Islands, temples and travel mates from beginning to end is the best way to describe my time in Cambodia. During my 7 days in Cambodia I managed to experience the rare feeling of being off the grid and getting templed out.
My first stop in Cambodia was Koh Rong Samloem an island about an hour away via speed ferry from Sihanoukville. I mistakenly purchased a ferry ticket from a speed ferry company that left me on the opposite pier that I should have been on to get the Mad Monkey ferry which picks up guests to take them to the private part of the Island just for Mad Monkey. This resulted in a 40 minute trek of the island with my 14Kg (30 Lbs) #LifeinaBag which was definitely a work out and while it was the longest I’ve trekked my #LifeinaBag during this whole trip, I wasn’t completely upset as I could always use a good workout and a plus if I don’t have to go to a gym to find it.
As I waited for the ferry in the correct pier I met David, Ronni, Kyle and Alex who were also going to Mad Money. Little did we know then that we would become each others Cambodian travel mates. None of us knew what to expect. I for one had no idea as I didn’t do much research and based my Cambodia trip off recommendations from one of my friends who had been here earlier this year. I was sold by his pictures and snaps so anywhere he recommended was going to get on my list especially what he called, “his favorite hostel.”
With little to almost no battery and knowing it was my dad’s birthday I made my final video message to wish him a happy birthday before boarding the Mad Monkey Ferry and going off the grid. As I mentioned Mad Monkey Koh Rong Samloem has no Wi-Fi and Cellular and data signal is almost nonexistent. The idea is that you spend your days in this island enjoying everybody else’s company, going snorkeling, spending time in the beach, grabbing meals, hanging out in the lounge, participating in night activities (who got 3rd place in limbo and whose team won 1st place in human statue creation???? This girl!), having a bucket or two of your poison of choice, working out in their Fred Flinstone style gym which I can proudly say I actually used and one of my favorite activities swimming at midnight with the plankton lighting up the water around us.
It felt refreshing to be off the grid. It’s an amazing feeling to not have to carry your phone or bother with thinking if somebody replied back to your message or how many likes did my picture get etc. This hostel did not disappoint so if you truly want to relax and live the island life this is the place to do it.
The second stop in Cambodia was Siem Reap where checking out the temples in Angkor Wat is the highlight of the city and while I’m sure there must be more my travel mates and I wouldn’t know. Angkor Wat offers 3 type of tickets, 1 day, 3 day or 7 day. We opted for the 3 day knowing we would only do 2 days but felt aside from shopping and spas not much else was in Siem Reap and figured we could take our time checking out the temples. The temples are breathtaking, each unique and pretty marvelous to see how well in shape they are but at a certain point you will get templed out aka be over looking at temples. Aside from temples while in Siem Reap we did see the famous Pub Street to check out the night scene, put our haggling skills to the tests in the markets and checked out a variety of dinner spots from Cambodian to even Indian.
As with every adventure, it’s really who you get to experience your adventure that makes it all worthwhile and I couldn’t of asked for a better group to see Cambodia with. To my mates, was fun to get off the grid and get templed out together. Thanks for the memories!
See below my list of tips to make your trip to Cambodia one to remember.
- Round trip ferries from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem are $20 just ensure you confirm arrival and departure pier in Koh Rong Samloem as they may change the pier due to weather and what company you use. If you can avoid a 40 minute trek I would recommend it.
- If you stay at Mad Monkey Koh Rong Samloem bring cash since they don’t have Wi-Fi in the hostel, don’t accept credit cards and the island has no ATM’s. The hostel works on a tab system which you pay at the end of the your stay. If you don’t have enough cash to pay your tab need not fear as they do offer a loan system to help you pay your tab. How does it work you ask? They loan you money in $100 increments and you pay back the amount loaned plus 10% so $110. They take your passport as insurance and you pick up your passport from the Mad Monkey office in Sihanoukville once you repay your loan.
- The American dollar is used as currency here and while my travel group and I agreed, prices are cheap but not as cheap compared to many of the other countries in Southeast Asia probably in part because the dollar is being used. A meal for example can range anywhere from $6 on the low end and $20 if you include appetizers and happy hour drinks.
- If you have the time then busses are a good option and making stops along the way from Koh Rong Samloem and vice versa. A bus without stops is about 12-14 hours but visiting Kampot and Phnom Penh I’ve heard are also good places to check out while in Cambodia. Since I didn’t have the time I opted to splurge a bit and fly to Siem Reap from Sihanoukville just a short 45 minute flight and about $50-$70 depending when you book. If you don’t have the budget or the time they do offer overnight sleeper busses but do your research on the safest as I’ve heard horror stories about certain bus companies in Cambodia.
- Sunset and sunrise in Angkor Wat isn’t what the google pictures or the tour guides want you to believe. We heard this and could personally attest to this. My group still took our chances and unfortunately didn’t get lucky. Regardless if you pick one to do I would recommend the sunrise even if it’s dark one moment and then lights up. This allows you access to the temples with less people and it will be less hot. Granted you will want to return to the city around lunch time but by then you can enjoy your afternoon in the city or relax in the pool if you book a stay in a place with a pool.
- Angkor Wat doesn’t have much informational signage about the temples so do yourself a favor and bring a guide book. They may also be conveniently purchased outside of the temples by the street vendors. Alex bought one for $10 and we used this to inform ourselves on each temple before we got there.
- If you do decide to check out the sunset in Angkor Wat insure you get there around 16:00 (4pm) as the “ideal location” is on top of a temple and they only let 300 people at a time. If you get there too late you risk standing in a queue until someone decides the sunset isn’t worth it and makes their way down.
- Best way to travel between temples is renting a tuk tuk for the day. Prices range from $20 – $30 a day with the high end being if you ask to go to see the sunrise.