Finally, Cambodia!

Old Dec 23rd, 2023, 12:10 AM
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kja
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Finally, Cambodia!

I finally (Dec. 2023) made it to Cambodia and wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who helped me plan my COVID-deferred trip. For my key planning threads, see:

Please help me plan a month in Cambodia and Laos and
Cambodia in May?

My final itinerary:
· 9 nights in Siem Reap;
· 2 nights in Battambang;
· 2 nights in Phnom Penh;
· 1 night on Koh Rong;
· 2 nights in Kampot; and
· 3 nights in Phnom Penh (again).


I’d like to offer some specific words of appreciation, in alphabetical order by poster. NOTE that in some cases, there are MANY things that easily merit my acknowledgements, but I will select only ONE thing from each of you for comment.

BDKR: As I’m sure you know, tourists are only now very slowly returning to Cambodia, including Angkor Wat. While I consider myself fortunate to have been able to see it without the hordes that had become common pre-COVID, it breaks my heart to know how the collapse of the tourism industry devastated the people of Siem Reap and other parts of Cambodia. Let us hope that tourists begin to again venture into this fascinating country, and maybe even plan to see more than just Angkor Wat!

CaliforniaLady: I loved the circus in Battambang! I enjoyed the Phare in both Battambang (students) and Siem Reap (professionals) and am glad I saw both – the performances were quite different. I think I’d give the edge to the students in Battambang, who enacted a much more serious drama (“Rouge”) with skill and power.

Crellston: I don’t know how to thank you for your patient responses to my many, many, MANY questions! Rereading my threads, I am struck by just how clueless I was at the start, how many untenable moves I suggested, and how unreasonable and naďve my many inquiries. And yet you stuck with me through every step and helped me learn so much -- you ROCK!!! Rather than try to single out anything, I will simply offer my sincere thanks … and a special mention (since you asked a few times) – yes, I made it to stunning, amazing, gobsmaking Koh Ker. Wow!

HappyTrvlr: I can easily see why you would love Cambodia despite its heat and humidity. And why it tugged at your heartstrings. I know I found its impact surprisingly powerful. FWIW, I found people well informed about Pol Pot … indeed, I found them amazingly open to discussing that part of the country’s history. I was awed by the ways that so many people seem to have come to terms with their country’s history, not to mention their own and that of their friends and neighbors. I have a lot to learn from them about tolerance and forgiveness.

Kathie: Dawn Rooney’s book proved invaluable, not only for the depth and detail it provided, but also because it allowed me to travel with a driver, rather than a driver plus guide, and the money I saved let me see far more than I would otherwise have considered.

LancasterLad: I loved visiting a pepper farm near Kampot (from which I departed via Giant Ibis bus)!

lcuy: I took your warnings about various modes of transportation from Siem Reap to Battambang to heart – I hired a driver, and that worked very well for me.

Lolazahra: Like you, I remain grateful to this forum for helping me shape my trip to the region. Weren’t we fortunate?

rje: I look forward to taking advantage of your advice when I eventually travel to Laos.

Sartoric: I loved seeking out the social enterprise stores in Phnom Penh and elsewhere! Thanks for the clues you provided.

thursdaysd: I’m glad I spent some time in Phnom Penh! What a remarkable, and remarkably chaotic, city.

yestravel: While your words about the manageability of Angkor Wat and other temples during the middle of the day were heartening, I must admit that my experience was a bit different: I suffered even early in the morning or late in the day. I just don’t deal well with heat or humidity, let alone direct sunlight. But that didn’t stop me – I spent hours and hours and hours, even in the middle of the day, scrambling among magnificent Khmer ruins, and I don’t regret a single moment.

. . .

Thank you again, one and all, for helping me plan a wonderful trip!

And as a return to the Fodors community, allow me to make two recommendations:

· For transportation anywhere in Cambodia, consider taxicambodiatom.com – I found Tom Vichet and his drivers (whether car or tuktuk) to be admirable: Prompt, courteous, safe, and engaging. https://taxicambodiatom.com/

· For an English speaking driver (not a licensed guide) for Siem Reap and its outlying temples, I wholeheartedly recommend Manil. Send me a PM for contact details.

