We arrived in Sihanoukville after a 7 hour journey from Phnom Penh. It was our first time seeing the sea since we started travelling, so you can imagine how excited we were seeing that splash of blue in the distance when heading to Ananas Bungalows on Otres Beach!
Straight away, you can notice the difference between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville and that difference is... Westerners! On Otres Beach 2, almost every inch is covered with different restaurants/bars with happy hours and bbq's advertised out the front. If you really liked interacting with local people, eating street food and witnessing the culture differences between Asia and back home, you can pretty much kiss goodbye to that! We missed the rough and ready nature of the city at first but once we settled in, we were more than happy to be on the beach at last. We stayed in a beautiful beach bungalow for $8 a night (yup it was that cheap) and ate at a handful of restaurants located on the beach. The food was really good in all of them, so you'll never be short of good places to eat/drink with the average meal costing around $5.
Kerfuffle Jungle Party
Our first night on Otres 2 was a Wednesday and for anyone that knows Sihanoukville, it seems there's only one event you should be going to on a Wednesday and that event is 'Kerfuffle'. For any tech house lovers like us out there, it will be the first decent bit of music you will hear whilst in Cambodia! Kerfuffle is a party that is held in the jungle every Wednesday, which on google maps looks like it is just behind Otres Beach 2. Well.. We can pretty much assure you it is not!!! We thought it would be an easy walk, so we set off following the map thinking it would be a waste of money to get a Tuk Tuk. After what seemed like an hour long trek through the back streets of Sihanoukville, with a thousand dogs howling and growling at us on the way, and the fact that we eventually got to a lake which we would of had to wade through (our tipsy minds considered it)... we gave in to getting a Tuk Tuk. The journey was definitely not possible to walk. After loads of winding, pothole covered country roads and a little journey deep into the jungle, we finally got there! It was $7 to get in after 11pm (although I've seen different nights advertised for as much as $10 since). The music was so good and it was such a cool experience partying in the jungle with a massive glowing Ferris wheel lighting up the dance floor! It goes on till about 10am and there's loads of after parties you can go to! Definitely get yourself down to Kerfuffle if you're here on a Wednesday - it's not one to miss!
3 Island Boat Visit
Whilst on Otres, we went on two excursions. One being an all day fishing/snorkelling/cliff jumping trip which takes you to visit 3 islands by boat. It cost $15 per person and lasts around 6 hours. The 3 islands that you visit are Koh Tres, Koh Chanloh and Koh Ta Kiev. The first two are just for snorkelling stops, although the water wasn't very clear so we only saw a couple of fish unfortunately. After these two, you go to the rocks that are used for cliff jumping. This part was so fun and the cliffs weren't too high, so pretty much everyone had a go! The last stop was Koh Ta Kiev, you can actually book accommodation on this island. It has a secluded beach on one side and has a more busy village on the other. We got off on the secluded beach and had a wonder down the beach and into a beach bar. The Barman was telling us that the island only has electricity for 4 hours per night and has no Wifi Signal, therefore is a really cool break for anyone wanting to get away from life in general! There wasn't much to do on this island so we all sat down and had lunch. Lunch was a plate of chicken, salad and a baguette. We were really impressed with it, especially as we were given all the spare chicken portions too! (Buzzing!!). We're a bit unsure of what happened to the fishing activity that we were promised on this trip too, we were dropped back to the beach without it even happening. Overall, it was a really good day trip! However, we saw the same trip being advertised for $10 per person the next day, so make sure you haggle and don't take the first price, even with excursions!
The other trip was an evening snorkelling/fishing trip which ends after a swim with Bioluminescent Plankton at night. Bioluminescent plankton is plankton/algae that glows in the dark when touched. It glows because certain types of chemicals when combined produce energy which 'excites' other particles on vibration and generates light. This experience bucket list was on both of our bucket lists before travelling, therefore we were soooo excited for this trip. We got on the boat at about half 4 and got back around 8:30. The snorkelling was the same as the previous trip with not many fish in sight, so we got straight on to fishing. We were given an empty water bottle with some line tied round it, which we thought was hilarious at first but we saw a man on the peer a few days later catching tonnes of huge sail fish using just this technique! (He whooped Jac's ass who tried to catch a fish next to him with a rod!). We caught 2 fish between the whole boat, both of which had to be returned as they were too small. (Very proud to say that one of those little fishies was mine, woo!).
