold at a corner of one of the lakes in front of Angkor Wat temple, though we were by no means the first there! Accompanied by what seamed to be the seating capacity of Wembley, we watched the sun rise majestically, resulting in a wonderful reflection of Angkor Wat in the body of water we were stood against. For the next 10 hours we were in our very own Indiana Jones / Tomb Raider labyrinth as we explored the biggest of the temples that make up the huge 208 hectare site.
NYE was off to a shaky start with what turned out to be just a mediocre meal at an overpriced Indian restaurant in P.P. Fortunately L's feeling of food disappointment was soon forgotten about as we set about making up for it through our consumption of cocktails. Cocktails are very much a 'new discovery' for ale loving L and I'm fairly confident in saying that the last thing he ever envisaged would be himself ordering rounds of cocktails at a bar. Our night finished with fireworks at midnight and a prolonged stumble back.
We found more to do around Siem Reap than just explore the Angkor temples. We rented a bike for the day and headed out to explore the ruins of Beng Mealea, a temple complex further a field and completely taken over by jungle. We also went to see the Phare circus, a sort of Circ Du Soleil with death defying acrobatics...Cambodian style (without the inconvenience of western health and safety). Our time in S.R wouldn't have been complete without an hour spent doing an Angkor Wat themed escape game. 2017 was the year of escape game discovery for L and myself and we've since done a few different themed ones back in the UK. If like us, you were a big crystal maze fan back in the day, and you get the chance to do an escape game... you'll love it!
Our next Cambodian destination was Kampot. This meant the return 6 hour bus journey to P.P followed by bussing ourselves a further 4 hours (advertised as 2.5) south. The idea being to soak up the sun on the beaches and finish on an island high.