Inquiry Submission By Hoz H
This is the Cambodia part of our 2020 trip through SE Asia. Vietnam will be placed in the Vietnam forum.
We are husband and wife, 70 and 74, not spring chickens but not dead…yet. I am a renal transplant survivor, with COPD, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet and require CPAP at night. My carryon is filled with meds and my CPAP machine. My wife has vertigo and access problems. She doesn’t like climbing stairs. Our intention was to spend the winter slow traveling Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, returning to the US March 31. A ,”last honeymoon”…so to speak. We left the USA with Delta Air Jan 7 and arrived Bangkok, Thailand after 25 hours travel.
Jetlagged, we took an airport taxi to New Siam III on Soi Rambuttri near Khao San Rd but more quiet, we thought it would make a good place to slip into Tourist Central. We spent the next 4 days napping and acclimating to the time change, which is always hard on us. During our short stay we managed to tour Sleeping Buddha, Grand Palace, and Wat Arun, which also included a ride on the Chaopraya River ferry. I had many other Bangkok sights to see but decided to cover them when we return mid march for our flight home. A decision I’ve come to regret. We ate at street restaurants on Rambuttri.
January 12 we flew Air Asia, a cheap, budget airline to Siem Reap. The experience wasn’t pleasant, but it’s only an hour and a half flight. Once in Siem Reap the hotel owner had his own tuktuk and met us at the airport.
We spent 9 nights at Lovely Family Guesthouse, basic low budget lodging with breakfast included. Fantastic family, always smiling and helpful. Lots of restaurants around, including some great local eats, a nighttime grill and beer joint directly across the street. Try breakfast/brunch down on the corner where a street restaurant sets up shop in front of the convenience store. Egg, grilled chicken, rice and a cup of soup for a buck. They open at 6 am and are cleaned up and gone before noon.
We toured Angkor Wat 7 days, on our first visit 2 years ago we drove around and were amazed, but really didn’t know what we were seeing. This extended trip gave the opportunity to dig deeper into the temples. We used the same tuktuk driver we had on our first visit. Yan Tuktukdriver (on FB) now has a new Passapp moto. Yan is conscientious and his rates are very reasonable. Crowds at Angkor were thin and more than once we heard it was because Chinese tourists were not allowed travel due to a new virus breakout. We also spent an evening with the Divine Sala Dancers which was moving and very entertaining.
January 21 Mekong Express to Battambang. Good inexpensive bus service, no problems. They have some bad reviews online but we were happy with the service. We were picked up at our guesthouse and delivered to the office where a regular bus was waiting. The ride to Battambang was uneventful except for a long stretch of rough road where a new highway is being built. Two rest stops enroute.
In Battambang we checked into the “new” wing of Seng Hout Hotel. Clean, nice size room and an elevator, which is becoming a must for the wife. The staff were friendly when spoken to and were willing to help with advice.
The big public market is located across the street, and restaurants are nearby. 2 blocks north is another inexpensive street eats place that serves breakfast for a buck THROUGH THE FENCE of the schoolyard. According to my contact it has been operating 18 years, don’t miss it. We also enjoyed a street food restaurant that opened every evening by the river.
We attended an informative morning cooking class at Nary Restaurant and a 2 day country/city tour with Mr Him Heng (find online, Battambang Tours). Mr Heng is a great guide, will fashion a tour to your tastes and his rates are very reasonable. We learned what is necessary on a Cambodian countryside tuktuk tour… iron buttocks and good dust masks! I had brought a supply of N95 masks on this trip for city pollution but, as we’ll later see, it turned out to seem a genius move.
January 25 we used Mekong Express again to go on to Phnom Penh. The bus this time turned out to be a large van, but we had no complaints . The AC worked and there were 2 rest stops along the way. We spent 2 nights at the Dynsey Hotel. It’s right on a jump street with bars and restaurants all around. Surprisingly our room was quiet at night and we slept well. We walked the riverside and visited the National Museum which is convenient to the hotel.
We turned our passports over to Khmer Views Travel right next door to arrange 3 month Vietnam visas. She said they should take 7 days as it was Viet New Years.
In the meantime we took the Giant Ibis bus to Kampot, spent 4 nights at Welcome Kampot Hotel and then transferred for 3 nights at Twin Home Hotel. Twin Home was nicer, cleaner and had friendlier staff, not to mention less expensive. While in Kampot we visited Kep for a crab lunch (expensive), saw a pepper farm (interesting), toured the countryside (Secret Lake has a deep dark secret) , and visited Bokor National Park (disappointing due to thick fog).
We also took a Firefly boat ride, which was included with the Bokor Tour. No fireflies, but nice views at sunset and after dark along the river. When we got off the boat it was dark and no taxis or tuktuks in sight, so my wife and I rode pillion on a couple scooters. A first for my wife…she hung on tight and screamed at every bump and turn in the road.
Plenty restaurants to choose from in the Old Market area, also don’t miss the night market near the Durian Roundabout. We stayed in Kampot 7 nights because I had developed bronchitis (those dusty Cambodian country roads) and thought the clean air (compared to Phnom Penh) would be good. It worked, and my lungs cleared after a week.
On February 3 we again used Giant Ibis return to Phnom Penh and stayed 5 nights at a great little hotel, Riverside Phnom Penh. Clean and well maintained, the manager is a Cambodian/American who retired after 25 years as a New York cop. He runs a tight ship. During this time we toured the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum, both heartbreaking, but must see.
Next day we moved on to Saigon.