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Trip Report Laos and Cambodia Trip Report

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Ok, this is my first trip report, so give me a little slack. It will not have that Dogster flair but hopefully someone will find it interesting. I tried to answer some of the questions that get asked alot about money and such, so maybe you will find this helpful.

First a little about me, I am a 52 yo single RN. I travel alone, but that is my choice. This was my 2nd time to Asia, having previously spent 2 weeks in Thailand last January. I do travel on a budget, so I find that $70-$80 a night rooms suit me just fine, and since I do not travel for a living I have no airline mileage upgrades or hotel points to use.
The trip was 20 days, including travel time. Having flown United to Bangkok last January, I decided to go with Cathay Pacific to gain the AA miles. I was very happy with Cathay from the service to the new seats, and will use them again. One other thing I liked was arriving in Bangkok at noon, it allowed me to get a room close to the airport and sleep off the trip since I cannot sleep on the plane. I awoke the next morning ready for my 9:30 Bangkok Air flight to Luang Prabang. I have to add that Bangkok Air is terrific. Had 3 flights with them this trip and each was on-time, the staff was excellent and the snacks on the plane were a surprise.

The Itinerary:
Bangkok Overnight
Luang Prabang - 4 days
Siem Reap - 6 days
Phnom Penh - 3 days
Bangkok - 2 days

Luang Prabang - I stayed at the Lotus Villa Hotel, which sets in a quiet residential area about 2 blocks off the main street. I loved this place, the breakfast was excellent, the staff was friendly and helpful and the room was great, and the monks came by each morning right outside my room. Even better, its just down the street from the L'Elephant and Tamarind Restaurants. And yes, the Lemongrass Chicken is all that and more. There are no shortage of great places to eat there, all you have to do is wander around. You MUST try the fried seaweed and Beer Lao!
The night market is a must and fun place to shop. Great bargains on the most beautiful silks and such. Took the boat trip down the Mekong to the Pac Ou Caves with the stop at the Whiskey Village. My fav trip though was to the Kuang Si Waterfall Park, this place is beautiful and the water was nice. Got out of town to visit some of the nearby villages to see the paper making, and silk weaving, all worth the time and trip. There is plenty to do there and the days went by quick. Sometimes the best times were just wandering around, exploring, talking to the monks, and watching daily life. I wandered by a group of men playing this game (not sure what you call it, but they toss or roll this heavy ball to the other end of this marked off area and try to get as close as possible to this small ball, someone help me with this!) and they invited me to come and play. I figured things out and played with them for about 4 hours. They shared their Lao Lao with me, but after one sip, thats all I could handle. It was something I will never forget.
I see where people ask all the time about how much time to spend in Luang Prabang, well, if you can spare the 4-5 days, you will not regret one minute of it. Also, as far as the money goes, I did find that US$ was accepted at most places, but it was worth it to carry plenty of KIP, and there are no shortage of places to exchange your cash. Having dealt with Tuk Tuks in Bangkok, I was so pleasantly surprised how easy and hassle free using the Tuk Tuks were. They actually take you where you ask and nothing seems to be closed, so they have to take you to the jewelry store - haha!

Siem Reap - I stayed at the Golden Banana Boutique Hotel, and it was nice. The staff was very helpful and the pool was really refreshing after a day at the temples. Even for late January, early February, the temp was at or above 90 every day. I chose to stay close to the Old Market area and glad I did. Plenty of restaurants and bars and wandering after dark is a blast. Big mix of tourist, locals and backpackers make this a great people watching area. The big hotels on the road from the airport seemed to be loaded with all the Chineese on holiday, and let me tell you, there were bus load after bus load.
I chose to hire a guide and driver for my 3 days at the temples. GOOD DECISION!! Tek was my guide and he was great. Having someone fill you in on the history and meaning of the temples and answer qeustions was worth every penny. They also made sure I avoided the big crowds as much as possible. I found that 3 days was about right, and easily could have made it 4 had I wanted. I would highly recommend that if you want to see it right and catch some of the outlying temples, that you allow at least 3 days for touring. Angkor is just amazing and something I will never forget.
I also took the trip to Tonle Sap Lake to see the floating villages and such. It was really interesting and worth the time.
Now in Cambodia, the US$ is king and you will never need to exchange cash. Its true though that before you leave, try to round up as many good bills as possible, as they do not like torn, ragged or old looking bills. I went to my bank a week before I left and they were kind enough to get me $100 in $1 bills and $300 in $5 bills, all in good condition. It really helps to have plenty of ones and fives, since changing a $20 with a tuk tuk driver is impossible, as well as when you go shopping. There are plenty of ATM's around that pay out in US$, but not all in small change. Took a $50 to a bank to get change and they did that for me too. So, its fairly easy to keep plenty of small bills with you.

Phnom Penh - Spent a couple of days here and that was about right. Visited the usual tourist spots, the Royal Palace, The River Front, the National Museum,The S-21 Prison and "Killing Fields". Stayed near the Independence Monument and found that there are plenty of restaurants, and its a good walking area. I am glad I decided to go, since I was a bit hesitant about traveling here. It was nothing like what I expected, and woud love to go back. Plenty of great places to eat and easy to get around. I found that visiting the National Museum after going to Angkor was a bonus, since my guide told me things that were taken from Angkor to the museum, and as I toured I would see the statues and such he was talking about, it sort of completed things. The thing that fascinated me most was watching the traffice, they way it weaves through each other at intersections. You think you will die crossing these, but somehow you close your eyes and you make it across.

One other thing I want to address is safety. I read all the time people are worried about traveling to Laos and Cambodia, but I can assure you that at no point in my trip did I ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I never saw not one policeman or police vehicle the whole time I was in Laos, and yet wandering the street after dark, it was not a problem. I felt safer there than in most places in the US. Same for Phnom Penh, it was not ever an issue. Now, dont get me wrong, I am diligent about where I go and would not wander down a dark alley at 2 am, but walking the tourist areas late at night, it was never an issue.

I know this was not a detailed minute by minute trip report, but I hope I have answered some commonly asked questions. If you want to know anyting else you can email me at [email protected] and I will try to help you out.

Thanks :)

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