I am heading to SE Aisa in late April of next year with my boyfriend. We are going for around 3 months & were planning thailand mostly, taking in Vietnam & maybe Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia etc.
I have heard a lot about Thailand- cost of living, were to go, things to do. Could anybody enlighten me as to the same kind of thing for Cambodia, I see a lot of people mentioning it in the forums & had I not logged on here it never would have entered my head to visit.
Any help would be greatly appreciated as I am completely lost!!!
You could visit Siem Reap, and spend a few days around Angkor Wat ('The largest religious monument in the world')
For more info, visit http://www.angkorwat.org/
you could then sail down to Phnom Penh on the Tonle Sap.
You can leave Siem Reap via boat on the Tonlé Sap towards Phnom Penh (trips generally taking four to five hours and costs $25). The majority of foreigners are made to sit on the roof (wear sunscreen and a hat) and there are some views along the way. The trip is at its best from August to February. The lake shrinks and only small boats operate in the months of March, June and July, and they do frequently break down. Tickets are sold near the market in Siem Reap. Plenty of accommodation touts will be waiting for you upon your arrival at either Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. On a practical level the price is a rip-off (it should be $10 - $12) and buses are a better bet.' (http://www.bayonpearnik.com/Cambodia/SiemReapAngkorWat/GettingToAndFromSiemReap.html)
Cambodias dirt cheap, so cheap that people tend to use US dollars rather thean their own currency.
A large part of the country is innaccessable due to Landlines, and the infrastructure is very poor. Theres the Ancient temples of Anchor Watt at Siem Reap - if your coming there from Thailand youll have to cross the worst road in the world - it took us 8 hours to travel 150K!!!
from there the normal destination is Phenom Phen - at certain times of year the Mekong is high enough so that you can get a speed boat directly there. If not its another long bus journey - dont be fooled by claims of 'luxury buses, with air-con, toilet & TV' - Such things dont exist in Cambodia.
In the capital the attractions are focused around the Khmer Rouge genocide. Visit Tol Slueng, the secret prison where 40,000 cambodians were tortured, interrogated and sent to the killing fields. You can get a Tuk Tuk to the Killing fields themselves for about 2 dollars. Apart from that theres not much in the way of 'attractions'. A stroll down the river front past the palace is rewarding as Cambodians are generally very friendly and often talk to tourists without trying to sell them something.
Youll see a lot of victims of the old regime and young landmine victims begging. Make sure you carry lots of change with you - theres nothing worse than having to ignore the pleas of a blinded and maimed child simply cause you cant break a 50. It can be very distressing at times seeing all the victims. I reccomend that you read some books on the history of the Khmer Rouge if you wish to get the most out Cambodia. Youll also notice that the population is very young - this is possibly because 1 in 5 were killed during the regime.
There is a beach resort in the South of Cambodia I beleive - I didnt visit it though, so I couldnt really comment.
Cambodia is definelty a popular destination and you should definelty take a trip. It fits in nicely while going from Thailand to Vietnam. One thing about Cambodia is that it only relatively recently opened its doors to tourism (1994 maybe?). So over the last 30 years as Thailand became a major tourist destination high on everyones list, Cambodia was the middle of a genocide and civil war. But now things are changing, its safe to travel there, and its becoming high on alot of people's list. The thing is though, the things that are on the tourist map are expanding all the time. When I was there 4 or 5 years ago, I had never met anyone who strayed up North or to the East. The next time I went there seemed to be more options as to where to go. So there are lots of places that I've never even heard of that tourists are now going to.
But one thing that you absolutly can't miss is Angkor. If you've never heard of it, it's time to do some research. Alot of people in the world don't know about Angkor and I'm not sure why. It's a 9th-13th century city/temple ruin complex that stands as a testiment to one of the greatest empires of the region. The site itself holds up to the best in the world - Macchu Pichu, Taj Mahal, Great Wall, Pyramids etc... but for some reason its not as famous as the rest. But its something you can't miss and is THE major draw of Cambodia. Just about everyone that comes to the country does so primarily to see Angkor.
Another major draw is learning about their tragic recent past. Trips to the museums and killing fields in Phnom Pehn are a major attraction. Of course Phnom Pehn, as the capital, is a draw in itself as are other towns, like Battambang, that are increasingly being visited by tourists. Apparetly there are some good national parks around too, but I don't know much about them so hopefully someone else will add on that. Sianoukville, south of Phnom Pehn, is becoming a good beach alternative to Thailand. In all honesty, I wasn't a big fan, but it was good for a couple days and was a bit more relaxing than the busy beaches elsewhere. Though of course, that was a few years ago, so things are probably changing quick.
As far as cost of living and all that stuff - its very similar to Thailand, if not a bit cheaper. When I was last there I was paying about $3-5 for a hotel room. Angkor however will make a bit dent in your wallet ($20 or $40 for 3 days) but it's worth every cent.
Thanks a mill for the help, I went to Lunch expecting to hear something over the next few days!!! We are going for 3 months (beginning in Thailand), can anybody suggest a route; thailand south to cambodia to vietnam, or bangkok - chang mai -(maybe Laos) Vietnam - Cambodia?
And also, how long would everybody recommend to stay in cambodia in relation to everywere else?
I will definitely look up the history, I actually only had a movie in my hands last night "the killing fields" that we were going to rent out.