We moved on to the swimming with Plankton part next and oh my word, it was so good! You couldn't see them from the surface, but if you whacked your goggles on, went underwater and waved your hand in front of your face, you could see the plankton glowing blue in their hundreds right in front of your face. The experience was amazing and to make it even better, the stars above your head were insane due to little light pollution out at sea. Overall all it was such a good trip... but we didn't cook any fish! One of the things that attracted is to this trip was the "cook what you catch" advertisement on the poster. It was $8 p/p so we were buzzing that that would include dinner too and thought they might still bbq us some fish when we didn't catch any. But nope! No bbq, which wasn't too much of a disappointment, but just be wary of this too!
Kbal Chay Waterfall
On our last day of our stay on Otres Beach, we decided to head out to Kbal Chhay Waterfall. It cost around $22 in a private TukTuk (because they'd run out of motorbikes), as apposed to a tour guide trip which costs around $10 p/p. We went for the TukTuk, as we didn't want to be limited on our time to mess about at the waterfall! We can honestly say it was our best day so far! The waterfall is amazing. You can't jump into the water beneath it, but you can scramble all the way down to the bottom and stand underneath it! There was hardly anyone there too, well... we were the only people actually underneath the waterfall anyway!
After the waterfall, we decided to walk along the river at the back of the waterfall where we could see loads of kids playing in the water and could hear dance music/traditional Khmer music being blasted through some speakers! When we got to where the people were having a party, we saw sooo much food all laid out in the middle of the tables, men and women dancing around chairs and 3/4 cool boxes full to the brim with Angkor Beer. We got talking to one of the men and he invited us to join them for a beer.. And another one.. And another one.. before you know it we were both absolutely bladdered, learning how to dance Khmer and celebrating with a load of Cambodian people we didn't know! The man told us that they were all celebrating his sons birthday and that they all go there on a Saturday to have a drink/party every few weeks when they finally have a day off. We stayed drinking with them all until about 3/4pm and then head back to our TukTuk driver, who had been patiently waiting for us to return. We would 100% recommend doing the same as us, going on a Saturday and hiring a TukTuk to take you there! Hopefully you might catch the same group people, if you do.. Top tip - "Chul Moi" in Khmer means cheers. "Choi Moi" means something naughty so don't get them confused as you'll end up offering out sexual activities to Cambodian men haha! Our video is below
Top Cat Cinema
Located on the centre strip of Sihanoukville, this place is excellent if you want a chilled night in. It's a pretty weird concept we've never seen anywhere, but it is totally unique and well worth experiencing. Basically, there is a load of bedrooms with comfy sofas, chilled lighting, a big TV, Xbox and a choice of about 4000 different films/ games to watch or play. So rock up, pick a time slot, pick a film and sit back and relax and watch a film! So simple, yet such a great idea! Rooms fit up to 20 people at a time and cost around $10 for two hours. You can have a 'smoke' here as well, or buy all sorts of 'happy' things downstairs to help you relax even more!
High Ropes Course
Whilst staying here, we went to the High Ropes course, located in the Lo-ah village around 13k from the Golden Lions Roundabout. We rented a motorbike, which cost $5 for the day. It took about 25 minutes to get there and we had our first little accident on the way! The roads are so bumpy and the back break didn't work on our bike, so we ended up skidding when trying to go over a bump and the bike fell over. Luckily, we weren't going very fast, so it didn't do any damage to the bike or us, but TOP TIP - be careful and slow down for every bump when on country roads. The course was ran by a really nice French man, it cost $6 for one way round, or $10 to go round as many times as you like. It was a really cool course, but it was very short so we'd understand why people may want to go round more than once! The owner is planning to extend the course eventually, at the moment you could do the whole thing in around 15 minutes. Worth going to though for $6, bigger and more established high ropes courses will cost you around $20-30 p/p.
