Cambodia – Siem Reap & Battambang

When I first decided to do this trip, a few people warned me about the food and getting sick a lot. I’ve always thought I had a strong stomach so I wasn’t too worried and happily ate the street food in both Thailand and Laos. Then I arrived in Cambodia and it all went slightly downhill from there! I don’t want to scare people, but I was ill on four separate occasions in Cambodia so it’s not like it was a one off incident. Our first stop in Cambodia was Siem Reap, home of the famous temple complex Angkor Wat. Unfortunately,  I was struck down on the first day of arriving at our crazy party hostel – food poisoning and a lot of wasted people, great combo! I had been really looking forward to partying with my little family, but it was not meant to be and I was in bed for three whole days, poor me. I can’t decide if it was Cambodia making me ill or the suspicious sandwich I had at the bus station in Laos, a friend of mine who had already travelled through SE Asia had warned me about salad! My advice to anyone travelling would actually be to not worry too much and just eat whatever you want, it really is just pot luck if you get sick! There are a couple of things you could do to reduce your chances, such as not drinking too many icy drinks from the street or eating salad but at the end of the day, you could easily go into a western restaurant, have a pizza, and still get ill ( I speak from experience!). Just relax, buy some electrolytes ( and Imodium for bus journeys!) and hope for the best. Side note –  maybe just go a bit easier in Cambodia if you have a sensitive stomach. I would recommend that you don’t eat seafood, have ice unless it’s processed (round with a hole through the middle) and don’t eat salad or fruit with an edible skin. 

One thing you realise when you travel is that discussing sickness in graphic detail is pretty much the norm, even if you only met two days ago. Nothing to be shy about, it happens to the best of us! Anyway, enough of that – for now at least. Once I had recovered, we got our tickets for Angkor Wat, where we would have to arrive at 4am to catch the sunrise. We hoped that it would be good enough to warrant the crack of dawn alarm clock, and thankfully we lucked out. Check this beautifulness out. Stunner!

The colours were spectacular, we were very lucky to have such a clear morning. After the sunrise, we walked round Angkor Wat before the crowds got to crazy. This is going to sound bad, but as much as I love temples, I am not fascinated by them like some people. Don’t get me wrong, Angkor Wat is impressive and the history is very interesting, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t more fascinated by the group of monkeys living in the grounds of the temple complex! There were tiny baby ones, and this one who has totally nailed RBF (resting bitch face for the oldies among my readers!). 

I did take some pictures of Angkor Wat too – I really did like the temples but I just like monkeys more! The carvings on the walls were especially beautiful, so detailed and very interesting stories behind them. Also, a super cute picture of my little family!

The showstealer of the day was definitely Ta Prohm, a temple complex where nature has taken over. The authorities have allowed for vines and trees to grow among the ruins, creating something that wouldn’t look out of place in a fantasy film. And it actually was used in a film, albeit a terrible one, Tomb Raider! 

The tree in the bottom picture is a strangler fig for those interested in nature. I find that a lot of people aren’t and appear disinterested when I point out fun wildlife facts, not sure why. Maybe it’s my delivery, David Attenborough doesn’t have this problem. I also saw this gorgeous butterfly, who thought my skirt was a flower!

My impression of Cambodians was that they are warm, friendly and hilarious! But you can also tell that Cambodia is a lot poorer than Thailand and Laos,  as there is a lot more pressure on us travellers to buy buy buy. It was a little bit unbearable at the temples, they seem only interested in making money from you and are actually quite irritating sometimes. However, they are also very helpful and welcoming so I won’t complain too much. They have families to feed, and I would do the same if I had to. I’m already quite persistent and annoying anyway, and I have much less reason to be. 

For our final night in Cambodia, we actually had the pleasure of watching England win a game of football – a miracle! The bar at our hostel was heaving and the atmosphere ( apart from a few token idiots) was great. I didn’t drink due to still feeling a bit ill, and it was amusing as always to watch drunk people interact. Adrian and I left for Battambang the next morning, and due to hangovers the girls decided to stay one more day and catch us up. Mum and Dad get a day off from the pesky kids, at last! We arrived in the heaviest rain I had seen so far on my travels and then went in search of food. My appetite had come back with a vengeance, and was accompanied by my best friend Mr Hangry. Adrian was pretty good at dealing with hangriness and we found this amazing tapas style restaurant called Jaan Bai. We had cous cous salad, satay chicken and these mushroom dumplings that were incredible, despite resulting in third degree burns to my mouth. Caution – don’t order boiling hot dumplings when you are ravenous, it won’t end well. In the evening, we decide to mix it up with an Indian and we both order the thali ( a tray of Indian dishes). It was ginormous and Adrian practically had to roll me home. 

Battambang is a really cute little riverside town, perfect for lazy days and eating too much. We went for a relaxed brunch and then went for a walk along the river, in search of the Riverside Balcony bar. After a few days of no drinking, I was gasping for a cocktail or four. Luckily, it turned out that the owners of this particular bar are a dab hand at cocktails, and pizza! The Mai Tai was actually a Mai Tai, an odd occurrence in SE Asia from my experience. I beat Adrian at pool about five times and then he managed to get one win thanks to the help of a small child who knocked the black in with her elbow. He will deny this, don’t believe him! Here are a couple of pics from our first two days in Battambang. 

It doesn’t look that special, but it has a nice atmosphere and is worth a visit for one or two days. The girls arrived that afternoon, ready for a tuk tuk tour of the countryside the next day, with a lovely Cambodian guy called Seth. He was so keen and showed us a book of all his references – a great idea when there are so many drivers to choose from, Seth had some business sense! He took us around some villages, to a rice paper factory, a crocodile farm ( wish he hadn’t), bamboo train and to see some bats go hunting in the evening. The bamboo train was certainly an experience, but the best part of the tour was just driving round and seeing some of the more rural areas of Cambodia. The train really was just a piece of bamboo on wheels, and as the track is only one way, every time there was something coming the other way, we all had to jump off so they could take our car off the track! Mental. The story behind the bamboo railway is very interesting though – it was supposed to be an actual railway running from Phnom Penh to the Thai border, but it was damaged during the civil war and neglected. That lead to a clever man in Battambang deciding to use a stretch of it as a tourist attraction, and the Bamboo train was born! 

Battambang was a pleasant stop off between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, which was our next stop. The girls decided to head straight to the islands, as they were planning on going to PP to catch their flight to Singapore. That meant it was just the two of us again!

I was slightly apprehensive about going to Phnom Penh, as our main reason to go was to see the Killing Fields and S21 prison – both necessary visits to understand the traumatic history of Cambodia. The next post might be a tough read for some, but I would recommend reading it as I expect most people don’t even realise what happened in Cambodia during the 70s. It was horrific and I still need to think about how best to write about it. To be continued…


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