To my dearest friends, family and fellow culture cravers,
This week we’ve made our way from the very top of Cambodia all the way to the very bottom.
After leaving Siem Reap, Lizzie and I made the day long journey to Banlung, the capital city of the Ratanakiri Province in the very North of Cambodia. Renowned for its picturesque crater lake, powerful waterfalls and vast and diverse National Park (Virachey), we ventured up this way in search of untouched beauty, nature and wildlife.
And we found this and so much more…
It was an absolute hidden gem and we couldn’t believe it wasn’t marker penned into every backpackers’ itinerary. I’ve written a separate post on what we discovered in this special area here.
After a couple of days chasing waterfalls we pulled ourselves away from our new-found serene paradise and made our way to the capital of Cambodia – Phnom Penh.
Similarly to Siem Reap, I’d visited Phnom Penh once before during my Gap Year in 2011. Although it wasn’t my favourite city on my travels, it is where the S-21 Genocide Museum and Killing Fields are located, which are both integral parts of Cambodia’s harrowing history and are a must visit to fully understand the trauma the country has been through.
It is truly heartbreaking to learn what the Khmer Rouge (the government at the time) did in order to try to create their communist country. As well as, shocking that the brutal reign only happened just over 40 years ago.
Understanding what the country went through so recently gives you a whole new outlook on the locals – anyone who is over the age of 42 would have lived through this devastating and destroying dictatorship.
If you’d like to read a bit more on the history of Cambodia check out here. I’m also currently reading a book called ‘First They Killed My Father’ – not the chirpiest of titles but an incredible read, which puts all the historic information into context.
After our final day in Phnom Penh wandering around the local markets, checking out the City Palace and picking up a great selection of delicious street food at the night market, we caught the bus South to Sihanoukville – the gateway to the islands in Cambodia.
Our first stop was Koh Rong Samloem to reunite with our pal Spence who we’d parted ways with in Siem Reap.
The epitome of paradise, this island is the quieter of the two islands off of Sihanoukville and boasts minimal wifi and electricity, translucent clear water and some of the whitest and softest powder white sand I’ve ever seen.
We spent our first couple of nights at a party hostel nestled in a small private bay before moving back to a quieter beach where we spent our days trekking through the jungle uncovering different stretches of perfect beach – our favourite finds were Lazy Beach and Sunset Beach, which treated us to a fabulous sunset (funny that)…
We are now heading to the other island – Koh Rong where we will stay for a couple of nights before moving onto Kampot, Kep and Vietnam!
Until next week…