My Top 5 Islands in South East Asia

There’s something about a South East Asian beach that conjures up images of white sand, clear water, delicious cocktails, friendly locals and massages on the beach.

I absolutely love South East Asia and it’s beaches, choosing only 5 of my favorites was a tough call!

But alas, here are my top 5 islands in South East Asia:

5. Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (Islands just off of Kota Kinabalu, Borneo)kk1

Kota Kinabalu is such a great city and something that makes it even better is that it has a beautiful marine park with beautiful small paradise islands only a 15 minute boat ride away. Now I have to admit that you can only go to a few of the islands which means that there are some crowds…but that’s a price to pay for paradise.

4. Koh Chang, Thailand


Koh Chang has such an amazing vibe. Especially Lonely Beach where we stayed. The island was very quiet when we were there but it just made it all the better. The beaches aren’t as beautiful as my other choices, but the locals, food and activities definitely make up for that. It also has a big jungle and plenty of things to keep you busy.

3. Koh Rong, Cambodia


After spending a couple of days in Sihanoukville (the jumping off point to Koh Rong) I was very unimpressed with it and wasn’t expecting much from Koh Rong. But the second that we arrived on to the island I realised how wrong I was. It is so chill and for $30 a night you can have your own hut right on the beach. The sand was so white and it squeaked when you walked on it. Heaven!

2. Koh Lipe, Thailanda1c4d-img_2377

Koh Lipe is the place that dreams are made of. It has beautiful white sand and clear blue water. It has become a tourist destination and I presume that it is getting busier and busier as the years go by. But, for such a small island, each beach has it’s own vibe and offers different things. We stayed at the beautiful Sanom Beach which had a few huts with a small beach to themselves, absolute perfection!

1. Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan is only a 30 minute boat ride from Bali but it feels like another world! It is so relaxing and the beaches are unbelievably beautiful! There were so many times when we were the only people on these perfect white sand beaches. Add to that a combination of friendly locals and delicious food and you’ve got yourself the perfect South East Asian island!


How about you? Are there any beaches or islands that you would add to this list?

The Awful Bus Journey to Koh Kong

After Kampot we decided to head to Koh Kong, which is a big town right on the Cambodian/Thai border. There is a big national park there and there are quite a few options to do home stays there. We decided the night before we left Kampot that we would do a home stay for a couple of days in the mountains.

We were both very excited about it and had called the company the morning that we were leaving to confirm. They said that they had a place for us to stay and that we would be able to get motorbike taxis from the Koh Kong bus station. We had told them that we were leaving from Kampot and would call them when we arrived at the Koh Kong bus station.

We had booked our bus ticket with the guesthouse that we were staying at. The bus ticket cost $12 each; which is by far the most expensive bus ticket we had in Cambodia. All of the previous buses that we had taken were either minibus to regular bus. Every one of them had air-con and were quite comfortable to ride in and usually cost between $6 and $8.

That morning an old disgusting minibus came to pick us up. We weren’t alarmed because a lot of times in Cambodia a bad bus will come and collect you to bring you to the bus terminal to catch your bus. We got on this bus and it was full of locals…so full in fact that there was only one seat for the two of us (it was a seat that you pull down as extra). Still believing that this would bring us to the terminal we went around town and picked up more and more people.
Eventually there were 22 people in a 16 seater minibus. And then it happened, we started driving out of town and kept going!

About 20 minutes into the journey we resigned to the fact that this bus would be taking us the whole way to Koh Kong (6 hours away). There was no air-con and as I said earlier myself and Jason were sharing a seat. We were so angry, not because of the fact that we were taking a local bus but because they had completely ripped us off by charging us a ridiculous amount each for the tickets. If we paid $3 each for them then I would have been quite happy…but $12 EACH!!!
Things just got worse from that point, it was disgustingly hot and a child in front of us started puking (he actually got sick all over the man next to him) Then the bus broke down so we had to wait while they fixed it.

While waiting we decided to ring the guesthouse and ask for half of our money back (even if they did give it back we would still be overpaying) since technically we paid for two seats and were sharing one. Of course we didn’t get any money back but instead they tried to get others to move so that we could have two seats. This wash;t what we wanted at all since everyone else was just as cramped as we were. After telling them that it was ok and that we would share a seat we had to accept the fact that we had gotten ripped off. Along the way we stopped at a little restaurant and we ordered some food, there was a pig nearby that was eating everyones scraps that fell on the floor. It was an interesting place that unfortunately had us feeling sick that night.