Happy travels!
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Old Dec 23rd, 2023, 02:37 AM
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You are very welcome kja. So glad you finally made it! Really looking forward to reading of your exploits.

This couldn’t have come at a better time as our nieces are currently in Luang Prabang for Christmas, a month into their Gap Year RTW trip. They are heading south via Si Phan Don to cross into Cambodia. Literally a few minutes ago I was on WhatsApp answering questions about Cambodia so it will be great to get some current input. I will PM you nearer the time for Manil’s contact info and will pass on Tom Vichets’ details now.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2023, 05:26 AM
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Great you made it! Look forward to reading about it. "I just don’t deal well with heat or humidity, let alone direct sunlight. " tough place to be, glad you made the best of it.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2023, 10:22 AM
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@ crellson: As you know, your nieces are in for a fascinating experience! I'm sure Tom Vichet will prove of great use, if they reach out to him, and I'll watch for your PM about Manil.

@ yestravel: Some of those ruins were definitely a challenge for me, but they were worth every uncomfortable moment.
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Old Dec 24th, 2023, 11:07 AM
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kja, I am taking a short break from holiday cooking and baking, and I want to let you know I am very happy to see your name again! And looking forward to your TR on Cambodia!

Happy Holidays!
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Old Dec 24th, 2023, 11:49 AM
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@ KarenWoo -- thank you for taking a break to respond! Happy Holidays to you and yours, too.
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Old Dec 24th, 2023, 03:50 PM
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kja, you're back! We all missed your spice, in a good way.

I'm so glad you enjoyed the circus in Battambang. Isn't it amazing the way those young people can twist themselves into pretzels? I really did enjoy Battambang and the surrounding areas. I wish I had spent more time in Cambodia.
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Old Dec 24th, 2023, 07:27 PM
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kja
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@ CaliforniaLady: What a lovely greeting! Thank you.

The Phare circus performers are truly awesome!

I should add that I spent most of my time in Battambang following the architecture tours that I found, thanks to you, online. (I know, I said I'd thank people for only one thing. Sue me!) I enjoyed that day very much -- such intriguing places, and so different from one another!

If you ever have a chance to return to Cambodia, CaliforniaLady, I don't think you would regret it. It is a fascinating place with incredibly welcoming and gentle people.
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Old Dec 25th, 2023, 12:41 PM
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Wow, back in the saddle! I am really looking forward to reading all about it.

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Old Dec 25th, 2023, 02:20 PM
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kja,
Thank you for nice comments to me. I am very excited to read your trip report on your travels in Cambodia!
What a nice Christmas surprise! HT
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Old Dec 25th, 2023, 07:25 PM
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I fear I've created a mistaken impression: I don't intend to post a trip report. That said, I will happily answer any specific questions I can.

@ shelemm: It took me a while to feel comfortable traveling again -- longer than many Fodorites, I think. I took slow steps toward expanding my travel comfort zone and enjoyed each of the trips I took before this much more substantial plunge into the big, wide world.

@ HappyTrvlr: I hope you had many other nice Christmas surprises, and am glad you would count my message to be one of them,

Last edited by kja; Dec 25th, 2023 at 08:07 PM.
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Old Dec 26th, 2023, 12:50 AM
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I traveled post-vaccination, pre-Delta variant, plus I double-masked everywhere. A study came out that it was 83% effective against transmission. So for a brief window, I felt super confident about traveling. I still double mask at airports and on planes because the only people I know who've caught COVID did so from traveling.

First things first: how long did it take you to get to Siem Reap, was that your first stop, and did you go straight there from the DC area? Even without a TR, I am super excited to hear about your adventure and am so glad you felt comfortable enough to do this.