The final thing we did was check out the Snake Farm (small Zoo), as we were running out of things to do and aren't ones for lying around on the beach. The Snake Farm cost $3 each and was worth checking out, but as with all Zoo's, it's sad to see wild animals in cages. Apparently, it is currently under construction so some of the exhibits were closed. We were lucky enough to make friends with a monkey whilst we were there, so that made the whole trip entirely worth it and we spent the whole time playing with this little chap!
Otres Village Market
We spent 3 nights on Otres Beach and then spent 2 nights in a Hostel in Otres Village. We saw a completely different vibe here compared to Otres Beach. There are tonnes backpacking hostels and amazing restaurants down the street. It had a much younger vibe here and it was so nice to finally not have sand falling out of places you didn't know you had! All that's left that really needs to be said is... If you have dreadlocks of any sort, you will fit right in here! There's a little event on at Otres Market in her village every Saturday from 4pm, we popped in to have a wonder round at 6pm and it looked really good, there were loads of little food stands selling over 30 different variety of foods, live music and plenty of little bars. Although, we left pretty quickly as we were suffering with the aftermath of drinking all morning at Kbal Cchay Waterfall.
We spent another two nights in Sihanoukville after returning from Koh Rong. We stayed at the Monkey Republic Hostel and Utopia. It was a change from our last two stays as we were right next to the Golden Lions Roundabout this time. There are so many shops, supermarkets, coffee shops, restaurants and markets around this area. The location is amazing for anyone who wants to be close to everything they would need for a few days stay. There's a recurring theme of Chinese restaurants and Greek restaurants here too, we recommend a Greek one called Fetta Pitta, the food was so good that we ate there 3 days in a row!
Scuba diving courses - there are 4 PADI diving centres in Sihanoukville and the Sihanoukville Port Area is the main hub for all of the dive centres from the Southwestern Cambodian Coast.
Beach hopping - Sihanoukville has over 23 beaches and plenty of surrounding islands such as Koh Rong, Koh Rong Somloen and Bamboo Island. Tour guide trips to these islands typically cost around $30 p/p, however you can get an open return fast speedboat to Koh Rong for $22 to explore the island and even stay in accommodation there instead (this is what we did).
Firework Display - every night at Serenditpity Beach. Free of charge!
Sihanoukville Central Market - we went here and though it was quite good! It's full of Khmer people selling anything and everything. Pretty good if you want to pick up some bargains!
Booze cruises - plenty of these leaving from Sihanoukville! For $25 p/p, it's a great way to party with new people with bucket loads of alcohol.
Cambodian Wat - For all you temple lovers, the Sihanoukville Wat's (Wat Krom, Wat Leu, Wat Ream and Wat Samathi) are beautiful and definitely worth visiting if you are into temple history and culture.
Visa's - Sihanoukville is also the place where you can get your visa for Vietnam if this is where you are heading to next! The safest and cheapest place to get your visa done is the Vietnamese Consulate. It's about a 5 min TukTuk drive or a 40 minute walk from the Golden Lions Roundabout. It cost $30 for a one month visa or $55 for a 3 month visa, which is a steal considering every hostel and visa service outside of the embassy will charge you $50 for a one month visa and $80 for a 3 month visa. We dropped our passports off in the morning, filled in the form and picked up our visas 4:30pm that afternoon. (FYI - it is open Mon-Fri. We finally realised this after two failed attempts to go get them done on a Saturday and then on a Sunday. You really do lose track of the days out here!!).
We have just successfully crossed the border into Cambodia. As part of our blog, we want to make sure it’s easy for anybody to find out information about crossing borders as we know from experience that it can quite confusing. At the airports, it is simple as you will be led straight to the visa control desks upon arriving. However, with border crossings it can be a little different.