Finally after a loooooooong six hours we arrived at Koh Kong. We found a phone and called the company again to get the details about how to get there. Unfortunately the person on the phone didn’t speak much English and after 15 minutes on the phone I still had no idea where to go. We decided to get a tuk-tuk into town and find some wifi to get the address. Once we arrived in town we found the name. We asked some moto drivers and they said that it was too far away and that we could get a bus there the next day. Then we asked a tuk-tuk driver who told us the same thing. After such a frustrating/disappointing day we just asked him to bring us to a guesthouse. It was on the way to the guesthouse that the tuk-tuk driver told us that because we were coming from Kampot we should have gotten off of the bus about two hours before Koh Kong to get to the home stay. I was so annoyed because the person that we were talking to that morning knew we were coming from Kampot and spoke good English but failed to mention that we should be getting off sooner 😦

We ended up staying in the border town and being as fed up as we were decided to leave Cambodia the next day and go to Koh Chang. We were both sad that that was the last experience that we had in Cambodia but it didn’t stop us from having amazing memories of the wonderful country and it’s people.

** Now reading it back, while sitting in a coffee shop in Korea, it sounds ridiculous to be so upset about $12. But at the time thats a lot of money, that could have paid for two nights accommodation. I can’t explain it, but you get into a certain frame of mind when visiting these countries, like anywhere else in the world you want to be treated fairly. Also this was in April, which is the hottest month of the year in Cambodia. So we were in an overcrowded bus in mid 30’s heat with no air-con or fan and a child vomiting. **

Tips: DON’T book your bus with Long Villa guesthouse in Kampot. We have written about our experience on trip advisor and we weren’t the only ones that this happened to.

Kep and Kampot

After the craziness of Sihanoukville, we were excited to get to Kep as we had heard great things about it. Kep is a small seaside town near the Vietnam border. The great thing about Kep is that it’s very popular among Cambodians as a holiday spot.

The minute we arrived we knew that we’d like Kep a lot. It is very quiet and spread out, but we were staying in a brand new guesthouse across from the beach. The beach itself wasn’t great but the atmosphere and food definitely made up for it.

Some amazing bbq’d fish.
Jasons “manly” bike.

Kep is also a very famous destination in Cambodia for crabs (the food kind). So we spent our whole time there eating delicious crabs! On our first day we decided to rent a motorbike (our first in South East Asia). The best moped that we could find at a decent price was a beautiful shade of pink, Jason looked very manly driving it.

That day we drove to an incredible seafood market where we got to see all of the crab cages in the water. The market was so busy  and vibrant and there was fresh seafood being cooked all around. We couldn’t give up the chance to have some fresh barbecued seafood so we shared an amazing fish and got some palm juice. The process of making the palm juice is quite tough, in fact every palm juice seller has huge muscles in their arms from it. Palm juice is extracted from a bamboo style plant. They must squeeze it through a machine to get the juice out from the leaves. It actually tastes quite good too.

The many crab cages around the shores of Kep
Our lovely lunch!

After our delicious lunch, we decided to try and find a pool to cool down in (April is the hottest month in Asia) and find a pool we did. We had a nice day lazing around by the pool and just relaxing. That evening we returned to the market place and went to one of the many restaurants that are perched on the sea there. It was so nice sitting eating delicious crabs while watching the most incredible sunset I’ve ever seen. It was one of those moments that I’ll probably remember forever!

Amazing crabs in pepper sauce.
beautiful evening.
The next day we decided to drive around the surrounding countryside. We decided that we wanted to see the salt fields and caves nearby. That was probably my single most favorite day in Cambodia. we got lost and at one stage ended up at the Vietnamese border! We stopped in local restaurants and got to meet the locals. We reached a big town near the border and got lunch in a local place. It cost $2.50 between the two of us.
On the road
Some sweet kids that we made friends with

With the clouds and storm moving in we found one of the caves that we had wanted to visit. We spent a little time there with our “tour guide” who was a lovely high school student practicing his English. We couldn’t stay too long because we had wanted to get back to Kep before the storm hit. Unfortunately on our way back we had realized that our back wheel had a puncture. Driving slowly we managed to spot a little wooden place at the side of the road where people seemed to be fixing motorbikes. We pulled over and sure enough it was a repair shop.

Myself and Jason in the cave

We had to wait a while as they were fixing other bikes first but the second that we sat down in the shop torrential rain just bucketed down. Luckily by the time that the repair was fixed the rain had stopped and we were on our way back to Kep.

