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Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary


"Book a Ticket and just Leave"


I'm a big fan of surfing the Internet and reading blogs of people who traveled from one place to another makes me envious. I told myself that I have to start traveling now that I'm still young and with only a few responsibilities. The moment tiger airways sent me an email regarding their promo fares , that trigger the explorer inside of me to press the booking button. Now that explains why I chose "Book a Ticket and just Leave" for my heading. It would have been nice if I was able booked a direct flight to Siem Riep to see the ruins of Angkot Wat, which was my target location however flight ticket to Phnom Penh were 70 percent cheaper. It only means I have to see the ruins in a harder way, yes to adventures.

I've always been preoccupied about traveling and the thought of some that it's an escape from reality. As I grew more wisdom within me I see more things and experience more fun in all my travels. I realized something it was never been my outlet for escape but it was my need or craving. My itchy toes didn't make it to the list either. My desire to explore, to go beyond my borders and to feed my wandering soul was or became the ultimate reason. I'm glad that thought strikes me early in my younger years because I don't need to explain to close minded people. As long as you know what you want you wont care a damn about what other people say. 



3 days Backpacking in Cambodia ( Phnom Penh-Siem Reap )
Short Trip Budget: 300 SGD = 900,000 riel 


FIRST DAY - Saturday
Check in : Lazy Gecko Cafe & Guesthouse
2 days Room - 20 USD
Airport to Gecko (by tuk tuk/taxi): 5 USD - 15 USD
Travel time: 30 minutes
Lunch/Snack Meal -5 USD - 10 USD

PLANNED TOUR:
Phnom Penn tourist spots: Among my list we only get to do number's 1, 4 and 5

1. Central Market (Phar Thmei) - 5 minutes away from our Guesthouse 
Opening hours: 6:30AM-5:30PM
Location: Meeting point of Kampuchea and Street 63
Southwest door to bus , Northwest to taxi (I don't know people use this as a reference for direction)

Additional information: Inside Central Market there's two kinds of bus station.

Buses along the street near the riverside is for bus operators like Giant Ibis.
Buses at the corner of the south side of the Market is for: GST Express, Mekong Express, Phnom Penh Sorya and Capital tours.

2. Boat ride: Tonle Sap and Mekong River
From Central Market: Take boat cruise to Sisowath Quay Or hire tuk tuk to Japanese bridge and take a ferry , Fare: 20 USD, plus 1 USD dock entry fee and Travel time: 2.5 

3. Tuk Tuk tour: Visit Choueng ek killing fields/Tuol sleng and Russian market -15 USD - 30 USD

4. Dinner at Russian market
Check out: Yej Café , located outside of the Russian Markets towards the back. Staff/cafe is done up in purple and yellow.

5. Night Market - Tour/Shop/Buy Souvenirs/Foodtrip
Location: Street 106 and 108
Reminders: Secure your bags

Head out 10pm to catch night bus

Lazy Gecko is about 5 minutes by tuk tuk from the Giant Ibis bus station
Sleeper night bus at 11 pm night bus - Make sure to book online ahead of time for your ticket 
Price: 15 USD - 25 USD
Travel time: 6-7 hours


SECOND DAY - Sunday
6AM - Arrival at Siem Reap 
From bus station, take a tuk tuk ride to Angkor Wat Ruins
Opening hours: sunrise sunset before 5am/5pm 

Stopover Breakfast 10 USD - 20 USD
Whole Day Angkor Wat Tour
Entrance Fee: 20 USD - 40 USD
Reminders: cover your legs, wear an aladdin pants/maxi dress
Rent bicycle 15 USD - 30 USD

5PM Angkor Wat Sunset
6PM Nightlife & Dinner @ PUB Street

Angkor Wat to PUB Street:
Check out Angkor What Bar (backpackers bar)
Best ice cream at Blue pumpkin
Red Piano Resto -try Tomb Raiderdrink (cointreau, lime and tonic)

1030PM Night Bus: Giant Ibis

Location:  #252 near Old Market(Phsar Chas)
PUB Street to Bus Station : less than 20 minutess


THIRD DAY - January 6, Monday, My Birthday!
Time frame: 9 - 5pm
6AM - Arrival Lazy Gecko Guesthouse 

930AM Pick up for Bear Keeper a day at Phnom tamao wildlife rescue center
Address : National road 2, Trapang sap commune, Bati district, Takeo province
Travel time: 45 mins from the city
Fee: 65 USD - 100 USD (feed,cuddle,lunch)

