The best way for me to describe Cambodia is comparing it to 3 scoops of ice cream.
Weird analogy, but just go with it.
You pick your first scoop and it’s something crazy like Phish Food, every bite is something different, you get your swirl of marshmallow in there, then the next bite you get some gooey caramel and then another bite you get a delicious fudge fish. That’s Cambodia’s bustling city life.
Then you get your 2nd scoop of ice cream and it’s your original and classic scoop of vanilla, utterly satisfying and a flavor that you’ll never say no to, that’s Angkor Wat.
Finally, you pick out your 3rd scoop and it’s honey lavender, sweet & refreshing mixed with unique flavoring wrapped into a ball of pure bliss, that’s Koh Rong Sanloem, an island in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand.
Now as your finishing up your 3 scoops of delectable happiness in a cup or cone, whatever you heart desires, and someone asks you what your favorite scoop was, it’s so difficult to decide because they were all THAT good. Well, that’s exactly how Cambodia was for us. Each place we went, was THAT good and offered something completely different from the other and made us fall in love with this interesting country.
We’ll start with Siem Reap and our time at Angkor Wat. Or our classic vanilla scoop, if you will.
We chose this destination solely because of the famous temples at Angkor Wat but little did we know how much we’d LOVE the downtown of Siem Reap. Andy and I had our two good friends visiting us all the way from New York. I know, great friends right?! When we arrived downtown our eyes lit up. Down near Pub Street the roads were lined with lights criss crossing from restaurant to restaurant with loud music booming and merchants calling you to come take a look at their things.
It was like we were transported back to a much smaller version of Times Square with all the craziness zipping past us. For the 4 nights we were in Siem Reap we went back every night to try new bars and restaurants.
We went to the famous Red Piano bar where Angelina Jolie dubbed her favorite cocktail which consisted of lime juice, Cointreau and soda water, now called the Tomb Raider. For every person that orders the 10th Tomb Raider that the restaurant sells, they ring bells and you get it for free. Well, come to find out, Andy and Ryan were UN-lucky number 8 and 9 so we didn’t get the free cocktail, Jackie and I got a kick out of it. Andy was devastated and gave the waitress some friendly banter so they surprised him when they ordered a second round and rang the bells. Andy was SO excited but it turns out, he in fact was NOT the lucky 10th winner, they just wanted to give him the attention by ringing the bells and have everyone clap for him.
We got amazing $4 foot massages for an hour on Pub Street, saw some vendors selling chocolate covered tarantulas & scorpions, tried some rolled ice cream and got our feet sucked on my some hungry fish in a tank. Another favorite bar of ours was Angkor What? pretty clever name for a dark-lit dive bar blasting hits from the USA. It’s a must.
One of the days while we were in Siem Reap we went with our guide, Adam (THE man), and went to Wat Thmey Killing Fields and to a local floating village in Kampong Khleang. Visiting the local village was so eye opening to say the least.
Another perfect example of how the locals have very little in terms of clothing & shelter but they are so happy and content.
We docked at a boat in the village that had a few locals playing pool and we hopped off and shot a round. Interacting with the locals and observing was one of the highlights in our time in Cambodia.
Angkor Wat at sunrise has long been on my bucket list and you better believe I was absolutely determined to get the best spot in the house.
We went to bed SUPER early the night before to get up at 4:30AM to make this sunrise an unforgettable one. We scored the best spot in front of the lake where Angkor Wat’s main temple is. Slowly but surely the crowds start pouring in as the clock starts ticking closer to the 6:30AM sunrise. We defended our area and didn’t let the aggressive, selfie stick carrying, tourists from all over the world push us over. Let me tell you our patience sure was tested at 5AM, with no coffee, and the hoards of people trying to sneak their way into the spot you so meticulously picked out and woke up at 4:30AM for. There was no backing down. But the view was stunning and worth the wake up call.
We decided to do the small temple circuit which consisted of 3 temples, Angkor Wat, Ankgor Thom & Ta Phrom which was the perfect amount of time for us. At this point, Andy and I had been to what felt like hundreds of temples so were a bit “templed out” but Angkor Wat was like none other.
To think that these temples were built thousands of years ago by people with their bare hands is incredible. I wonder if they realized at that time that it would be dubbed the largest religious monument in the world and have millions of people every year flock to Cambodia to see the iconic structures.
We got blessed by a monk at the main temple at Angkor Wat which felt incredibly magical. He carefully wrapped a red bracelet around our wrists while chanting a prayer and splashing water on us, which all translated to praying for us to have a happy life.
“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” – Buddha
Andy and I left our friends in Siem Reap and ventured down to Sihanoukville where we stayed for a night at Otres Beach before we headed out to the island of Koh Rong Sanloem. We had some great food at a restaurant run by an Australian couple. BBQ chicken on the grill with a baked potato for a whopping $1.50. Can’t beat that!! It was delicious!
The next morning we woke up early for our ferry to Koh Rong Sanloem and I don’t think either one of us even knew what to expect when arriving at the dock. But whatever we were expecting, it couldn’t beat what this place actually was.
White sandy beaches, the clearest water and very few people inhabited this isle where dreams come true. We stayed at one of the only hotels that has air conditioning and a pool and for $50/night we were living in luxury. One of the best parts of Koh Rong Sanloem is that there are no day trip boats, you must stay the night. Electricity often shuts off sporadically but that’s okay because you’re so in awe of your surroundings that it doesn’t matter.
This island exudes serenity in every way possible. We had so many “oh shit, this is our life” moments and talks about how lucky we are to be experiencing this together. The sunsets were absolutely stunning with the sharp orange bursts and pink undertones, I felt like we were living in a screensaver.
This was the first place on all of our travels the last 5 months that we were very sad to leave. We wished we didn’t have the next couple of weeks booked because we definitely would have derailed and stayed a bit longer.
On to Phnom Penh. After docking at the ferry port in Sihanoukville after such a relaxing time on Koh Rong Sanloem, soon thereafter we were faced with the scariest car ride we both have ever had. Now we have experienced some pretty crazy driving in Asia but this was like none other. It was raining hard, the roads were slippery and our driver was gunning it.
Our drive was 4 hours and it was like he had a mission to get there in 2. We zoomed past every single car and 4 wheel truck that was in front of us. Tractor trailers would be coming straight towards us and he’d swerve back in to our lane. It got to the point where we had to yell to slow down and thankfully he listened. It wasn’t long after that we saw an accident with a car smashed in the front of a tractor trailer and that definitely spooked him.
We made it to Phnom Penh in one piece!!!
We only had one day here and we decided to spend it relaxing on a rooftop pool overlooking the city. The views were insane and after 4 weeks of exploring the hectic cities in Asia we thought this would be the best day for us.
So now that we’re done with the 3 scoops of ice cream what’d you think? It was THAT good wasn’t it? You feel like you want to add Cambodia to your bucket list? Well, we hope so!! It was the best combination of hustle and bustle, tranquility and adventure all in one.