We thought that because we had gotten lost that we didn’t manage to find the salt fields but the next day while I was looking through my photos, the owner of the guesthouse was looking at them too and commented on the fact that we had seen the salt fields. We had thought all along that they were rice fields, but apparently not! We realized that maybe we weren’t as lost as we thought we were.

The salt fields that we thought were rice paddies.

The next day we said goodbye to the lovely Kep and said hello to the riverside town of Kampot. Kampot is only about 40 minutes away from Kep but is quite different. It is a lovely town where most of the action seems to happen along the river banks. There isn’t a whole lot to do in Kampot, which suited us just fine. We spent our days sleeping, eating and laughing. Jasons friend Bryan (who lives in Phnom Penh) had recommended a British pub (The Rusty Keyhole)  for us to order some ribs from, they are apparently “the best in Cambodia”. I have to admit they were amazing!!
We met an old Australian man who was very set in his ways and really didn’t like the fact that his Prime Minister was a woman and Americas was black, he also didn’t like muslims. It was hard but I bit my tongue (hard!) We also met a lovely English girl that lived in Hong Kong for a while and now lives in Cambodia working for a charity that helps the elephants in Cambodia. It was great hearing about the work that she does, it makes you want to better yourself!

The beautiful colonial buildings of Kampot.

Unfortunately, when we went back to our room that night we had the devastating news that Jasons wonderful Grandma Jean passed away. It was so hard for Jason being away from his family but luckily we had had a chance to talk to her when we were in Bangkok and she was so excited for him and his travels. It was something that she had always wanted to do but never had the chance. We discussed Jason flying home to be with his family but she had insisted to everyone before she passed that he didn’t come home. She said that now she would be able to be with us while we travelled. Because of this Jason decided to continue traveling and try to have the best time possible, I think that’s exactly what she would have wanted.

I feel very lucky that I had the chance to meet her and get to know her a little before she passed. I can say with all honesty that she is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. Not one person in her life can remember her saying a bad word about anyone…what a wonderful way to live! She makes me want to live my life in a more positive way. She was also a beautiful writer and artist. I was shocked by how beautiful her paintings that she showed me were.

This has been a hard time for Jason but I can honestly say that his Grandma Jean would be proud of him.

Jason and his Grandma Jean.

Sihanoukville, Jasons birthday and Koh Rong (paradise)

After our time in Phnom Penh it was time to head down south. Jasons birthday was coming in a couple of days so as a present to him (and a little one to myself too) I booked us into a nice hotel in Sihanoukville for a couple of days.

The resort that we stayed in, Pagoda Rocks, was absolutely beautiful. It was on the top of a hill with a beautiful view out over the ocean. Our room was a really big bungalow with a lovely balcony to enjoy the views. But, probably the best part about the resort was the pool, it was a beautiful infinity pool.

Pagoda Rocks

When we arrived we definitely felt a little out of our comfort zone with people helping us with our bags and even offering us complimentary shakes!
We spent the next couple of days just lazing around and enjoying our little slice of luxury while it lasted. For Jasons birthday we even ordered a bottle of wine to the room…we felt like quite the flash packers. Although, we only noticed after we left that the never charged us for the wine (score!!)

Our balcony
Jason messing around in the pool.

After our couple of days in paradise it was time to stay in downtown Sihanoukville for a couple of days. I’m not going to write much about our time there as we both pretty much agree that it’s been the worst place of our travels so far. It’s just full of young drunk backpackers who have no regard for anything and older sleazy men with their poor young Cambodian “girlfriends”. The latter really makes me sick.
I would definitely recommend to everyone not to stay here, unless like us you were planning on going to Koh Rong, or you like partying.
One night we went for a couple of drinks in one of the many bars on the beach (worst beach in Asia, so dirty!) and I went to use the bathroom, no word of a lie, I actually vomited from the smell in there! (I had only had one drink so it wasn’t from the alcohol)

Once we left Sihanoukville it was time to get a ferry to Koh Rong. Koh Rong is a small island just off of the coast of Cambodia, we had heard some really great things about it but were a little worried after our time in Sihanoukville that it would be similar to it.

Luckily it couldn’t have been more different from Sihanoukville! Koh Rong basically is paradise. The further down the beach you walk the quieter it is, the whiter the sand is and the clearer the water is. The sand was the type that squeaked when you walked on it. We were lucky to get a bungalow right on the beach. It was really nice and we had a patio which had a beautiful view of the water. We spent our time on Koh Rong just swimming, sunbathing, reading up about Nepal and of course eating. We really loved our time there. Our hut was right on the sand so we woke up to the sound of the waves in the morning and we had a shared bathroom which just made it more island, rustic style.

