The countries of Cambodia & Vietnam are fast becoming sought after destinations. The combined pull of awe-inspiring monuments, intriguing culture, delectable food, marvellous shopping, a fascinating bloody history and great value for money contribute to a memorable visit.
Located next to each other with Vietnam spooning Cambodia’s eastern border, means easy accessibility for visiting both countries at the same time and a number of Tours will combine both destinations. You can see the main highlights in 10 – 14 days without feeling too rushed. Airfares are reasonably cheap and can save precious holiday time travelling between cities. I travelled on a mixture of boat, Junk and aircraft and Ferry which were all reliable and of a reasonable standard.
My journey began in Siem Reap, famous as the home of the incredible Angkor Wat. With a diverse range of accommodation of all standards, this was a great city to spend 3 – 4 days taking day excursions to the nearby Temples of Angkor.
Watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat is a breath-taking and spiritual experience. You will need at least half a day here. Make sure you have a great guide to bring the history and legends of the Temple to life and it’s worth getting up before the sun, you get the best photos, crowds are slightly less and it is not too hot.
While Angkor Wat is the jewel in the crown, don’t dismiss the nearby temples of Ta Prohm (made famous in the Tomb Raider movie). Crumbling structures are enveloped by the surrounding jungle, you will need to watch your step in this fascinating almost out of this world site. If you are not templed out the intricately carved Banteay Srei sandstone structures are well preserved and regarded as the most skilful in Cambodia and East Mebun temple, a less known sunset site.
You should take half a day to cruise the waters of Lake Tonle Sap and mingle with the occupants of this fascinating floating village with floating houses, floating schools and a floating hospital giving an amazing insight into the daily lives of the villagers.
I flew to the Capital Phnom Penh, a fading beauty with a French colonial past reinventing itself. The waterfront area sports hotels, restaurants and cafes and the variety of delicious food is magnificent.
It is heart-breaking to see the impressive Silver Pagoda, dripping with silver and diamonds in a poverty stricken country where children are begging and life is so tough. I visited on a Sunday along with most Cambodians who were in awe of this incredible national jewel.
It is difficult to understand how this gentle people, who have been so viciously persecuted, can be so happy and seemingly carefree. The chilling Tuol Sieng Museum of Genocidal Crimes and the Killing Fields are frightening reminders of the horrific Pol Pot era and defy belief.
Having travelled through Cambodia, I boarded a speedboat in Phnom Penh and journeyed along the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers for the Vietnamese Port of Chau Doc
I was enchanted by Cambodia and the ability to reinvent itself after being practically annihilated; the delicious food and meeting the genial welcoming people was a humbling experience. My tips for Cambodia; make sure you drink lots of bottled water as you dehydrate easily, do not wander off main roads and pathways (there are still a number of unexploded landmines), barter for bargains in narrow alleyways of the crowded, steamy Russian Market, beware the pot holes in the roads – there are some real bone shakers and I am still looking for the public toilets.