Coming off the back of one hell of an awesome journey through Vietnam, the next destination on my South East Asia bucket list was Cambodia.

Departing Ho Chi Minh on a morning bus, I crossed the border and arrived in Phnom Penh later that afternoon. Stepping foot off the bus I was met by a swarm of tuk tuk drivers – as expected, who were offering their services at a price that needed some negotiating. After pulling out my phone and checking my app, I discovered the guesthouse I booked was only 2km away. I decided I would get some much needed exercise and slog it out in my flip flops.

Navigating the streets towards the guesthouse, I was presented with a bit more of a culture shock than what I experienced in Thailand and Vietnam previously. I had children asking for money, tuk tuk drivers in my ear and the footpaths were covered with rubbish. In pursuit of some scenery, I checked in to my accommodation and spent the next couple of days exploring the east area of town near the river, which painted a much prettier picture than the initial walk upon my arrival.

The next thing I checked out were the killing fields and prison S21 – arguably Phnom Penh’s main draw card. Learning about the Khmer Rouge era during the 70’s, and seeing what happened to the Cambodian people during this time was a shocking and sobering experience. It really brought home how lucky myself and my home country is. It also gave me a new perspective on how I saw the Cambodian people, knowing that the majority of them had lost many loved ones. You can read up on the genocide here.

With my few days up in Phnom Penh, I decided it was time to make a move to Kampot – a quiet town near the southern coast of Cambodia. During my stay here I visited the Bokor National Park which boasted some impressive scenery. It included a mountain top view in the clouds, an abandoned church and casino, as well as some giant Buddhist statues. The two nights I spent in Kampot were at Mad Monkey hostel – a great base for backpackers.

The next stop, Sihanoukville and the Koh Rong islands – two of Cambodia’s most renowned party scenes. I spent roughly ten days exploring Sihanoukville and the islands, which included my fair share of partying and a rather wild experience from a happy pizza – do NOT order a ‘very’ happy pizza. The highlight there for me was Koh Rong Sanloem – the smaller of the two islands. I spent three days on the island’s west coast beach, where I soaked up some rays and enjoyed the crystal clear waters – I also became very good mates with a hammock.

Leaving the island, I had to walk forty minutes through the forest to the other side to catch the ferry. When I started my walk, a friendly dog decided to pace in front of me and lead me along the forest trail. He would run ahead out of sight, periodically stopping and waiting to make sure I was following his lead. He then escorted me for a further fifteen minutes up the beach, where he relaxed next to me while I ate breakfast and waited for the ferry. Not being able to tip my new friend for his services, I decided a slice of bacon would appropriate – he happily accepted.

On my arrival back to land, I booked a night bus to Battambang where I spent two nights. I did a one day tour here that included a ride on a bamboo train, an insight into how the locals make products from rice, as well as a trip to Phnom Kdong mountain. The mountain hosted some awesome views, loads of monkeys, and even a bat cave, where thousands of bats fly out of on dusk which was incredible. If you’re interested in doing this tour, ask your hotel/hostel for the tuk tuk drivers Batman or Bernie. They’re great guys that will spend the day taking you to all the spots – they also speak awesome English.

After roughly two weeks, it was time to see Cambodia’s main attraction; Angkor Wat. I arranged a tuk tuk in Siem Reap to take me there for the following day to see the sunrise, and boy did it deliver. Seeing a towering 12th century temple slowly being revealed as the sun rose was an unforgettable experience. To add to this experience, there was an enormous pink pig roaming around the temple grounds, terrorising everyone within a one metre radius. I saw it jump and attempt to bite about six different people – it was hilarious. After the sunrise, I then spent the rest of the day exploring the surrounding temples with my tuk tuk driver until sunset, where I relaxed at Phnom Bakheng – a temple on top of a mountain. Looking back, I would recommend doing two half days to see the temples, as twelve hours in forty degree heat is fairly exhausting!

Following the temples I spent the next few days in Siem Reap at Mad Monkey hostel relaxing pool side, eating the local cuisine and enjoying a couple of nights out on pub street with some fellow backpackers – good times.

Last but not least; Kratie – the last destination on the list. Being one of Cambodia’s smaller quiet towns, it actually carried a surprisingly energetic vibe. Every night saw an aerobic dance session alongside the river where about a hundred locals would join in, dancing in sync. Being stone cold sober, I couldn’t quite muster up the courage to participate myself. During my time here, me and two other backpackers rented scooters and went for a drive up the Mekong River. We visited a village built over part of the river, where you could relax in one of many hammocks enjoying an ice cold beverage. We also paid for an hour long boat ride to catch a glimpse of the rare Irrawaddy Dolphin which was a great experience.

All up I spent three weeks in Cambodia, which I think is enough to see the majority of the key locations – my only regret was missing out on the jungle regions in the East. Aside from the country’s poverty and littered streets, Cambodia is a country rich with history and scenery that is well worth the visit.

See the photos of my trip here.