Once again we witnessed an incredible sunset in the evening. South East Asia really has spoiled us when it comes to sunsets! They just keep getting better and better!

Our time in Koh Rong was so relaxing and enjoyable, we really didn’t want to leave, especially to go back to Sihanoukville! We only had to spend one more night in Sihanoukville to book a bus to our next destination…Kep!

Our beach front hut.
Jason taking in the sunset.
Jason on Koh Rong, absolutely amazing!

Accommodation: Pagoda Rocks $60 a night
Monkey Island: $25 beach front hut
It’s been so long that I can’t remember other details, sorry!

The sand was so fine that it squeaked when you walked on it.
Jason and I enjoying the sunset.
So beautiful!
Beautiful Koh Rong!
Me in paradise.
Leaving Koh Rong.

Phnom Penh

1aaee-img_2984 Finally! I just want to apologise for the lengthy delay of this entry. I guess life just kind of got in the way and the wifi connections haven’t been as good in Nepal and India as they were in South East Asia. Anyway, without further adieu, here are Jason’s thoughts on Phnom Penh.
From the sleepy town of Battambang, we went to Cambodia’s vibrant capital city of Phnom Penh. As explained in the last entry, we organised a bus from our guesthouse in Battambang (The Seung Hout Hotel) to Phnom Penh. We chose a mini-bus that promised wi-fi for $10 but, unfortunately, the wi-fi didn’t work, not a big deal though. We could have taken a cheaper bus for $7. It took about 4-5 hours to get there including a half hour break at a questionable roadside restaurant for lunch, complete with chickens wandering around. I (Jason) have come to not trust these kinds of establishments as I have gotten sick at every single one of them. Grainne did have some lunch there though.
As we arrived in P.P. we were greeted by the usual swarm of vultures (tuk-tuk/motorbike drivers) trying desperately to get us to hire them. I realise that they are just trying to earn a living but it gets frustrating when you get off the bus in a new city, disorientated, tired and immediately having 10 or more people get in your face trying to scam money out of you.
Anyway, once we got past all of this P.P. was great.
Once we arrived, we hired a tuk-tuk and checked in to the Lazy Gecko Guesthouse. Actually when we got there, we had to wait a while to check in so we decided to order some food. Our first impression of this guesthouse was good because they had amazing food and a cool dog wandering around greeting everyone. However, once we actually got to the room, our feelings changed a bit. We paid $10 for a double room with a private bathroom and a fan but the room was very stuffy and had poor circulation. It had a window and a door we could open (obvis\ously) but if we wanted any privacy, we had to keep the curtains closed and the door shut because right outside our room was a main hallway that people walked up and down all day. This is the reason why the room was so stuffy. Also, there was constuction going on at the building next door and they liked to start early, needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep. We checked out the next morning and moved to a different guesthouse on the same street that we liked a lot more, that was quieter and had air-condition (for $12)

That same day, we booked a wildlife tour for the following day that was located just outside of P.P. We spent the rest of the day just lazing around until we met my friend Brian, who’s doing the Peace Corp. in P.P. for dinner. Brian took us to a good/cheap Indonesian restaurant located near the palace. The whole meal costed us about $2 including drinks. It was really nice catching up with Brian because in my whole time living abroad, I haven’t had a chance to hang out with anyone from home.
The next day we went to the wildlife park. Overall, it was a good experience. Our guide seemed very knowledgeable and we got the chance to intetact with some very interesting animals including gibbons, elephants, otters, crocodiles, birds and pythons. Grainne even taught one of the birds to say hello in Korean (an-yong). The wildlife park rescues animals all around Cambodia, rehabilitates them and tries to place them back in safe places in the wild. The price of the tour was about $30 and lasted about 5 hours. Included in the price was a really good Khmer lunch made by the tour guides wife.
They just loved getting their backs scratched!
This is Lucky.
Even though the animals are in cages, this wildlife park does incredible work. Every single animal that is at the park has been rescued from people or bad situations (except for the Lions who they inherited from the zoo that was there before the park). Incredibly, about 80-90% of the animals are placed back in to the wild within their first 3 months at the park. The others are animals that wouldn’t survive in the wild. They also have successful breeding programs, only breeding animals that will be released back in to the wild.
A baby gibbon trying to chew on Jasons fingers,
 she had no teeth so it was all good!

