8. Be part of the change: After Kep, we headed towards Sihanoukville, a larger, populated and touristic city. Here you can find more accommodation options, from hostels for backpackers to luxury hotels facing the beach. The city has all the amenities: shops, restaurants and supermarkets as well as the traditional swarm of tuk tuks to move between the beaches. The two main beaches are Ochheuteal and Sokha, quite pleasant but with a serious problem of solid waste management, particularly visible in Sokha. The beach is divided into two parts, the part covered with garbage and the area where the hotels are located and it’s clean. Apparently there’s a serious problem of education regarding waste management because locals literally bathe in their trash and don’t seem to care much. It’s a very sad situation because the beaches are very beautiful. Actually, something kind of funny happened to me: it turns out that one day we decided to go to Sokha because I wanted to swim for a while in the sea, Criss decided not to swim and waited for me in the sand (needless to say, we went to the clean area of the beach). After a few moment in the water, I began to notice a very unpleasant smell, like sewage and it turns out that the sea smelled like that! I was swimming in a sewer. I immediately went out and when I got to Criss, he noticed my bad smell and mocked me. I went straight to the hostel to take a long bath. I didn’t get sick, but the situation illustrates the seriousness of the waste problem in this city, the recommendation is to follow Gandalf's advice: when in doubt, follow your nose! Sometimes identifying problems in other countries, can help us appreciate nature more and create awareness to be part of the change, all help makes a difference.
9. Try local food: We had the opportunity to try some Khmer-style specialties on the coast. Definitely my favorite dish is the Lok Lak, it’s pieces of meat (beef) marinated with a special soy sauce, accompanied with some vegetables, egg and white rice. The different variations of noodle soups are very common, with meats of all kinds, always accompanied by vegetables. The Samlar Kakou is the traditional dish of Cambodia, it’s a soup based on kroueung, a paste of local spices and pieces of chicken, fish or beef. Fried rice dishes with various Chinese-style meats are also very common. The local beer called Angkor (what other name could it have?) is very good and cheap. Carry some meds for your stomach in case you feel bad and don’t let fear limits you.
10. Get ready for the weather: We visited Cambodia at the beginning of June and by this month the effects of the Asian monsoon are beginning, so you have to be prepared for the rains. We were greeted on our first day in Phnom Penh by a heavy rain that forced us to seek refuge in a cafe. Climatic conditions can change very quickly. It’s curious to see how the locals, particularly the children, enjoy the rain, the cafe where we were was in front of a park and we saw how the children went out to play. The temperature at all times is warm, even at night, on average above 25 °C and you can perceive a high level of humidity too. Don’t forget to stay hydrated.
11. Currency: In Cambodia the dollar or the local currency, the Rail, is used interchangeably, so it’s not necessary to change currency at the time of arrival. The exchange rate in the streets (June, 2018) was 4000 rail = $1. When buying something, it’s common to have one part in rails and another one in dollars, so you have to be very careful to make sure you are giving the correct amount, always carry a calculator in hand!. It’s advisable to bring cash for tuk tuks, and take in consideration that not all shops accept payment by card. It should be mentioned that Cambodia is very cheap compared to European standards.
12. Visit Angkor Wat and Siem Reap: Watching the sunrise in Angkor Wat is one of the most magical spectacles I’ve seen in my life despite the amount of tourists you find around. But first let's talk about Siem Reap, the most visited city in Cambodia: it has its own airport and all the access facilities, certainly dedicated almost entirely to the tourism that has generated Angkor Wat, 8 km from the city. It has accommodation options for all budgets and a busy nightlife, particularly on Pub Street, a street near the market full of bars, restaurants and neon lights, excellent choice to try local dishes. Take a walk along the Siem Reap river where you will see beautiful local style bridges that light up at dusk, usually the Buddhist monks go to one of these bridges to sing songs and pray at sunset. The city has several Buddhist temples that can be visited at no cost. In the market you will find local products and countless souvenirs.
To visit the temple complex of Angkor, tickets can only be purchased previously at the official sales center, located about 4 km from Siem Reap in the direction of Angkor. Because the temples are relatively far from each other, the most convenient way to visit them is to previously hire a tuk tuk driver to complete the tour or rent a bicycle. We ventured to do the tour on foot, but after Angkor Wat, the most famous and main temple, we noticed that it was not a very good idea ... the tour that includes the temples of Angkor Wat, Angkor Tom, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm and Banteay Kdei is about 18 km, so one day is not enough to visit each temple calmly and on foot. So, after leaving Angkor Wat we hired a tuk tuk. There are also 3 day pass and 7 day pass options, but if you want to visit the temple complex in one day it’s best to agree with a driver who can take you from Siem Reap to do the whole trip. The price is negotiated at the moment of hiring the service and usually you can bargain to get a good option. Make sure the driver understands you because when we arrived at Ta Prohm, we told the driver how long we would be in the temple. When we came back, he was gone! We asked and other drivers told us that he left because he apparently didn’t understand well the time of return, got tired of waiting, and left. We felt bad since we didn’t pay him.