The way we did things:
Back in the UK, we completed a registration form and applied for an E-Visa online. We’d researched this beforehand and had read that it’s much easier to get an E-Visa when possible. Our E-Visa came through to our emails and cost $33. We printed off the attachments of the emails and bought these with us.
Upon getting on the coach (The Great Ibis – highly recommend), we realised that around half of the people on it didn’t have an E-Visa. The rep who was on the coach collected their passports and departure forms and took payment of $45 or 1400Baht for the Visa service. He went away with the passports and came back in around 40 minutes with the passports and completed visa forms. We weren’t sure about this method of obtaining a visa as we had heard that sometimes the coach staff or authorities could increase the prices or try to scam you in some form. However, now that we’ve witnessed this isn’t the case, we’d happily obtain a visa with the Giant Ibis with this method now. We can’t vouch for other bus companies, but we would recommend booking with this one!
The bus journey has been smooth running with plenty of toilet stops. They provide you with croissant and a can of iced latte in the morning and a tub of egg fried rice and a water in the afternoon. The bus has WIFI (Although, it’s not very good), charging sockets, air con, recliner seats and plenty of leg room. It may be a bit more expensive compared to other buses at $33 each, however we feel the price is right for the experience on the bus.
We arrived at the border around 4 hours after leaving Bangkok. Upon stepping off the bus, you immediately walk on the left-hand side of the road - follow directions for the immigration office. There are a lot of scammers present here, they are quite obvious with their fake looking ‘Border Official’ passes/badges hanging around their necks. Don’t stop to talk to any of these people, whatever they say to you. After about 150 metres, turn right, still following signs for the immigration office. They’ll be lots of nervous looking (like we were) people going that way already, so if in doubt follow the crowd. We read so many horror stories about this before travelling, so we can assure you, it’s not something you need to worry about!
You’ll go up a set of stairs into border control. You only need to present your passport and departure card here, in which you should have already filled out when arriving in Thailand.
Welcome to Cambodia! If you have only been to Bangkok, like us two, this will seem a whole new world compared to what you have just become used to. The whole scene has a wild, wild west feel to it – it’s pretty cool. You’ll know what we mean when you get there! You’ll walk along the side of a fence until you reach two signs. One will be for visa purchases (Pointing to the right) and the other will be for Entries with Visas (Pointing straight on). Either way, you have to cross the busy road to the right-hand side.
If you still haven’t got a visa at this point as you didn’t obtain an E-Visa or pay for the bus service Visa, you will come to an office as soon as you cross the road where you can purchase a visa. At this point, we watched an older couple who had just purchased being told by a man on the street with a fake pass that they had to pay him $40 to stamp their visas. We heard them telling him they’ve already paid and walked away. If this happens to you, carry on walking straight to the arrivals office.
We followed everyone else straight onto the bus, thinking that we had finished our border crossing. Only to realise, we’d needed to go arrivals office to get our visas stamped (The reason everyone else was on the bus was because the rep did this for them). We ran off the bus and laughed all the way to the arrivals office that we’d nearly crossed the border illegally, we went into the arrivals office with our E-Visas. We waited in a very slow queue (just our luck to pick the slowest of all 4). If you have haven’t filled out a departure card you can do this here. Top tip – bring your own pen, many people seemed to be standing around waiting for one.
At the desk, they’ll scan your passport, your arrival form and your visa. If you forgot to print two copies of your E-Visa (like we did), don’t panic, you only need one here anyway. But do print two, as you’ll need another one for when you leave. They scan your fingerprints (All 10), take a photo of you and you’re done!
The whole process took just over an hour. However, the queue was huge after we’d walked out, so be prepared for up to 2 hours! Although, a lot of these people were queuing to fill out their departure form. Therefore, if you have already filled this out, go straight in and head for the desks.
There is literally nothing to worry about but any questions, please feel free to drop us an email or leave a comment below!