After this we net Noel, Kate and Jayne briefly at the Toul Sleng prison and the Killing Fields. The Toul Sleng prison is where the Khmer Rouge housed “prisoners of the state”. People were imprisoned in this old school building for various reasons, but mostly they were educated or refused to comply with Pol Pot’s vision. Most prisoners were tortured here until they confessed to false charges. Many of them died in the process and if they didn’t die, they were sent to the killing fields and died there.

Pol Pot. The leader of the Khmer Rouge.
One of the “torture rooms” in Tuol Sleng

After visiting the grusome Toul Sleng prison, we went to the killing fields where we took an audio tour. The narrator was a Toul Sleng survivor who gave a chilling account of what happened there. It was truely heartbreaking. Over time, bits of bone and teeth resurfaced due to rain. At the end of the tour, you get a chance to visit the memorial stupa which contains many of the skulls of the victims that had died at the killing fields. However, there are still many graves there that have not been excavated. It really is a chilling sight to see.

The skulls of some of the people
that were killed at the killing fields

One of the many mass graves
at the killing fields

Later in the evening, we met up with Noel, Kate and Jayne for dinner and goodbyes. The following day we went to a large market that used to be the biggest in Southeast Asia where we got some t-shirts and other bits and pieces. This brought an end to our time in Phnom Penh.


Bus from Battambang to Phnom Penh: $10

Accomodation: Lazy Gecko, $10 (fan room) Kha Vi Guesthouse (just down the road from the Lazy Gecko) $12 air-con room

Day trip to Phnom Tamao wildlife park: $35 (including transport and lunch.)

Battambing Battambang

Battambang is probably one of our favorite places that we have been to yet. We had such a great relaxing time there and had a chance to see the “real” Cambodia.

But in order to get there we had to get the bus from Siem Reap. We were waiting for our bus that morning in our hostel when it finally came, we jumped on and it dropped us off at the bus station. there were people selling things all around us as we got off and everybody else on the minibus that brought us to the station were getting on a certain bus. We packed our bags underneath and jumped on too.

About 30 minutes into the journey a man came over to us and asked us where we were going to. We told him we were going to Battambang and his look said it all. “This bus is for Phnom Penh” he said. All we could manage to say was “Oh.” He called the bus company and put us on the phone with an English speaking person who told us that we were on the wrong bus (Phnom Penh is about 6 hours south, while Battambang was northwest 6 hours) Luckily she told us that the bus driver would let us off the bus somewhere and another bus will come and collect us. About five minutes later the bus stopped and we were let off at a petrol station in the middle of nowhere with the promise that another bus would be along in ten minutes. 

Waiting for the bus
Sad that we got on the wrong bus

I have to admit that those ten minutes were some of the best minutes I’ve had so far while traveling. We really got to see how wonderful the Cambodian people are, we had people waving at us from their motorbikes and two different people stopped to make sure that we were ok, one woman with her mother and daughter on the bike with her. While waiting we also got to see some unbelievable things such as a man on his moped with three pigs strapped to the back!

Somebody stopping to make sure we are ok
You can’t really see but this man has a pig on the back of his bike.
We’ve also seen bikes with 3 pigs on the back.

Like they said, about ten minutes later, a bus pulled up and we were on our way to Battambang.
Battambang is the second biggest town in Cambodia but it is so laid back that it’s hard to believe. When we arrived in Battambang there were some tuk-tuks waiting to show us their guesthouses and to bring us to them. When there is a group of people all offering similar things, my rule is to go with the cutest oldest man. (it seems to have worked so far!) Our person of choice this time was Mr. So Phat. He was such a nice man and brought us to our guesthouse, the Seung Hout hotel. We were surprised to find out that it had a swimming pool and was well in our budget.

Our first day was spent chilling in the pool and strolling around the town. It was such a nice relaxing town. I think this is why we loved Battambang. The last couple of years everywhere that myself and Jason went to together we always managed to get off of the tourist trail and feel like we are really seeing the country (Korea included). But since this journey has begun we have just felt like there is no way to get away from other tourists…that is until we arrived here.

There were only a handful of other tourists around and since all the bars close by 10p.m. here there was no party crowd.
On our first full day in Battambang we decided to ask Mr So Phat to take us on a trip to see the bamboo train and the killing caves. Mr So Phat had practically begged Jason for a job the day before so we decided it would be nice to ring him and ask him to take us. He was at our hotel within ten minutes and was so happy.
All ready for the bamboo train ride.
The bamboo train.