5PM Flight Departure


Must Try Foods: 2 USD - $20
Bai sach chrouk -pork and rice
Fish amok - fish mousse
Khmer red curry 
Lap khmer - lime-marinated khmer beef salad 
Nom banh chok- khmer noodles ( vendors carry in baskets) breakfast food
Kdam Chaa : fried crab
Stir fried red tree ants with beef and holy basil
Ang dtray-meuk : grilled squid
Cha houy teuk-jelly dessert -street
Fried fish on the fire lake-resto

Khmer words:
Thank you - saum arkoun anak
T'lai nas -so expensive
Stop -chop
Turn left -bot ch'wayng
Turn right -dtou dtrong
Turn back- dtou grao-ee
Delicious - Chgañe nah!
Goodbye - Lea huey

Fares:
Motortaxi - 2,000 - 4,000 riel
Taxi - 5,000 - 20,000 riel



What to do in Cambodia


First Day


Going back to my booked flight. I was actually planning to go on my own. I still make silly decisions. I thought about doing backpacking on my own, even if considering those dates was a few days away from my birthday. It sounded like a cool and adventurous birthday for me to be alone in the wild. Good thing, my friend said yes to go along with me while I was in a verge of making a bad mistake by going alone to a foreign country.  I would have ended miserable, alone in a bar and drinking a bottle beer for myself. I laughed just the thought of it but one day I know someday I'll do solo backpacking on my own. The booking process ended well and I was able to booked a cheap round fare ticket going to Cambodia. 

Tiger Airways round trip promo fare: 146.5 SGD ( Singapore-Phnom Penh )

I've search a couple of sites that introduces Cambodia, its people, the means of transportation and all the tourist spot. They said when you travel you don't need to plan out or make an itinerary. A real backpacker they said would just goes along where his feet takes him. I disagree. A responsible traveler must be equipped with a plan before heading out to a foreign country. A simple list of location, fares and bus/train schedules is essential for a smooth trip. This ensures your safety and more importantly contributes to lesser percentage of getting lost. More than two weeks before our trip I've searched for the tourist spots where we wanted to visit, booked a guesthouse and night bus tickets. A plan B was even set if things don't go well with one transportation from the other. 

I always make sure to prepare my vacation checklist ahead of time so when the packing date comes closer I wouldn't miss anything. I didn't spend all my time planning out my trip. I've made sure that after I made my itinerary I wouldn't search anymore information about my trip. This makes the upcoming trip anxious free and more exciting. 



What do bring checklist:
- Itinerary 
- booked tickets (make sure to do web check in and print out your boarding pass) 
- comfortable shoes
- shades 
- raincoat ( better ready than sorry )
- baggy pants and thin jacket ( to show respect, temples are sacred place )
- sweets
- USD Dollars ( no need to change for khmer money- tell you later )
- Close-up smile! ( lots of it, to get a good price from the Tuk Tuk drivers )
- Don't forget your friend, it's nice to get lost with someone by your side.

I've gone to the gym before I head out to the airport. I need to wake myself up from fatigue due to last night's work and energize my muscles for my short trip in Cambodia. I ended up short of time and had to rush out and took the taxi. Great thing I've already done the web check-in the other day and printed our boarding pass- so much for time management. This makes the chances of the plane living you behind at a minimal level. 

Our budget was to bring along 300 SGD is about 900,000 riel or 230 USD. We planned on sticking to our budget game as much as possible. 

It was a sunny day on our very first day in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. I've already booked ahead of time a room good for two persons with our own bathroom. Its best to secure a place to stay before invading Cambodia with your glistening crazy smile. 

Check in : Lazy Gecko Cafe & GuesthouseA backpackers hostel which is a clean place to stay and at budget friendly expense. 


We were planning to get a taxi outside the gates of the airport but the tuk tuk offered a better deal. A blogger said it was cheaper to get a ride out there. However, that was not the case in Cambodia we found out that changing your dollar to khmer, Cambodian money was useless. No matter where you are in the country, every tourist in Cambodia regarding rides, accommodations, food/drinks and all are all in American Dollar. A constant number was implemented by all stores. During our visit the constant rate of 1 USD was equivalent to 4,000 Khmer. All necessities that tourist needs are double up in great number compared to Thailand which is more tourist budget friendly. But of course, everything was still cheaper when compared to Singapore.


