We are very pleased and excited to announce the upcoming ‘TruCambodia (TruCam) Experience’! (starting May 2015!) To lay ground work for this new earth trembling tour of course we had to revisit Cambodia (between our busy schedules of TruPartying) for a research trip, so off we went myself (Luke), Joe and our TruTravels mascot, the one and only ‘Dre’.
Following Joe’s birthday and maybe a few too many heavy nights on our island home of Phangan, we jumped on the 12 hour boat and bus to Bangkok, to then fly over to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Aptly named after Madame Penh who was said to have found four bronze Buddha statues inside a Koki tree that was floating down the Mehkong river. This was all the way back in 1372 (around the year Joe was born), she then went on to house the statues in a temple on a hill, and named the location after herself, the temple of ‘Wat Phnom’ which literally translates as ‘Temple Hill’.
Arriving in the middle of monsoon season we knew that, like Thailand during this time of the year, it’s inevitable to encounter some rain, and that we did.
We caught a $7 tuk tuk into the city and then rain went from a drizzle to a ‘full power chicken curry monsoon’ (below), within 10 minutes the water was up to people’s knees and the traffic jams then ultimately got even more f**ked than it already was in the capital city! Still… At lease we’re still singing!
We eventually arrived after an hour or so by the river in the main backpacker area of Phnom Penh, after walking around in the rain for while trying to find a suitable guesthouse to bring TruTravellers, we struck gold with an awesome guesthouse a few minute walk from the river complete with roof top bar, $1 beers and a 4:20 friendly attitude….our kind of place. We had already found our HQ and hostel for use in Phnom Penh. Touch. For our 3 days in Phnom Penh we hit the town in TruTravels style aka ‘as hard as humanly possible’, just so we TRUly knew how to make the most of our time in the madness that is Phnom Penh, the best way to describe we feel would be with the phrase ‘Wild West’.
So following 2 and a half days of what can only be described as ‘Passionfruit mojito fuelled’ business meetings (this pic shows us en route home from one of said meetings…), we decided it was about time to pack our bags and get on the road to the lesser known town of ‘Kampot’.
We caught a cheap taxi for the 3 hour journey with a lovely Khmer chap by the name of ‘Prahm’, like many Cambodians they are more than happy to explain the history of the country (which of course is quite heavy stuff), he explained how himself and his family had to flee the cities during the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal regime and sadly lost his father towards the end of the 4 year struggle.
We stopped a couple times along the way on the one straight road which leads all the way to the coastal town of ‘Shianoukville’, one of the times at an empty restaurant with a few rickety tables, in front of the restaurant stood 5 or so Khmer guys playing a game of Boulles in the dirt, beyond the road was miles upon miles of rice fields with the backdrop of a beautiful green mountain.
We sat and drank tea whilst watching water buffalo wander past carting wood to town, slightly hard to believe that 30 years ago the same area was a stronghold of what was left of the Khmer Rouge.
Arriving in Kampot town we started wandering around town asking other expats about decent places to stay, we were swiftly directed down the river away from town to a less built up area where we found exactly what we were looking for.
The guesthouse we came across was run by a trio of backpackers (much like ourselves) who have had the place for only 8 months but have managed to turn the place into an awesome riverside backpacker retreat surrounded by jungle, with a super chilled vibe, friendly faces and endless activities on and around the water…..on top of that there were 1 week old puppies!
We arrived at the guesthouse around 4:30pm and we didn’t even look at our beds until we got into them at around 1am, due to the fact that everyone in the place was a cool m***erf**ker, and we ended up chatting, drinking beers and smokin’….whilst making useful business connections of course.
We kicked back to the max for a couple of days but decided to leave before we got too complacent at our riverside retreat, though we left knowing confidently that we’d found maybe one of the ILLEST spots to take TruTravellers!
It was only 2 hour bus ride down to the Sihanoukville where we finally got some sand between our toes once again. For those who don’t know much about the coastal province of Sihanoukvile it can be pretty much be broken down into one phrase “hedonistic greatness” complete with some beautiful scenery!