Thanks again for the comments!!!
I went from Bangkok to Aranya Prathet on the border of Cambodia. From there I went to Siem Reap, then Phenom Phen. A good trip from here is to sail into the Mekong delta in Vietnam, then up to Saigon. From Saigon I went north to Na Trang, Hoi Ann and Hue.
From here I crossed into Southern Laos to Savanakett, but I look back at this as a mistake - theres not much to see in Southern Laos, and makes you double back on yourself if you want to see the North. I think youd be best carrying on north into Vietnam to Hanoi and Den Bein Phu. From there you can cross into Northern Laos - Go see the plain of jars and Labang prabang. This is apparently a very difficult and tiring route, but I regret not doing it. From prabang you can get a boat to Vientiane, followed by a bus to Chang Mai before returning to Bangkok.
This trip (in either direction) is called 'the IndoChina Loop' but theres plenty of opportunity to get off the beaten track. Make sure you read up on routes in Northern Laos though - there is the very occassional hijacking, but these incidents are getting rarer and rarer these days.
Definetly rent the "Killing Fields". Fantastic movie and if you are heading to Cambodia its a good little introduction to what happened there. I would also recomend reading the book "First They Killed My Father". Its a must.
As for a route, you should be able to do a nice loop of Indochina in 3 months with a trip down South to the beaches. Similar to the last posts route -
Start in Bangkok, head East to Cambodia for about a week, then into Vietnam for a full month (there is alot to see). Do the whole length of Vietnam and then you can get a bus to from Hanoi to Vientianne (very long, so fly if you have the money, but it's not such a bad bus ride). Then do a quick tour through Laos to Luang Prabang and take the slow boat up the Mekong to the Thai border and unto Chaing Mai. Then down to Bangkok and South to the Islands. Since you have to go back to Bangkok, if you ahve time you can visit some of the sights around Bangkok like Kanchanaburk and Ayathaya.
All this is possilbe in 3 months, even with a trip down to Malaysia as well.
Thanks a mill degolasse, thats exactly what I was looking for. I didnt think there was that much in Vietnam(to stay 1/3 of the time?) My boyfriend is particularly interested in Vietnam, he can't wait for that. I would really love to see China, Hong Kong & japan(Japan particularly, it all really depends on our budget).
Fitting in with the route you mentioned, do you think it would be worth seeing some of China after Vietnam/Laos? Have you ever been to any of these places?
Also, I have heard parts of Thailand are now overrun with tourists, are there touristy parts of Cambodia & how modern would the towns be? Would you have to go off the beaten track to see the real Cambodia for example?
Thanks again for all the help
The South of China would be a great extention to your trip to Vietnam and Laos. Yunnan province of China is the only place in the world I loved more than Vietnam. Instead of doing the trip from Hanoi to Vientiane, you could head North from Sapa into China to Nanning, Hong Kong, and Guilin, and then swing West to Kunming, Dali, Lijaing etc.. before heading South agin into Laos. The only problem is that you would definelty need 3 weeks minimun, but more like a month, to add on to your time. You could do it instead of heading down to the Islands. Spend a week in Cambodia, 4 in Vietnam, 4 in China, 1 in Laos, and 2-3 in Thailand.
I was going to give you this link in the last post but for some reason it wasn't working. Here is a route map of what I seen in three months in Southeast Asia if it help you with an idea of what you can see. The white route is the 3 month trip. The blue route was 5 weeks (one week in HK) in China.
As for Thailand, yes its definelty overun witht tourists. If you want to see Thailand without the tourists, head to the Northeast which I've never been too but I hear is a little more "traditional". Cambodia and Laos will both be much quieter in that sense. When I was in Vietnam there wasn't too many tourists either, but that was the highth of SARS and so there were alot less tourists around anyway.
I sometimes wonder what people consider "off the beaten" track. Does it mean stumbling into restaurants where the menu is only available in the local lingo, or facing deprived areas in which you'll automatically become a tourist on behalf of the locals.
You can jet out to Thailand and survive for years without mouthing a word of thai, eating European food and drinking Fosters whilst reading through your Daily Mirror, watching the latest American blockbusters and conversing about the current standings in English football.
But of course, please don't. (Excuse my immature rant - these things bother me...)
Cambodia: Heaven and hell. Go there with an open mind, but consider the country's very recent history (films and books mentioned above will guide you to a sufficient level of knowledge prior to meeting the actual sites).
The country is developed in the sense that you'll find whatever suits your needs more or less anywhere. Transport is easy and very cheap, possibly excluding the road from Thai border to Siam Reap. As far as I'm concerned even the capital is safer than most European cities, and sights are countless.
As opposed to mingling with ten million charter tourists on Thai islands; why not head down to the south of Cambodia? Endless white beaches, brilliant food, friendly locals still not overexposed to mass tourism. Do it before it's to late, it's bound to crack.
If you have an overwhelming desire to experience reality in either of these countries, volunteer at a local orphanage. Bring some food, pens and paper and play with the kids for a few hours. Realising which levels of joy you bring to these people are far more important than visiting yet another wat or a Buddah (no offense dear Sir!).
Whatever your first impressions are; you'll learn to love Kamphuchea.
Three months is just about enough to cover Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. At least don't include any others.