After receiving extremely mixed reviews about Cambodia for example the people are dishonest/unfriendly, the food is bad and the country is unhappily full of poverty, I really tried to arrive with an open mind and no assumptions.
The boarder crossing into Cambodia was a lot easier than I thought. Only hiccup is I got conned out of more money for my visa, but I had previously read up on this so was expecting it.
My first stop was a little fishing village called Kep. Honestly I picked this place because it was the shortest distance on the bus, but it worked out as I then decided to work my way up the coastline.
I hadn’t even stepped off the bus before I was overwhelmingly swarmed by locals trying to offer me tuk tuk rides, cards for their restaurants and who knows what else. After getting cash (turns out they mainly use US dollars), I got a tuk tuk to my hostel, Khmer House. Unsure if I was paying the right amount, I cheekily asked the driver whether he was ripping me off (in Vietnam they would have) and he assured me he wasn’t. He was being honest and during the rest of my time in Kep whenever he’d see me walking around he’d beep and say hi/ask how I was. Cambodia 1, Assumptions 0. The evening I spent with a new Spanish friend called Alba watching the sunset over the sea and eating a famous local dish – Crab Amok. The dish is a coconut curry cooked in bamboo leaves. It was one of the best meals I’ve had travelling so far. Cambodia 2, Assumptions 0.
Saturday 18th March
Alba left early on the Saturday, so I was back exploring on my own. I decided to rent a bicycle to look around the town and to trek up the national park.
Cycling through the town, I’ve never had so many people say hi and wave at me. I must have looked like a right numpty bright red, sweating like crazy as the humidity in Cambodia is like none I’ve felt before and grinning like a Cheshire Cat. After spending an hour exploring, I found the trail to the national park. The route was gravelled, but fairly easy to get up so I took the bike with me (later I was glad of this as what goes up, must come down). I explored the national park for a few hours, leaving the bike at points and heading further into the forest. As I mentioned above the humidity in Cambodia is unbelievable. Combined with the 33 degree temperature, I had no choice but to head back to the hostel around 1pm.
I ended up meeting an English couple who later, when it had cooled down, I explored more of the town with. We found a small street market and ate chicken noodle curry, which was tasty but so cheap.
On the walk back to the hostel, again I saw one of the most incredible sunsets. The sky was full of pinks and blues, the photos don’t do it justice. I also tried for the first time Elephant Apple, which I bought from a fruit stall. It smells so fragranced, but has a weird texture similar to a mushroom but drier. I still liked it 😊. Later that evening I scared the living daylights out of myself. I was in my room on FaceTime with my parents when I heard loud bangs like gunfire nearby. Unsure of what was going on, I quickly switched off the lights in my room. The bangs, which seemed nearer, went off again, frightening all of us! Looking to my parents for guidance, my dad quickly told me to get under the bed. I was in a private room, with no one else around, listening intently for any unusual sounds and planning an escape route in my head across the roof! Remembering my friend I had met earlier was downstairs, I quickly dropped her a message asking what was going on. She wasn’t sure either, but her boyfriend looked out the door and saw the owner standing by the gate. No one was panicked, so after a while we came to the conclusion it must have been fireworks. I look back and laugh at the whole situation, but honestly at the time it was terrifying. As my dad later pointed out, it is always better to be vigilant. Other than the little hiccup on my second night, my first impressions of Cambodia have been warm and friendly. The people are so generous and kind, the country is beautiful and the food is amazing. Cambodia 3, Assumptions 0.
Jessica Storm ✌️