After we checked in our guesthouse we decided do some early shopping. We allotted the second day for a whole day Angkor Wat tour. The tuk tuk driver drove us all the way to the Russian market for about 35-45 minutes from the guesthouse. I was planning to have our dinner at this so called Yej Café which is located outside of the Market towards the back. I've read in the Internet that the staff and cafe is dressed up in a yellow and purple theme. More importantly it's a cafe where you can show your support for mistreated people. It is said most of the crew have gone through some life's mishaps and the cafe is trying lift them up from their adversaries. However, we were starving to look any more further for it. If you're dropping by any chance in Phnom Penh go and have a meal in this nice little cafe. 




Reminders: NEVER leave Cambodia without trying out their beer. I'm already implementing that rule in all my travels. 


Street Stall Dinner in Russian Market


We had a Pork Barbecue and Banh Chiao , a kind of salad that looked like a pancake stuffed with minced pork and bean sprouts, paired it up with the one and only steamed rice. It was something different and I like trying out new flavours. A portion of the egg-like pancake was meant to be wrapped with the lettuce andthe other green leafy vegetable and dipped in sweet sauce, which we only found out when we've almost finish the dish. I liked it. I was just a bit worried of the food preparation but we didn't had any stomach problems at the end of the day so that's clear.


While we were enjoying our dinner I can't help myself from taking to the locals. Some of them who were just sitting beside our table were really friendly to share a few tips about their country. They taught us some important phrases that we can use like "Thlay pon man?" means how much? and "Ong kun" for thank you. 

We headed back in the guesthouse full and ready to prepare for a long night bus travel. By 10 pm we've already showered and packed some useful things for our travel. Lazy Gecko is about 5 minutes by tuk tuk ride from the Giant Ibis bus station. 

Cambodia is flooded with tourist and booking an online for your night bus ticket is a smart decision. I've searched a lot of night buses and all have good reviews but Giant Ibis bus service has the best remarks among all of them. It's a long, bumpy ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and choosing the best wheels will pay its price. 


NIGHT BUS- Phnom Pehn to Siem Reap 
Travel time: 6-7 hours

The ride was bumpy and the roads were treacherous. If you're asking about a good night sleep then expect less for that to happen. They have double deck beds with a 25 degrees head elevation portion. A small pillow and blanket were also provided for everyone's comfort. I chose the upper level of the bunk without knowing that was actually the least promising, unless you're going on a day trip. I later realized that the most comfortable area inside the bus is in the middle part and the lower level of the bunk is the most conducive bed for sleeping. We got out of the bus groggy but our spirits were shining bright like a diamond ,and at the same time I learned the best spot for a night bus ride which will be beneficial for my future trips. 


Second Day


Angkor Wat Temple of Siem Reap, Cambodia 


For the past few months a friend of mine we're just talking about the ruins of Angkor Wat and all the amazing historical sites on earth.  Angkor Wat was never been on my bucketlist but I've been fascinated of the idea of going to Cambodia and seeing the majestic architecture in person. Then one day I was able to purchased an unplanned promo tickets and I'm so glad I did. As what I read in an instagram account "Book a ticket and just Leave." I thought to myself Cambodia here I come! Right away after a few days from the new year's countdown I fly to Cambodia with all smiles.

What to bring checklist:
- comfortable footwear 
- baggy/aladdin pants 
- flying carpet joke! Ahahaa 
- sunblock? 
- hat/cap
- gallons of water 
- sunglasses (esp. for those people who took the night bus ride) 
- deodorant!
- camera with spare batteries or films if you're using the old school camera. For me no need to bring flash the lighting in and out of the temples are perfect. Besides I don't have that kind of gadget so what do I know right?! I use flashlight for my camera's natural effect ahahaa
- tuk tuk ride


My friend joined me in this travel and the moment we arrived in the country on the very first night we took a bus ride to Siem Reap. 
We took the Giant Ibis night bus ride in Phnom Pehn around 22:00 , arriving at 06:00 the next day in Siem Reap. The plan of seeing the sunrise in Angkor Wat was beyond our control it takes 6-7 hours of travel to get there from Phnom Penh. 

We arrived in the city greeted with huge smiles from the tuktuk drivers. A good deal was made with one of the drivers for 40 USD providing a whole day tour of the ruins of Angkor Wat. Old school transportation always wins a backpacker hearts. What a kind cute from these tuk tuk drivers is how they approached us they said " Hello My Lady, do you need a tuk tuk ride?." I was impressed with their words and I felt like a royalty. If that's there marketing strategy they got me but I find it genuine in some way, I'll leave it that way for my memory bank.



