In January, 2013, I ventured for 18 days to Cambodia with many adventures planned. I was very nervous about going to a developing country, but wanted to experience something different outside my life in Australia.
I am currently a teacher in Melbourne, so I signed up with the International Volunteer Headquarters to be placed to teach English for two weeks. There are many placements available all over Cambodia including Orphanage Work, Human Rights Work and English Teaching. My friend and I were placed at The New Hope Orphanage in Pursat, which was located 3.5 hours outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital city. This placement would allow us to experience many parts of Cambodia we normally wouldn't.
Some other must see experiences in Phnom Penh included: The Royal Palace, The National Museum and a river cruise along the riverside. The Oressey Market and Russian Market are popular for tourists to buy DVD's, cheap clothing and souvenirs. You can bargain down most items. Cambodians are eager for your business and you can get in their good books if you are polite and speak a touch of Khmer.Arriving in Phnom Penh four days earlier allowed us to experience many of the “tourist sites” including The Killing Fields and S-21 Genocide Museum. These two places are full of Cambodian history that the Cambodian people are eager to share with you. The Killing Fields provided the opportunity to listen to history about the Khmer Rouge regime on an audio device at your own pace. With well detailed signs to read along the way, the audio provided rich, engaging stories from survivors of the Khmer Rouge, as well as detailed recounts about the events during this time. S-21, formerly a school that was turned into a prison, linked with The Killing Fields and provided a similar experience. I highly recommend a guided tour for this one. We also met two survivors who had books to purchase detailing their stories.
There are many restaurants located along the Riverside to wine and dine and most main meals were under $10. A highly recommended western restaurant to try was the Foreign Correspondence Club or FCC. Slightly more expensive, but popular with tourists. Another favourite was the Mekong River Resturant to purchase $2 cocktails.
After exploring Phnom Penh, we embarked on our journey to Pursat. We stayed with a host family, and travelled daily by bike or moto to our placement. I couldn't recommend this experience more. We taught children aged between 5-15 years old. The children were well mannered and excited to earn English. With several donations from Australia, we were able to paint a classroom and playground as well as repair items they required for daily use. It was sad to leave the orphanage at the end of the two weeks, but we knew we had improved their learning environment. Pursat was easily accessible from Phnom Penh by bus. Accommodation is readily available, and all the amenities are available for use including wifi. It is less touristy the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap but good to see a local Cambodian place.
We spent one of our weekends in Siem Reap. You can visit the Angkor Wat temples here. This part of Cambodia is the number one tourist destination. I highly recommend a guided tour of the temples to truly appreciate this amazing place and the history and stories it holds. We booked our tour earlier, but you can book on the day and tour guides are readily available.
A visit to Pub Street is a must, especially to the Angkor 'What?' Night Club. This is a very popular part of Siem Reap. Lots of restaurants, a great nightlife and very affordable!
The last place I would recommend to visit is the town to Battembang, located half way between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Our first stop was the Bamboo Train. A norry or nori (from the French word for lorry) is an improvised rail vehicle from Cambodia. The trains run at speeds of up to 50 km/h on the 1m gauge tracks around Battambang. The bamboo train is a popular tourist attraction in Battambang. Norries have low fares, are frequent and relatively fast, so are popular despite their rudimentary design, lack of brakes, the state of the rails (often broken or warped) and lack of any formal operating regime. Simple construction and light weight mean that the norry may be simply removed from the track – if two meet on the line, the one with the lighter load is unloaded, lifted and carried round the other, and at the end of the line the vehicle is lifted and turned.
This was a great experience! I thought it was hilarious that every time we met another train on the single line, we would get out, dismantle our train so another could go though and put it back together again! The train was loud and often bumpy, but a must see if you are in Cambodia! We loved it!
The easiest way to get around is by bus. On most occasions they were reliable, although they took a long time to go from one place to another. Most tickets costs between $4-$7. In towns, take Tuk Tuks or Motos. They usually wait for you and cost between $3-$6.
If you would like more information on my Cambodian Travel Adventures, please take a look at my blog at www.cambodiantraveladventures.com
[Photo credits: Featured image by paalia via Flickr]