The bamboo train is probably the number one touristy thing to do in Battambang, but even so, we only saw about 7 other people there. The bamboo train is a network of very basic “trains” made from bamboo (hence the name) that the Cambodians used after the Khmer Rouge had been in power. At that time there were hardly any cars motorbikes or taxis so people found it nearly impossible to move things around the country. Then these rails were made in between the bigger towns that allowed people to transport heavy things around. In fact, they even used to transport cattle on these things! We were allowed the chance to take a ride on the bamboo train for about one hour. It was a really fun experience and actually went quite fast!

About halfway through we stopped at this little village for a break and got to play with the sweetest kids. They made us jewelry from leaves and didn’t want any money from us or ask us to buy anything. We really were away from the backpacker trail. One of the boys had great English and was very interested in the fact that we live in Korea.

After our break we got back on the bamboo train and made our way back. Because there is only one rail line, if a train is coming in the opposite direction both trains have to stop and one has to be disabled and move to make way for the other. The train back was exciting because there was fierce thunder and it looked like it would rain any second.
Jason on the bamboo train

Beautiful kids in the village that we stopped at.

Inside the temple (prison)
A shrine near the killing fields.

Once we got back Mr So Phat was waiting and ready to bring us to our next destination. It was quite a distance away, that allowed us to see Cambodian rural life from our tuk-tuk. Luckily the rain never came and it was time for us to go to the killing caves. During the Khmer Rouges’ reign nearly 20% of the population was killed. All around Cambodia prisons were set up for people that didn’t follow the Khmer Rouges’ regime precisely or for people that the Khmer Rouge decided to kill for no reason at all. Here in Battambang, the main prison was this beautiful temple on top of a mountain. It is so peaceful there that it’s hard to imagine the horrors that went on.

Nowadays the temple has returned and it is being painted with beautiful bright pictures.  Just a minutes walk away from the temple you come to a big cave. This cave was where the Khmer Rouge would beat and kill the prisoners and then throw their bodies, sometimes dead, sometimes alive, down into the dark cave. There was also a separate cave opening where they threw the childrens bodies. It was very grim and has been made into a prayer area. But the skulls of some of the poor people that suffered are on show here. I’ll explain the reasoning behind the public display of the skulls in our Phnom Penh blog.

Some of the clothes of the victims.
Walkway down to the cave where they
threw the children’s bodies.
It was a very somber experience visiting the caves but is also important to see while visiting Cambodia, we also got to learn far more about the Khmer Rouge regime in Phnom Penh.

Some of the skulls at the cave.


Overall we had a wonderful time in Battambang. The town was so laid back and the architecture was beautiful. I would definitely recommend a trip to Battambang while in Cambodia.

At the top of the mountain.


Accommodation: Seung Hout hotel: $12 air-con room
Hire a tuk-tuk driver for a day: $15 (you could get it for less, but we really loved Mr So Phat and didn’t mind paying that price)
Bamboo train ride: $5
Motorbike up to the killing caves (optional): $3
Bus to Phnom Penh: $10 each, promised wifi, but it didn’t work. (could get a cheaper bus for $7)