The driver agreed to take us to the famous sites and he would patiently wait for us by the corner of the entry way or in the parking area. At the end of every stopover we always find him so relax with his feet dangling in his nylon made hammock. 

The entry way to the first site of Angkor Wat has a few restaurants/cafeteria that serves good meals, good enough to fuel you with energy for a temple run challenge. Have some breakfast as you will need that with all the stairs climbing you'll be doing for that day.

 
Ta Prohm "Tomb Raider" Film Location



Tourist are encourage to wear proper clothing, if you're worried about your fashion statement then wear aladdin pants or a maxi dress. I chose the laid-back aladdin pants and my cotton top with comfortable slippers. 



I've planned to roam around the temple in a bicycle if it weren't for our tuk tuk ride. The bicycle rental was nowhere in sight too, in my research it cost maybe around 12 USD. If you have more than 2 days access to the temple then why not rent a bicycle on the next day. I guess having a tuk tuk wait for us was not that bad because each historical sites were far from each other. 



It was amazing! What more can I say. The breathtaking view on one of the temples was a must to see. The grandeur architectural design of Angkor Wat is something we don't have in this century. The intricate designs of each corner and passageway was done with intensive commitment and passion. The Angkor Wat symbolizes how humans surpass creating impossible structures, same goes with the Ancient Pyramids, Machu Pichu and all unbelievable human creations in the planet. They were able to build a magestic structure with less mechanical help with an impressive outcome. Real art intoxicated of hardwork and dedication, and there you go The Angkor Wat of Cambodia. 


We roamed around the ruins like children in a playground. Up in here, Up in there. 

No monkey business please

Just being silly, no harm was done


Hanging around the tuk tuk with a friend


Made a friend along the way


The sunrise we've planned was deleted from our day plan however the sunset was still up for grab. When we figured out we still have time to see the sunset, our tuk tuk driver suggested we head to a hill named something I can't remember. It was a steep hike going to the hill but you wont feel that tired because the view is great and a big crowd accompanies you all the way. 


The sunset was a spectacular view especially watching it on the rooftop of a temple. People flocked the area just to see the sun slowly makes its way from the horizon, all eyes were fixed in the west on that brightly lit ball of fire. There's something about sunset that puts people at ease: it's like a delightful feeling of a warmth hug or a gentle aromatic tea/coffee/beer/wine that simply creates a curve line in someone's face. 

We were exhausted at the end of the day yet we still have time to make our way to the nightlife capital of Siem Reap. Our accommodating tuk tuk driver pass by our night bus station before heading to PUB Street. It was just a walking distance from the Night Market which is just around the corner of PUB street. 


We had dinner at this affordable outdoor restaurant. You can see the chef cooking outside just  along the street with a hat! How cool is that?! It was delicious and the prices ranges from $10-$20. Better have dinner here if you're looking for a good meal with a fair price. 

 

Nightlife & Dinner @ PUB Street
Angkot Wat to PUB Street: 30-45 minutes , depends with the traffic.

Check out: Angkor What? Bar, a must-see for every backpackers out there in Cambodia! 

We roamed around PUB street and searched for the Blue Pumpkin, it was said that they sell the best ice cream in town. 

I was planning to check out Red Piano resto, a place famous for their Tomb Raider drink, a mixed of cointreau, lime and tonic (whatever those two are but lime sounds good to me). However, we run out of time so if you're going to PUB Street in Cambodia better check out this resto and tell me about it. We had to rushed before 1030PM to catch our night bus and head back to Phnom Penh for our Bear keeper a Day activity. 

NIGHT BUS back to Phnom Penh (booked online)
PUB to Giant Ibis Bus Station : less than 15 mins walk. 
Location:  #252 near Old Market (Phsar Chas), a few metres away from Russian Market. 


Reminders: Booked your night bus ticket online to avoid the queue and the fully booked hassle. It was just recently that night buses were available due to popular demand of tourist going around Cambodia in a time management pace. 


Third Day - My Birthday!


Bear Keeper for a Day 
Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Center

It's our last day in Cambodia and a very special day for me. We arrived back in Phnom Penh around 6 in the morning and right away took a tuktuk ride to Lazy Gecko Guesthouse. My friend took a shower while I did some packing. The feeling of leaving made me feel sad because I wanted to do more stuffs in Cambodia , yet at the same time I was excited thinking about my next travels. I was beaming with excitement at the thought of exploring another country and fill in my soul's desires. 