We arrive in Battambang after a 4 hour coach journey, thrilled to see some signs of life after our desolate Home Stay experience in Siem Reap. The streets are so busy so straight off the bus, we went out and had a look around. Our hotel was called Seng Hout and was situated right next to the Psar Nat market and the river. The hotel cost £13 for the 2 of us per night, which is amazing considering it was an actual hotel and not a hostel! They gave us free waters when they cleaned our rooms, there was a coffee shop in the entrance, a massage parlour on floor 2 and best of all, they even made little swans out of the towels on our beds! We loved it here and would definitely recommend it!
Nary's Cooking Class
We booked Nary's Cooking Class for that day, as we had read some really good reviews about it on Trip Advisor. It was only round the corner from us too so that was a bonus. The class was so good and we'd recommend anyone choosing the same company. The host was hilarious and it's definitely worth the $20 we paid for the 2 of us. Firstly, we went to the market with one of the instructors and he bought and talked about some of the ingredients we would be using that day. If you have a weak stomach, suck it up as you venture knee deep into that market!! Picture this, you're standing there trying to listen to someone tell you the history of a spring onion, when blam! Fish heads flying all over the place to your left, fish actually being gutted to your right, skinned whole ducks sprung across baskets in front of you, flies having the time of their lives... EVERYWHERE. The market trip was a great addition, but I'll be lying if I said I didn't want to get back to the classroom fairly quickly after!
In the class itself, we made fresh Spring rolls, Fish Amok, Beef Lok Lak and a Boiled Banana desert. The food tasted absolutely amazing! It was so fun to cook too. We learnt one thing about Khmer cooking too and that was - if in doubt, add 50 spoons of sugar!!!! My word, we both gawped at the spoon as the host was adding in to the dishes, it went into everything - even the meat dishes! We now know why the food out here tastes so good but it's much to our dismay as we are both trying to stay in shape whilst travelling (as you can read about here).
After the cooking class, we ended up meeting two lads from the UK. We had a few beers with them (KS - a few too many in my case oops) and went to this place called the Container Yard. It was really good there and great if you're looking for a cool place to drink in Battambang.
The next day, after spending the entire morning in bed sweating off one hell of a hangover, we headed to Phnom Sampov to see the infamous bats fly out of the cave and to see the killing caves. We spoke to a few TukTuk drivers at Psar Nat. They all tried to charge $20 for the journey (there and back - 4hours total), but we found $13 to be the lowest we could get them down to. On arriving at the bottom of the mountain, you are greeted by lots street food vendors and little bars so don't worry about there not being any food there. It cost $4 for the two of us to go to have access to the temple at the top of the mountain. We took the stairs to the top of the mountain, which was a sweaty climb considering the heat but wasn't too bad at all! However, if you don't consider yourself to be very fit, don't worry - you can take a motorbike taxi or 4x4 up the side of the mountain via the roads (for an extra cost).
The top of the mountain was great for scrambling around on the rocks and sight seeing. Battambang looks so beautiful from the top! On our way back down, we came to the killing caves which were used during the Khmer Rouge. This was a really sad experience and definitely opens your eyes to the unforgivable actions that took place there.
At around half 5, we settled down just below the bat caves. For anyone that wants to go - they come out at around 6 o'clock so try and get a good seat around half an hour before, although it wasn't that busy to be honest. At a little past 6, they came out in their millions! It was absolutely amazing and definitely a must see if you are in Battambang. They flock out of the cave for around 25 minutes and you can see them for miles and miles after in the same formation. We even saw them on our TukTuk journey home! One thing we did learn though - try not to sit directly under the caves like us! Inevitably.. Bats have gotta do their business too and they don't mind if it lands on your head!
Overall, we had a wicked time in Battambang, even with the fact we didn't get to ride the Bamboo Train. We would definitely recommend Nary's Cooking Class if you are looking for a fun way to spend lunch or dinner time, and the bat caves goes without saying!
We'd recommend spending 2-3 nights here unless you love the gym as they have an awesome one called Monurum Fitness Centre that we went to everyday. Even better it costs 1500Riel each, which is...wait for it...26p!!
