Arriving from southern Laos we had heard a lot of bad stories about crossing the border at Strung Treng between Laos and Cambodia. It is true that this is the first time we have crossed a border on foot. Either we were not in rush hours (at 10am in morning), or we now are used to outsmart the traps set by the locals to rip you off few dollars, because we had no problems. Indeed, arriving at the Laotian border post, some locals are trying to sell you an easy border crossing process for 40 $. You just have to ignore them! The entire crossing cost us 37 $ per person: exit stamp Laos 2 $ (it still doesn't look really fair to us to pay for exit stamp, but it is a Laotian policeman who is asking for it so we payed), then 35 $ for the visa on arrival on the Cambodian side. This does not count the small canoe and the bus for a total of 7 $ to go to the Laotian border post from Don Det, and also the mini-van at 20 $ to go to Siem Reap from the Cambodian border, but it all depends of your itinerary.
Siem Reap and Angkor temples
So here we are in Siem Reap after 10h bus transportation , modern city, a lot of traffic, and full of tourists, it changes from southern Laos! Well we are not here to relax this time, we are here to visit as 100% of the tourists, the Angkor temples. After talking with Tuk-tuk drivers, we opt for a visit in Tuk-tuk, cheaper than the one by bus or private car and more flexible. The driver will wait for us, and we will leave when we want and where we want. Some people goes for the visit by bike or scooter, but it is still convenient to have someone who knows the place and explains a little bit the history and give local tips. The tuk-tuk driver cost us 20 $ per day for 6-8h service.
So we visited about fifteen temples in 2 days and our favorites are:
- Angkor Wat, of course, especially since we could see the sunrise and visit the top floor before the crowd arrives! It must be done early in the morning to avoid the mass!
- Ta Keo, a tall temple somewhat looking like a Mayan pyramid
- Ta Prohm, for its scenary and details which are similar to Lara Croft movie sets, and also for the site itself which is very well restored.
To be honest, it's really beautiful end to end, each temple has its own character and I think we can spend more time there, however the entrance fee is very expensive (out of the tuktuk for transportation ) is 62 $ per person for 2 days, so you really need to spend most of your time there during your too days, but it's also tiring and really hot. The site of the temples is well maintained and remains pleasant despite the crowd.
Thomas also took the opportunity to buy a new phone because after 4 years of good and loyal services his Iphone has given up the soul and all the repairs made since 6 months have not changed anything!
We had chosen an AirBnB bit out from the city center, may be a little regret on that, because despite the beautiful scenery around the house, we did nothing except visiting the city center 6km away! Then the 30kms walk in the Angkor temples and the 10h bus to come here had certainly left us tired! Well the advantage is that we were in a nice place and we were independent. We cooked pasta and had a nice barbecue with great local sausages: le Cochon de Kep, a French producer established for several years in Kep a seaside resort not far from there!
Koh Rong Samloem
So for Koh Rong, we had the choice between two islands, and heard that Koh Rong was for the party place and Koh Rong Samloem more relaxed and family friendly. We were at the end of our "banana pancake" in Southeast Asia and really wanted to rest (again one more time). So we naturally went to the second option. Coming from Kampot, it is very easy to reach Sihanoukville, the 2nd largest city in the country with a big port and a seaside resort, here it is very busy and constructions/cranes are everywhere! Not very relaxing, but arriving on Saracen Bay after 1h ferry, we were not disappointed! We had a beach bungalow on the front line. Goodbye shoes and flip flops for 4 days. Here the main street is the beach! No inland road/path.
You must know that access to different places of Koh Rong Samloem is on foot or by boat! There is no road, so no car or scooter on the island, which makes it peaceful and very quiet! The internet is accessory! We did not do much more than swimming, sunbathing, eating and drinking few beers so RE-LAX! We even extended one more night our stay and reduce/remove our visit of Phnom Penh ... no regrets honestly! Here are some pictures of this little paradise:
That's it, no need of instagram filters, the place is just beautiful by itself.
Some good places around Saracen Bay:
- Eden Seaside Resort: good place to sleep not too expensive for a beach front bungalow, managed by Russians, cold welcome, but very good value for Koh Rong Samloem
- Sunny Bungalow: good/cheap and very clean bungalow (about 50-60 $) and very good place, close to restaurants and very close to the dock where the ferry arrives
- By the Sea, blue and white Greek style restaurant, with good food
- The Big Easy, a western menu not very expensive compare to other places on the beach, good!
Summary of Cambodia
- Koh Rong Samloem and especially Saracen Bay! Just wonderful ! A heavenly place! One of the most beautiful beach seen during our world tour!
- Angkor Temple and the history around it, above all, amazing landscapes such as Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider movies
- Waste literally everywhere, except in touristy places we stayed. That is the good part, but it's really shocking even after visiting: Laos, Indonesia, Montenegro which already have waste management problems . The smell of garbages in your nose happens very often, even in the capital Phnom Penh where we spent only one day and half.
- The passage through Sihanoukville mandatory to go to the islands, big city unpleasant!
- Once again, the beer, Klang for purists: very strong and not expensive, and the Angkor or Cambodia for the classics one!
For 13 days in Cambodia we had a budget of 780 EUR, and then 70 USD for visa on arrival. We were above budget.
Yes, visiting the Angkor temples it self costs 164 USD for the tuktuk driver and the entry tickets. As well as staying in beachfront bungalow in Koh Rong Samloem at 276 USD for 4 nights, and the unplanned one day extension on the island did not help to keep up with the budget.
The food was little more expensive than in Laos, it is still possible to eat for 1-2 EUR but comfort/western food is more expensive than in Laos and Thailand.
We spent 1023 USD so about 910 EUR, so 130 EUR above the budget! But we do not regret it, then again we will do better in the next countries!