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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Phnom Penh Trip, Cambodia

"Book a Ticket and just Leave"

I'm a big fan of surfing the Internet and reading blogs of people who travelled from one place to another makes me envious. I told myself that I have to start travelling 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 button. Now that explains why I chose "Book a Ticket and just Leave" for my heading.

I've always been preoccupied about travelling and the thought of escape from reality. As I grew 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 travelling 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. 

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 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: S$146.5 ( 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 traveller must be equip 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 trips. 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. 

Vacation Checklist:
- Itinerary 
- booked tickets
- 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 TukTuk drivers )

I've gone to the gym before I head out to the airport. I need to wake myself up from my fatigue from 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 yesterday and printed our boarding pass. This makes the chances of the plane living you behind at minimal level. Make sure to do web check in and print your boarding pass. 

Our Budget was to bring along S$300 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. 

Lazy Gecko Cafe & Guesthouse located at #1d, street 258. For 2 days we only paid $20, just $10 each night. It's a backpackers haven for a clean place to stay and a budget friendly expense. 

A 30 minutes tuktuk ride from the Airport to Gecko Guesthouse cost $10-$13. We were planning to get a ride outside the gates of the airport but the offered price was already a good deal from the driver. 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 1USD equivalent to 4,000 Khmer was observed. All necessities that tourist needs are double up in a great number compared to Thailand which is more tourist budget friendly. But of course, everything was still cheaper when it comes to comparing the money to progressive countries. 

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 tuktuk driver drove us all the way to the Russian market for about 35-45 minutes from the guesthouse, fare: $11-14. I was planning to have our meal 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 its 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. ahahaa
Street Stall Dinner in Russian Market
We had Pork Barbecue and Banh Chiao , a kind of salad with an egg 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 in the lettuce with the other green leafy vegetable and dipped in the 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, or perhaps our stomach was immune to withstand such occurrence to happen.

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 tuktuk 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 Night Fare: $12-$15
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. 

Here are more things you can do in Phnom Penh:

1.Central Market (Phar Thmei) 
Opening hrs: 5-5pm
Location: meeting point of Kampuchea and Street 63
(SouthW door to bus , northW to taxi)
2. Boat ride Tonle Sap and mekong river
From Central Market 
-go/take cruise boat to Sisowath Quay, takes 2.5hrs per round trip Or hire tuktuk to japanese bridge and take ferry
-$20 plus $1 dock entry fee
Brings snacks and drinks
Koh Dach 15km north 
How to get there: One of the best ways to access Mekong Island is to take a cruise boat from Sisowath Quay in Phnom Penh. It usually takes 2.5 hours per round trip, and the cruise will include visiting the handicraft centre at Koh Dach, sunset views and Khmer snacks. Alternatively, you can hire a tuk-tuk from the city to the Japanese Bridge, from where you can continue your journey to the island by ferry
3. If tuk2 - tour choueng ek killing fields/tuol sleng/russian market -$15
4. Dinner - Russian market
Yej Café - 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
Street 106 and 108
Reminders: Secure bags


Check out:
Cambodia Itinerary 
Phnom Penh Trip, Cambodia
Siem Reap Day Tour , Cambodia
Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center , Cambodia

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