Here we indulged in some home comforts like a good bit of western food, mainly mashed potato (sometimes I do feel like I’m turning into a grain of rice). For the next couple of nights we scoped out the endless array of bars along the beach and checked in on an awesome ‘pirate boat trip’, where you go head to head with another gang of backpackers on a rival boat out at sea armed with water guns, balloons, even, wait for it……a plank!…
We checked out a few cribs around the area, one of which could have been amazing and exactly what we were after had it not been run by a guy who is probably best described a ‘cracked out space cadet chimpanzee’. So after a very unsuccessful business conversation and before we ran the risk of losing half our brain cells just by sitting with the dude we left, and just at the right time, as just next door was spot on. We once again lucked out and found a very nice spot to bring our fellow backpackers, a bit more upmarket then typical but still affordable, the place is near the beach, restaurants and bars and is complete AC in rooms and a pool which conveniently has a bar connected….not like that was the deciding factor or anything.
After a couple of nights of bar crawls we deemed it necessary to get back on the road / water and hot foot it onto the boat over to well-known backpacker haunt of ‘Koh Rong’, a small island around an hour boat ride from Sihanoukville pier. What could possibly Koh Rong?? (Quite a bit as Dre later discovered – it was his final stop before catching a flight back to NYC…)
We arrived after a couple of stops at different beautiful islands to our destination of Koh Rong, a beautifully green island with round small mountains covered in jungle lined with white sandy beaches which squeak as you walk on them (that’s when you know it’s a good beach), we checked into some ultra cool beach side bungalows and spent the next couple of days relaxing and meeting both short and long term visitors as well as locals to get a feel for the place.
A couple nights of ‘networking’/ not so casually drinking we felt it was time to get our bags back on and head back to the main land, though this time we were heading separate ways, Joe headed back to Bangkok to meet our next group of awesome TruTravellers with Dre in tail whilst I carried out the last leg on my jack jones to Siem Reap.
I got onto my bus and was pleasantly surprised to find a large double bed for me to sleep in, it seemed too good to be true….and of course it was, in this large bed I was accompanied by a large Cambodian guy who was hell bent on sleeping with his face 2 inches from mine and who’s arm just kept on falling into my lap, think I made a friend.
After an awkward sleep I arrived in Siem Reap and instantly found the first coffee shop I could to enjoy some of the best coffee that can be found, Cambodian coffee. Anyone who does visit this amazing country I do urge you to use local produce / cafes as you probably can imagine there is still a large amount of corruption in Cambodia and it’s always good to ensure your money is going to the right place.
I found a sweet little spot just over the river away from the renowned ‘pub street’ (away from the madness) so our Trutravellers can get a good night sleep if they wish, as I only had 24 hours in the city itself I traipsed through the streets in the blistering heat speaking to locals and having an hour long chat with a Tuk Tuk driver, looking at his family pictures and hearing his life story (as you’ll find many Cambodians will love to indulge), I’m not gunna lie he was the most charming gent with the worst teeth I’d ever seen, so I took his card and figured “We’ve found our driver!”.
I’d been to Cambodia previously (5 years ago) and had seen the temples of ‘Ankor Wat’ and due to my sheer lack of time I sadly couldn’t return, but for those who are visiting the country soon, I couldn’t urge you more to wake up for the sunrise over the temples, it truly is something very special and something you surely won’t ever forget, or if you’ve got a bigger budget, have a blow out and do a hot air balloon ride over the temples at sunrise! Get excited potential TruTravellers, this could be you next year….but I don’t want to give too much away.
As the sun began to set over Siem Reap I hopped on my bus back home to Thailand, dwelling over the ten days past I can only say that I am quite disgustingly excited for the ‘TruCam Experience’ to get its wheels turning next year and for all previous and future TruTravellers to come and experience this amazing country and all the weird and wonderful things that come with it.
So who’s keen? If so watch this space, because the ‘Tru Cambodia Explorer’ is in the oven now baking away awaiting its presentation in the coming months! See video below for a little sneak peak!