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Old Dec 26th, 2023, 07:42 AM
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kja, good to see you traveling again!
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Old Dec 26th, 2023, 07:59 AM
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@ shelemm: From the DC area, one has multiple options for getting to Cambodia, but I think it's fair to say that none is ideal. I chose Dulles --> Doha --> Bangkok --> Siem Reap's new airport (an hour outside of town), for a total of about 28.5 hours of travel from airport to airport. My return was Phnom Penh --> Bangkok --> Doha --> Dulles for more than 29 hours of airport-to-airport time. NOT my favorite part of the trip!

@ progol: Thank you!
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Old Dec 26th, 2023, 09:56 AM
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Thanks so much for your quick response. I assumed it was not easy to get there staightaway, and it looks like that is the case.

Since you spent nine nights in Siem Reap, I guess you visited other temples further afield.... what sites did you visit aside from Angkor Wat?
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Old Dec 26th, 2023, 02:29 PM
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@ shelemm: You are correct -- I visited quite a few ancient temples! In addition to magnificent Angkor Wat, the Khmer sites I visited were (in alphabetical order): Angkor Thom, Bakong, Banteay Chhmar, Banteay Kdei, Banteay Samre, Banteay Srei, Beng Mealea, Chau Say Tevoda, East Mabon, Koh Ker, Lolei, Neak Pean, Phnom Bakheng, Prasat Kraven, Pre Rup, Preah Khan, Preah Ko, Preah Vihear, Sambor Prei Kuk, Spean Praptos, Srah Srang, Ta Phrom, and Ta Som. Awesome, one and all!
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Old Dec 26th, 2023, 05:01 PM
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Wow!! Quite the list. Were there any places you'd say the journey to get there was fulfilling itself.... and then the site was icing on the cake? There can be more than one right answer!
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Old Dec 26th, 2023, 06:27 PM
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Glad you liked Phnom Penh. Sounds like a wonderful trip, best wishes for the next one now you're back traveling.
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Old Dec 26th, 2023, 10:38 PM
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@ shelemm: For me, the answer is no -- none of the journeys to Khmer sites were particularly fulfilling. But that isn't to say they weren't interesting! Much of that part of Cambodia is flat and is devoted to rice or pasture; trees dot the landscape in a disconcertingly regular pattern. There are only occasional hills, generally stand-alone. Whenever approaching a town or village, road-side stands begin well in advance and end some distance away. There was a certain repetitiveness to the scenery -- as I saw it -- that bordered on tedious for the longer journeys. (Some of the Khmer sites I visited were several hours by car from Siem Reap.) But there were differences! Whether the rice was lush green or recently harvested; whether there were water buffalo or "only" cows; whether there was enough water in the fields to support egrets.... Some areas were agricultural, with fields of cassava or cashews or peanuts. And I know there were differences that I didn't see -- I know, because my driver pointed things out. For example, many of the foods sold at all the road-side stands were regional ... people here sell dried fish; here, a type of roll; etc. I enjoyed listening him talk about regional differences and about what HE saw. And that, perhaps, was the best part of all of those journeys --- conversations with my driver.

The exception was the last part of the journey to Preah Vihear, which is a cliff-top temple at the edge of mountains the form the border between Cambodia and Thailand, not far from the border with Laos. We drove on a very long, gently rising road to the ticket booth, where we transferred to a small truck-like vehicle. That vehicle made the steep, twisting climb to the temple entrance, bouncing around and making me think that Disney would call it a ride ... except Disney would provide greater comfort.

The views from Preah Vihear were stunning, and if that final ride to (and from) had moments of excitement, the journey itself did not strike me as fulfilling.

Along a similar vein, I spent an inordinate amount of time getting to Koh Rong -- bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, long wait at the ferry dock, reasonably short high-speed ferry. Again, there were moments that were not uninteresting, but the trip was not fulfilling. Spending a night on a gorgeous island and snorkeling made that journey worthwhile.

Thanks for a question that made me stop and think!

@ thursdaysd: Thanks! It was a fascinating trip.
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