Siem Reap

After our stressful border crossing we were all excited to get some rest. My friend had recommended us to stay at The Siem Reap hostel, so I had booked all five of us into a dorm room together beforehand. The Siem Reap hostel is an amazing place to stay if you go to Siem Reap. It is very much like a hostel that you would find in Australia, but without the expense. The best part about this hostel was that we had a nice pool, a movie room and a free pool table.
The pool at The Siem Reap hostel
We arrived into Siem Reap at about nine in the evening so we just got some dinner and went to bed. The next day we all decided that we deserved a rest day so we all just lazed about by the pool, eating, drinking and napping. Noel, Kate and Jayne got massages also, it was such a nice relaxing day!
After our relaxing day we were all set to see the temples of Angkor, these are the reason that tourism in Cambodia is so high. We decided to go and see the temples at sunrise which meant getting up at 4:30a.m. The temples of Angkor are the pride of Cambodia and the main one, Angkor Wat, is even on their nations flag. If you want to read more about the temples, here is a link for you
Angkor Wat at sunrise
Jungle clad Ta Phrom temple
Bayon temple; There were hundreds of faces on the temple.
We arrived at Angkor Wat and it was still dark so we found a spot to watch the sunrise. I had stood in that exact same spot four years ago with Louise waiting for a sunrise too, and that time it was too cloudy so there was none. Just when we arrived it started raining. I was devastated thinking that only I could go to Angkor Wat twice for sunrise and not see a thing! Luckily the rain stopped and the clouds cleared, I was finally going to get my sunrise!!
Unfortunately the sunrise wasn’t as exciting or impressive as we thought it would be, but we still had fun. After sunrise we got to explore three of the temples, Angkor Wat (the biggest one), Bayan (famous for its many stone faces) and Ta Phrom (the temple covered in jungle, this was also used for Tomb Raider). Ta Phrom is my favorite as it is covered in trees and has a very mystical feeling to it.
Jason in Angkor Wat
Myself and Jason at Bayan
Noel at Ta Phrom
After walking around the temples in the heat we were all wrecked by the time we arrived back to the guesthouse. It was fun seeing the temples but I wish that we hadn’t gotten up so early to see the sunrise, as we were all very tired and felt like we couldn’t enjoy the experience to it’s fullest. It was one of those times where something is  a lot more fun when you look back on it rather than while you are doing it. After a couple of hours nap we decided to venture out to “pub street.” Pub street is exactly what you think it is, a street full of pubs. It was really strange to see this here in the middle of a small town in Cambodia, there were beggers everywhere and seeing a child no more than seven or eight years old going through all of the rubbish to find some plastic to sell at 1a.m. on a Tuesday night was harrowing.
The next day we had a nice sleep in after our early rise the morning before. Myself and Jason rented a couple of bikes and cycled around the town. By noon it became so hard to cycle in the heat that we had to return to our hostel dripping in sweat. Today was the day that Noel, Kate and Jayne were leaving us. I had so much fun with them all, it really felt like we hadn’t been apart for long. I was hoping that we’d get to meet up again at some stage. Being back together with my friends really make me miss Ireland and Irish people, you really can’t find anybody like them! I’m sure Jason had a lot of fun meeting them too (although I think he couldn’t understand a lot of our conversations) haha.
Miss them!
 One thing that I have to mention
when talking about Kate, Noel and Jayne is the Lily dance. This is a worldwide phenomenon that has been performed in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, U.K. probably many other places also but now Cambodia too! The “Lily” dance is named after Kates mom because it is her that invented it. Whenever she’s had a glass or two the “Lily” dance comes out in all of its glory. Let’s hope that some day the “Lily” dance can become famous all over the world 😉
The famous “Lily Dance”
After saying goodbye to “the lads” we just packed our bags and got ready for our bus ride the next day…we were off to Battambang!
Siem Reap is a nice town, with lots to do both within the town and on the outskirts. I was glad that we got to be there with friends, the best thing about this town is that you can have a crazy night out if you want or just as easily have a mellow night. And of course having the temples in it’s back garden makes this town even better!
Accommodation: The Siem Reap Hostel $6 for a dorm bed in a really comfortable 6 bed dorm.
Tuk-tuk to the temples: $15 between myself and Jason
Entry into the temples: $20 for a day, $40 for 3 days and $60 for a 7 day ticket.
Meal: surprisingly western foods were the same price as local foods, ranging between $3 and $5 per meal
Bicycle rental: $1 a day
Bus ticket to Battambang: $7

My worst border crossing to date!

A couple of days ago we did the much criticized trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap. I had read a lot about this particular border crossing about how they will try to rip you off at every corner so we went prepared. Luckily we met up with my two friends from college Noel and Kate the day before. It was so great seeing them both! I hadn’t seen Noel since he visited me in Korea 3 years previous and Kate since we travelled together in New Zealand nearly 4 years ago. Their friend Jayne was also with them and the 5 of us had great craic catching up.

We were all going to Siem Reap together the next day so we decided to book our tickets and travel together (safety in numbers!) We found a travel agents near our guesthouse and booked our minibus from Bangkok straight to Siem Reap for 300 baht each. The minibus would collect us the following morning at 7:20 from our reception. With an early morning ahead of us we did what only a group of Irish would do…went out and got drunk! We met Kates friend who lives in Bangkok and he brought us to a couple of great places that we would have never known about before. It was so nice to get out of the Khao San area and see some of Bangkok.

