So, in China, Chinese New Year is not the same as it is for Western Cultures, being the 1st of January… the exact date changes every year. This year it fell in February, which is a weird concept that the new year can start in the second month of the year, but I guess China can be very different as always. With having the time that we did we thought that it was time for another big trip so we took full advantage of travelling around this side of the world.
As much as we don’t get 2 or 3 weeks off during December like you would back home, we get 2 weeks off during Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) so this is the time that we get to have our big holidays and travel around.
This Spring Festival we wondered off to Cambodia for 10 Days, and was it incredible! Not only to get out of the cold and be able to feel the sun on your face and remember what 35° heat feels like, I’ll say without a doubt it was a bit of a shock to the system, seeing as we had just come from -3° to 5°. It was truly incredible being able to see another country, one that normally isn’t top of peoples mind when they decide to travel somewhere in South East Asia, but it is one that I would go back to again!
Cambodia is completely different from what you would expect, definitely the friendliest people I have ever met, so being there, the people just made it better already. This country is truly beautiful, the vibrant colours with the mix of new and old buildings scattered across the city. As you are driving through, the surroundings change within a heartbeat and you wouldn’t believe that you were still in Cambodia!
While we were there we went and did both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, each having their own sense of beauty and individualism, something that we didn’t expect. Phnom Penh was beyond our expectations… we had spoken to so many people before going over and they had told us that “it isn’t that great of a city to visit, Siem Reap is much better”, but silly thing is that we found it to be the complete opposite of what we were told. In fact, we found that to be true as well for Thailand with Phuket and Phi Phi Islands. Phnom Penh had a different type of beauty, a sense of beauty that is hard to describe. There is so much history situated in the city it allows you to go and do so much, as much as we were in museums and different historical sites, as soon as you spoke to someone you were able to learn even more from them than just seeing different items in a room. Phnom Penh had such an incredible personality that there was always something happening where ever you went. During the day it was just a normal city with everything working as it would anywhere else in the world, but as soon as night set in, there would be tuk tuks pulling up opening up and being a bar or a ‘pizza tuk tuk’ where you could order your pizza and was made in the back of a tuk tuk… it was the new idea of a wood fire pizza oven. Even just where our hotel was, there was a big communal area where it had tons of different things happening, there would be everything from a Zumba class that anyone could join, people playing a version of soccer and some dance off type things – this we weren’t too sure what was happening but definitely spent a lot longer than we thought watching it.
We eventually wondered off to Siem Reap, but getting there was interesting, I guess I can say it was part of the adventure. We had booked a small bus online, and we were going to drive across Cambodia taking a good 6 hours. It may seem like it would take forever, but there were parts of Cambodia that you would be shocked about how quickly it would change, one minute its giant buildings and cities however if you drove for an extra 10 minutes it seemed that you were in the middle of nowhere only having rice paddies surrounding you. It was beautiful to see. The interesting however frustrating part of this little trip, that this bus had space for 14 people, yet the company had never though about how 14 people’s luggage would fit… we sat with 3 large suitcases next to us for 6 hours, needless to say we were not happy chappies.
Finally, we got to Siem Reap, it had its own beauty about it. We quickly realized that there were a lot more tuk tuks here but there seemed to be less people, it was very different for sure. Siem Reap seemed to be filled more with tourists than Phnom Penh, so of course prices of things were definitely increased, but not too much more though. When going to Siem Reap, there are only a handful of things you can do to keep yourself occupied, Angkor Wat and the other Wats around there, Pub Street, and small other adventurous activities that would cost a few too many pretty pennies.
On our first full day in Siem Reap we wondered off to Angkor Wat and this was truly breath-taking to see. We very quickly learnt that we should never trust the distances when we’re booking hotels to landmarks or tourist attractions because boy oh boy was it wrong! When we booked it said that Angkor Wat was only about 300m from the hotel, so we left the hotel and started our walk… we learnt very quickly that it was not 300m. Luckily people in Cambodia incredible helpful because we had a tuk tuk driver say he would take us, but we didn’t realize that you couldn’t buy entrance tickets there, it was 3Kms in the opposite direction – well this is what he told us at least, we had no idea if this was true or not, but we just went with and I know that I definitely was worrying a little about where he was taking us… eventually we saw the giant ticket place, so all worries went out the window quickly. However, the fact that people are willing to help you out like that was amazing to have. Eventually once the ticket and walking situation was sorted, we made it to Angkor Wat, and it is breath taking!
This temple is massive, incredible, beautiful, all the words you could possibly use to describe something amazing, it was! We could not believe that something so old was still standing strong. As we finally got into Angkor Wat, we could not believe the detail that had been put into everything, something even as simple as how there were the engravings on walls telling you about the stories about wars that had happened. As you looked closer at the engravings you could see that each engraving was different, even showing the ranking of soldiers with the different uniforms that they had. As you walk through Angkor Wat, it is like a small maze for sure, with corridors connecting to different parts of the Wat. Obviously with it all having aged and engravings everywhere, you eventually start thinking that you had been there unless there was something that stood out to you. The more you walked down these corridors the more you would see of different temples, statues and rooms, each one being so different to the next. There is no way that you could possibly do Angkor Wat as well as all of the other temples in the time that we were there – this just means that there will be another trip to Cambodia in the future.
Of course, as always when we travel, we make sure that we go to a museum in pretty much every city that we travel to, Siem Reap was no exception. We went to what is known as the Killing Fields, which is an area that in the late 70s early 80s mass killings would happen. It is a large burial ground with different areas being marked for what happened there. There is on the last day we did something very unique and fun… we did a quad- biking tour through villages and other temples that aren’t on the tourist attraction lists. It was fascinating to see how some locals lived and what they had. Our tour guide took us through to an area that had 3 temples that were pretty well hidden, almost that if you didn’t know about them you wouldn’t have actually noticed they were there. At first we just saw the temples – but the more we live in China, it’s the small details in buildings that you have to look at – the closer we looked at the temples we noticed that there were holes or indents in the walls, but looking even closer you could see that they were built holes and some even had the bullets in the walls. We had never realized that the Cambodian and the Vietnamese don’t have any good relations between them, because there would be small wars that happen and there are still different situations happening today. Everything about getting to ride through different villages and seeing Siem Reap in a completely different light was amazing, there was not a single other tourist in sight so it wasn’t the main thing to do.
Eventually the holiday came to an end it was time to start making our way back to China! Back to Phnom Penh we went, traveled for a good 6 hours on the bus back, one night left in Phnom Penh and the next day we were to fly out.
This holiday was truly beyond amazing and one that I will definitely remember. I know that in the future we will definitely go back and do more of the Wats, because wow, they are breath-taking for sure! Until then, or until our next holiday it is back to reality and teaching the little munchkins.