Cambodia is one of our favourite countries. There’s so much we love - friendly welcoming people whose reliance and determination in the face of past and current political challenges is astounding, the stunningly beautiful and detailed temples of Angkor, southern beaches, rolling eastern plains, waterfalls and bushland - and the food is delicious.
Our experiences in Cambodia have been the kinds that makes our heart happy, where we take our time, enjoy the ride and soak up all the goodness. Emmie was six when we first visited and she loved it. I felt entirely safe with her, and we would go back in a heartbeat.
As usual we winged it while we were there the first time, spending about eight weeks traveling around. We returned twice, once for my birthday and a stay at the incredible Anantara Siem Reap and another for a visit to the Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri and an overland border crossing on motorbikes. Fun times.
Here’s how we got around:
We love the Cambodian tuk tuks, they are like little chariots and always so ornate and colourful. $2 - $3 USD should get you anywhere around town. I think this is expensive, especially after coming from Vietnam where a taxi is the same or less but the US dollar tends to push prices higher I think. The drivers are generally lovely, and will wait for you if you’re ducking into Browns to grab a coffee or are making a quick stop.
Busses and minivans
We used a few different kinds of buses and all were fine. I love local buses cause they're a snapshot into local life. On our way out of Battambang we sat next to a lady eating oily fried cockroaches from a plastic bag, and our bus out of Mondulkiri to the border was piled high with bags of produce and live ducks under the seats.
For easy bookings you can go online to Giant Ibis. Giant Ibis has a network of buses and mini-buses traveling all over Cambodia. They’re comfy and have seatbelts, free wifi, plus you get a croissant and bottle of water! Costs differ for the distance but between Battambang and Phnom Penh we paid $11US.
This was an amazing adventure, taking a small boat from just outside of Siem Reap through narrow tree and grass lined channels through the Tonle Sap river to Battambang. You can sit inside or on the roof and watch as you pass by the beautiful lakes, stilt villages, buffalos, fishermen and rural life in Cambodia Some paths are very narrow so mind the whipping branches! we organised tickets through our guesthouse for $20 each. You can only do this trip around the rainy season when the river is high - we went in November.
We spent a lot of time on the roof. I fell in love with the scenery and Emmie loved feeling like an explorer as the boat cut its way through the river grass. It’s very hot though so wear your sunscreen and hats.
When the bus timetable didn’t meet up with our boat from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Island we took a private car. It was a new car and the driver was careful and courteous. We stopped for a coffee on the way out (at Browns, I love that place) and another toilet stop and basically just chilled. It cost us $60 AUD for the trip, arranged by the hotel so there’s prob extra fat built into that and would be cheaper if you found a driver directly.
Please do not ride elephants
Please DO NOT ride elephants. It's cruel and painful and elephants live a life of pain and loneliness. If you're planning to do this please read more here and read Sambo's story here and I'm sure you'll change your mind.
I think one of the keys to Cambodia - as with all south East Asia travel - is to be flexible and slow and just take your time enjoying this beautiful country.
Have a great time and let me know how you go xoxo