A few weeks before we came to Cambodia I've read a very interesting article about the Phonm Penh rescue center. It was highly recommended by blogers and travelers. I decided to drop an email regarding their rescue center and the activities they offer. We were suppose to get a jeepney jungle-like tour of the place however, the coordinator in charge had a wedding to attend to on that day. The other part of the center offers a bear keeper activity for tourist , it sounded cool so right away I booked a reservation.  

0930 Pick up for Bear Keeper for a Day 

Phnom Penh tamao wildlife rescue center
Address : National road 2, trapang sap commune, bati district, takeo province
Travel time: 45 mins from the city
Book the activity by sending them an email: bearkeeperforaday@gmail.com

Our kher money was already low so we drop by a bank to change some dollars. I've discovered that its more convenient to use US dollars in Cambodia and the bank offer a higher rate compared to our guesthouse. That's something new, now i know what to do if I ever decided to come back to Cambodia. We travel for 45 minutes or more the traffic got bad while we were trying to get out of the city proper. The pickup truck passed by mountains, rice fields and all the wonderful scenery's you find in an Asian countryside. The interesting thing about the trip is that the one who picked us up brought along his big dog.  He stayed at back of the truck along with our bags. I can actually see him on my right with his tongue tasting the air. It was a like the road trip from the movies, one thing missing, the shouting part from the passing vehicles or showing of boobs - maybe that's too extreme! Ahahaa 

In the center we had a brief orientation about the place and the animals kept inside the vicinity. The place has been established since 2007, abuse or smuggle animals were taken in the center for rehabilitation. 


The guide showed us first three cute young cubs: one is sleeping while the other two were playing and dangling around. The sight of them reminds me of the cartoon TV series care bears, instead they're bigger, no bright colors and real. Our task for that day as a bear keeper was to feed them, these orange and green balls which we stuffed ourselves holds a few bananas and leafy vegetables. A simple recipe makes up the bears diet: bananas, biscuits, honey syrup and a bundle of leafy vegetables. We were asked to place all the ingredients inside this hollow bowling ball with big finger holes. I've imagine it to be a close encounter with bears, like holding one small cub in my hands while feeding him milk in a bottle. It was not what I expected it to be. The bears were behind an electric fence and the balls were just thrown above it. It was clearly for safety purposes. I can't deny my disappointment I pictured myself to be right beside them, stroking their backs and feeding them treats. Who can blame the center for keeping everyone safe anyways, the bear's loved our homemade snacks for them. They were clever to roll over their backs while holding on to the  holes in the hollow ball, rapidly shaking it until the bananas, biscuits and vegetables falls outside the holes. The site of them devouring their food made everyone hungry. 

The tour package includes a homemade Cambodian lunch in a nearby hut in the rescue center. We had our meal in a tradition way, sat comfortably in mat and happily ate our last meal in Cambodia.


The tour was cut short because we have to be in the airport by 4 in the afternoon. The person who runs the place, whose also the one who picked us up from the hotel was kind enough to send us back early for our afternoon flight. I had a memorable experience but what makes it even better is I've found a friendship that will last for a long time.

Have fun and be safe ^__^


Itinerary Reminders:

1. Flight Details
Make sure to write down your booking reference number, be at the airport two hours before your flight and allocate time for your travel to the airport.

2. Accommodation Details
Write down your hotel/motel/resort/bnb booking number. Contact your place to inform them around when you'll be arriving — it really does help.  Also, ask if your accommodation has any discounted activities.  You'd be surprised!

3a. Transportation
List possible times your bus/train/boat arrives and leaves so you don't miss an activity.  Always give yourself an extra 30-45 minutes in case you get lost, get stuck in traffic, or are looking for parking.  Better early than late.  Of utmost importance: check for the last trip and fares!  So you still have time and money to get back.

3b. Car Rentals
Take note of your pick-up address and time allotted.  Our last car rental told us to bring the car back by a certain time with a certain amount of gas.  Allot money for fuel and parking.

4. Budgeting
Set aside a minimum and maximum spending amount for: meals, transportation, entrance fees, activities, souvenirs and emergencies.  3 meals a day + snacks adds up quickly, so keep track!  As well as tips for restaurants and activities.

5. Activities
Call to confirm your booking(s) a day or so beforehand.  Set alarms and/or calendar reminders for things you plan to do (i.e- bungee-jumping, river-rafting, or even city / food tours).



Do you want more adventure?
If you still have one more day to spare why not go to Bagan and see Myanmar's Land of Thousand Pagoda's.

Where am I going next?
My next adventure is Surfing in the awesome waters of Sri Lanka.


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