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Cambodia: First Impressions & Expressions

It was an early start when we left our Bangkok hotel, at Sukhumvit Soi 18. Thankfully we only had to walk a few minutes before we saw the first taxi driver approach us. It was surprisingly warm – despite the time, it was 4.30am. ‘To the main railway station, please’.

Today we were going to travel to the Cambodian border by train!

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Travelling to Cambodia by train (from Bangkok)

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After being separated for six weeks, as Ben went back to the UK to work, we were finally reunited. It was strange seeing him at the airport. It was as if he had never left. We just continued on our journey together as if nothing had happened. It didn’t feel like we had counted down the many days prior to this moment. Everything happened so quickly. He ran out of money. He flew back. I carried on to Vietnam on my own. Then with a friend through Laos.

And finally, I rented a small studio apartment in Chiang Mai for two weeks to catch up on some work.

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Serendipity Tess & Ben

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I literally buried my head into my work with long 8 -12 hour days. I had much longer days than that when I worked in London. It seems like long hours when you are travelling though – because you are supposed to travel. That’s the joys of travel blogging – you constantly play catch-up. Two weeks in Chiang Mai went by in a blink of an eye.

We were reunited, eating breakfast at the train station – ready to board a Thai train.

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Traintravel in Thailand - en route to Cambodia

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Wooden benches. People smiling and staring at you, once in a while. Doors are wide open – like in India. Argh…wooden benches for 5 hours. Plus we hadn’t slept much the previous evening, so we kept nodding off with our heads bobbing forward, only to wake up every time we are almost touching the person next to us – who by now looked a bit irritated. Ben looked absolutely shattered. He had worked 7 days a week for the last six weeks to save money as soon as possible.

He wanted to be back out on to the road.

Traintracks Thailand

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Finally we arrive at the Cambodian border, we get our passport stamped after standing in the queue for what seems like an eternity – especially if your backpack is way to heavy and just provokes a feeling of irritation every time I have it on my back (what was I carrying in there…?!). A lot of Germans around us – all carrying a Deuter backpack like mine. Plus a few brits in front of us – early twenties. I envied them. Somehow, once you hit your thirties, life seems to feel so ‘real’. Back then, you think you have so much time.

Nowadays, I feel I don’t have enough.

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Re-united in the Kingdom of Cambodia - Serendipity Tess & Ben

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A friendly man approaches us and directs us to the correct bus. ‘Do you know if there is an ATM nearby? We only have Thai Baht.’. ‘Yes yes no problem, my friend take you on motorbike’. A bit suspicious of the offer, Ben and I glance at each other. We trust our gut. He seems genuine. ‘You wait here?’ – ‘Yeah. Good luck’ I tell him and plonk myself on one of the plastic chairs. After ten minutes he is back. Cambodians can be trusted, I think.

They seem really genuine and friendly.

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train to Cambodia

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After a short journey we are dropped off to another bus terminal – we were going to continue to Siem Reap. Others drive directly to Phnom Penh. I was looking forward to the beautiful hotel we have booked for the next three nights. It was going to be comfortable and have a touch of luxury – just like the type of hotels we would chose back in London. We upped our budget for the first few days – we were going to ease Ben back into budget travelling slowly.

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Busses to Cambodia - from Bangkok

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In the next bus, another friendly Cambodian informs us about the onward travel. ‘Why do you want to take my ticket?’ a young German asks behind me. He seems rude. The guy is just doing his job. ‘If you don’t like the way we do things here in this country, go back to Thailand’. The German apparently made fun out of him by rolling his eyes. The Cambodian guy reacted with a forceful answer. In my eyes, he was right to say this.

Some travelers can be really rude – especially if they come with expectations from home.

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Ben tired after no sleep - train to Cambodia

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After a few hours driving, we arrive at our depot. Tuk Tuks here are called Tricycles. They seem from a bygone age. I feel too underdressed in my typical traveler outfit to be sitting on a leather bench and being chauffeured as if I’m royalty (because this is how you feel when you sit in one of those). Ours even had curtains. I feel as if a horse was going to pull us through the city of Siem Reap. But the chariot is attached to a small motorbike. Somehow it seems too big for the bike to handle – but, as we were about to find out, we were not going to have to worry about anything.

Even when we speed over potholes – our mode of transportation is robust enough to handle anything.

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Siem Reap

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A giant Buddha statue greets us at the entry. This is my kind of place, I think, and greet the hotel manager who is an absolute darling. And he is gay. Khmers are polite, friendly and open-minded too.

I’m liking this country more and more. I can’t wait to explore Phnom Penh too.

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Sunset Cambodia - Siem Reap

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Heart IconWhat were your first impressions of Cambodia? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

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4 Comments

  • Jenia from HTL

    27.06.2015 at 09:27 Reply

    My first impressions of Cambodia were actually exactly the same! I LOVED the people, which came a bit as a surprise to me because I had read of so many scams. But it turned out that Cambodia and Cambodians were some of my favorite 🙂
    Jenia from HTL recently posted…Wanderlust FridayMy Profile

    • Serendipity Tess

      27.06.2015 at 20:42 Reply

      Hey lovely 🙂 i agree completely! Cambodia was the last SE-Asian country I visited on this trip and I was very positively surprised. The Khmers are by far the friendliest SE-Asians in my eyes 🙂

  • Duke Stewart

    30.06.2015 at 03:25 Reply

    I’m happy to have found your blog, Tess. I was expecting something cool but didn’t realize my first read would be of your thoughts on one of my favorite places! My first impressions of Cambodia were just like yours. Friendly people and generally helpful, even knowing that we’re tourists intent on budgeting our way around. Our trike driver was so cool and took us around for three days.

    I agree that you feel like royalty riding in those things and for someone not into looking like that, it bothered me at first. I got over it, of course, and gladly helped get our tuk tuk out of the mud when it started raining our first day. We only spent time in Siem Reap the first time but are looking to get back and see Phnom Penh and the coastal areas.

    I love your pictures (especially of the Night Market sign) and that photo with text that’s your cover image. You do have a way with font combinations☺ Thanks for sharing this, Tess. I’ll be back for more!
    Duke Stewart recently posted…Hipmunk City Love: Montreal – Planning Your TripMy Profile

    • Serendipity Tess

      30.06.2015 at 06:20 Reply

      Hi Duke 🙂 Thank you so much for your lovely comment! You made my day! Cambodia was an amazing place to travel to. I would say it is actually my favourite SE-Asian country just because the people were so incredibly friendly. I’ll never forget our amazing and friendly Tuk Tuk driver Sok (a few more posts on Cambodia publishing soon actually…so please yes come back for more…haha), the friendly kids waving at you when you pass them – the friendly shop-owners…sigh. I just loved it! I actually preferred Siem Reap to Phnom Penh but PP was a pretty cool place too. I have a ‘Things to do in Phnom Penh’ post coming up soon. It might just give you some inspiration 🙂 Thanks for the compliments on my photos and yes…i love my cover photo – I’m pretty proud of this shot taken at Angkor at sunrise. It turned out really well! I love experimenting on creating cool Cover images – probably a huge waste of time…but I love it!

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