Our next destination after Vietnam was Cambodia, a country I have fond memories of from a visit four years ago. I was excited to return with Sander and visit some of the places that captured my heart last time, as well as a few new places.
We were in and out of Phnom Penh on this visit, we began with a few days in a beautiful boutique hotel called The Teahouse. It was from this lovely oasis we explored some of the highlights of Phnom Penh. The Royal Palace is just a (hot and sweaty) ten minute walk away, as is the riverside. We visited the Palace in the late afternoon and then made our way to the infamous Foreign Correspondents Club for sunset drinks overlooking the Mekong river.
We also visited the devastating Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (this old school was used as a prison by the Khmer Rouge). There's a new audio tour and the history and stories on the guide are very upsetting. I think it's an important place to visit but be prepared to shed a few (or many) tears as you learn about the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge.
Afterwards we headed to a new vegan restaurant called Vibe. This place really helped lift our spirits and remind us of the good in humans. The restaurant is three stories and the rooftop was my favourite part. There are hammocks to swing in and it's chock-full of plants. The menu is vast and each dish we tried was delicious. We liked it so much we visited the one in Siem Reap too, definitely a must-visit in Cambodia!
Yoga retreat & detox
After a couple of days exploring the streets of Phnom Penh we headed to a yoga retreat on the outskirts of the city. I'm not going to mention the name because frankly I wasn't that impressed by the whole retreat. It wasn't really in a great location and it was more of a hotel that decided to add 'retreat' to the name to get more customers.
The yoga classes weren't anything special and I left the place really unwell with a stomach bug! I did spend the 5 days detoxing so I felt fresher once I recovered from the bug but we very ready to move onto Kep after our 5 days of the retreat were up.
Kep & Rabbit Island
We loved our time spent at the Masada Resort in Kep. This small hotel is set in the jungle and we were completely immersed in nature, just what we needed after so much city time! We woke to the sound of monkeys bouncing on our roof and a chorus of tropical birdsong at sunrise.
The rooms are simple but large enough and they are all very private with their own patio. The pool area is gorgeous, an infinity pool surrounded by lush, tropical foliage. We really enjoyed our evenings at the Sailing Club, a lively bar and restaurant right on the ocean where we saw some of the best sunsets of this trip.
We took a boat over to Rabbit Island, a small Island without electricity just a half hour boat ride from Kep. We swang in hammocks all day whilst sipping on coconuts and polishing off our books. A truly great way to get away from it all.
Kep is pretty sleepy and the dining options are limited (especially for vegans) so its good to go for a few nights and then move on to somewhere else in Cambodia. We found Kep relaxing and quiet and that's exactly what we wanted, but if you want a buzzy, vibrant beach town then look elsewhere!
Next up on our Cambodian itinerary was Battambang, I'd heard positive things about this sleepy town in North Cambodia, so was looking forward to seeing what it had to offer.
I was slightly disappointed with the town, I found it a bit slow and boring with not much going on. I was really captivated by the circus show that we went to one evening and a few restaurants were pretty good. My favourite restaurant was Jaan Bai, and like many restaurants in Cambodia, it's also a social enterprise and helps tackle the sale of children into orphanages.
Overall, we weren't hugely impressed as there weren't many sights explore in the town. I wouldn't recommend visiting for more than a couple of days. Do a cooking class if you fancy it, we saw lots of people doing them and they seemed pretty fun. There are also sights outside the town that we decided not to see, so including those in your itinerary might make this town worth the visit.
Siem Reap & The Temples of Angkor
The main reason so many tourists flock to Cambodia, is of course to see the magnificent Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples in the jungle. We were both looking forward to this part of our Cambodian trip and the temples didn't disappoint. We decided to go to Angkor in time for sunrise which was pretty magical and we were lucky as the clouds cleared in time for sunrise as we watched Angkor come alive in the morning glow. Soon after we explored the temple and enjoyed watching the naughty monkeys stealing food...
You can spend days exploring the temples of Angkor, we decided to do just two days of temples. And we split it up so we had a break in between. The temples are really big and it's very hot so you do get very tired within an hour or so of walking around. Each temple is unique and has something different to offer so you don't really get bored with exploring.
It was one of the most interesting historic sights we've seen on our travels and I think everyone should go at least once, so book your flights quickly as it gets more and more tourist-ridden by the year!
Vegan food in Siem Reap
I found Siem Reap one of the best places for innovative vegan restaurants. We were there for almost a week and we ate at a different vegan restaurant pretty much every meal time! We did re-visit a few favourites such as Vibe and Green-Go garden. Vibe is great for healthy food and filling lunches and Green-go garden is great for cocktails and vegan pizza! We also enjoyed the craft beer and comfort food at Moringha and the yummy Khmer food at Chamkar. If you're vegan or vegetarian you won't get bored or go hungry when visiting Siem Reap :)
Back to Phnom Penh & The Pavilion
We rounded off our 3 weeks in Cambodia with a weekend at The Pavilion in Phnom Penh. I stayed here four years ago and have happy memories, so it was really nice to return and spend a couple of days relaxing by their beautiful pools and slowing down a bit before our flight to Bali. Three weeks is a good amount of time to spend in Cambodia, you can spend a week at the beach; time soaking up the vibrant cities and a few days exploring the temples of Angkor. It was a great three weeks and we were sad to leave but also excited to head on to our final destination of this epic trip.