There are some great temples to explore like Phnon Banan and Ek Phnom Pagoda, some of which are older then Angkor Wat and a fraction of the price to go and see. These are also mostly empty of tourists so although we didn't go we'd recommend this if you want a more authentic explorers experience!
We initially booked to go to Battambang because we had seen and read about the world renown Bamboo train. However, we were sadly disappointed to hear that it had been closed down to make a new train line. Apparently, the old line is still running but you only get to ride 200m on it, so it's not really worth the price you pay.
After spending 4 nights in the busy town centre of Siem Reap, it was time to head off to the Home Stay that we had booked prior to travelling. We weren’t really sure what to expect when it came to the Home Stay, we just knew that we were going to be staying with and getting to know a family of three. We thought we may be cooking and eating dinner with them, playing games in the evening and taking part in any work that needed to be done whilst we were there. We had a great experience with them, however we were a little surprised.
On arriving at the Papaya Community, we were approached by a lovely lady, Navy, who showed us to our cabin. Yes, a cabin! Initially, I had pictured us staying on the floor in the families’ house… I definitely didn’t expect a beautiful cabin to ourselves, with 2 double beds, an ensuite bathroom and table and chairs/hammock on the outside terrace. The large house opposite was home to Navy and her two beautiful children. There were 2 other cabins next to ours that were vacant in the time we were there. We looked around us and I’m not joking when I say… there was nothing there. There was field after field, with old barns, a few cows and locals building homes every half mile. The money from our home stay goes towards the community and allows them to do this building work. The community are currently building a home for the new vet that will help treat the animals and are saving up to build a school to teach their children.
We chilled out for the first night. We were really surprised when Navy said she would be making us Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner whilst we were there. We asked her if we could help her cook or clean and she politely declined. We had some amazing Khmer food, but we really were a little disappointed that we didn’t get to help cook it too. Navy waited on us hand and foot, which took away the novelty for us of staying in someone’s home. We did play with the kids though, so that was a great experience in itself.
We went out for a walk on the 2nd day after a breakfast of Noodles and a Fried Egg (Strange, but actually quite nice for breakfast). We wanted to go to a market, so we Google Map’d it and found one 1.5 miles away. We took a “shortcut” (Jac thinking he can out-smart Google Maps) and ended up walking around 2 miles instead. Although, it was quite cool as this way, we got to walk round the back of many of the houses in the village. On walking back from the market, it was super-hot so we flagged down a TukTuk and asked him to drive us back. My gosh, did we regret it! He did not have a clue where he was going and neither did we really. After going down this deserted dirt path for about 15-20 minutes in the opposite direction to our Home-Stay on the map, we said we would walk the rest and let the poor sod go home. He laughed at us as we said we would walk and we soon knew why! We walked into the bushes in the direction of the home stay and came to about 10 acres of rice paddies that you couldn’t cross! We both said we literally felt like contenders on Bear Grylls: Mission Survive at this point, completely lost in the blistering heat, with one bottle of water between us and not a Scooby-Doo of which way it was to get home. We saw a dirt path about half-a-mile to the right of us and decided that was the best route to take.
After walking for what seemed like forever on this path, we finally got to fields that we thought would lead us to our Home-Stay. The whole walk took around 2 hours, which was a lot considering we spend about 2 minutes at the market and we were walking in 30 degrees heat with no sun cream! As you may have guessed, we came back like a pair of sweaty tomatoes!
For the rest of the night, we chilled out with Navy and the kids, learning new phrases in Khmer and chatting about all sorts of things. She’s so lovely and it was really nice to spend the time talking to her.
Overall, we recommend a Home-Stay for two reasons. One being the time you spend with a real Cambodian Family and the other being the value for money. For £22 a night for 2 of us, we got breakfast, lunch, dinner and a roof over our head, which is amazing considering we literally didn’t have to spend anything else all day. However, we would recommend maybe finding a Home-Stay whereas your more immersed in the family home and not in a cabin outside. Lovely as it was, we would definitely like to get more involved next time!