But before we could meet her friend we had to get a taxi to the spot. Of course the taxi dropped us miles away from the pub and randomly dropped us at Koreatown. It was so strange seeing hangul written everywhere and we were considering eating at one of the places until I saw that a soup that normally costs 2,000w in Korea cost the equilivent of 10,000w here. We swiftly moved on and waited for Kates friend to collect us and show us the way. He brought us to a pub that does the best fish and chips! Myself and Jason got a large portion to share and couldn’t even nearly finish it. It cost about $12/$13 for the large portion.  There was also a great jazz band playing which was so nice because living in Gimhae we don’t get the chance to see live music very often. This pub’s name was fat gutz, a fitting name I thought!

After that pub he brought us to another great place. It was called Wongs place (I think) and is a great tiny spot that apparently is absolutely packed out the door every weekend, we went during the week so it was nice and quiet. It was such a fun night catching up with everyone.

After 4 hours sleep (worst decision ever!) we rose from bed and got ready for our day ahead of us. The travel agent told us that the journey would take about 8 hours total. Our minibus arrived and luckily only 2 others were on it with us, one from America and a Londoner. We had the craziest bus driver who would  keep sniffing something from two suspect little bottles. Every time he would sniff he would suddenly start crazy dancing to the songs (while driving) He also just made strange noises for the whole journey…his favourite being “eh eh ehhhh” quite similar to Anne from Little Britain.

When we finally arrived at the border town I was looking out the window and saw an arrow pointing left for the border. We went right. He brought us to this restaurant where they were so “nice” and offered to get our visas for us there while we wait, for only 1,200 baht. When we politely declined he told us that we would be queueing up for 6/7 hours at the border and will miss our connecting buses at the other side. Again we declined, knowing that this is exactly what we were warned about. He also took our bus tickets from us and told us he would give us new ones (I still don’t know why we gave them to him)

After 20 minutes or so we were off again. We were just pulling away when we realized that we never got our bus tickets back, we asked our driver who asked the man at the restaurant, but he said not to worry we would get them. Of course this made us worry and by the time we got to the border we held a sit in until someone gave us a ticket or some kind of proof of onward travel out of Poipet (the border town) After another 20 minutes we still didn’t have any proof but we did have a man from a travel company promise to bring us over the border and personally make sure we get on a bus. At this stage we didn’t have much of an option and we were getting really hot so we went with him.

Once at the border we had to get our visas, I was looking around and a man told me to go to the building on our right, when our agent saw this he started giving out to the man who had helped me and tried to make us follow him past the building (so that we would get visas from him for 1,200 baht) We went into the building and got our visas for 800 baht. The process took about 10 minutes (not the 6/7 hours that the guy at the restaurant had told us) I think at this stage we were all angry because the person that was supposed to be helping us had just tried to scam us so we presumed we’d never see him again. To our surprise he was still waiting for us afterwards and came with us to the immigration line. We queued for what seemed like an eternity there in the horrible heat and all that was left to do afterwards was wait for a bus that we were hoping would come. Everyone else around us had stickers which are your bus tickets and we had nothing. Apparently, this happens if you refuse to buy your visa from the people. Luckily we were a big group and had the amazing Jayne with us who would take no shit from anyone. Miraculously the bus came and we were allowed on it without our tickets (I think they were just so sick of us at that stage)

While on the bus we found out that some people had paid 1,600 baht for the same journey that we were doing for 300 baht. In fact the American that was on our minibus to the border with us paid 2,000 baht and then they wanted him to pay another 400 baht at the border cause he “missed” his bus to Phnom Penh…he was still there when we were leaving. Overall this journey ended up taking over 12 hours but we finally arrived in Siem Reap. I think the hardest part of this journey is that people are lying and cheating you with a smile on their faces, in fact a girl had just found out that her bank card was stolen during her bus trip from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and they had accessed her account and taken nearly $4,000 canadian dollars. Obviously she was very upset and one of the tour guides was comforting her, he then proceeded to get her to pay him 1,200 baht for the visa (ripping her off a bit more).

If you are ever planning on doing this route I would definitely recommend you to do some research. I had read all about it on and the more you know beforehand the less likely you are to get ripped off. I would also recommend not getting a minibus (even though this is the easier option) Apparently there are plenty of government busses that leave from Bangkok bus station that are much cheaper and drop you to the border town, you can then just get a short taxi to the border and then pay for an onward bus to Siem Reap. Also, make sure you stand your ground! Another thing that I would recommend is to apply for your visa online. That way you will be guaranteed to not get ripped off with the visa. The online visa is only allowed on certain border crossings so make sure to check beforehand.

We have been in Siem Reap for two days now and have been pretty lazy, but more on that next time 🙂