Cambodia travel info
26 days summer 03
Kind of travel:
alone in a wholly independent travel
heart of the wet season (2003 summer)
How I moved:
by minibus, by bus, by pirogues and by moped
in very cheap hotels (hotel...uhm.. it's a big word)
few countries in the world are as cheap as South Asia. If you
come from the western world everything'll be just peanuts. 10$
each day can be enough for a low budget travel. But watch out
for the visas: they're expensive (Cambodia 15 days, 40$)
baking and sweating, this'll be the worst.
the north is not as safe as Siem Reap and Phon Pen it's said
to be the worst place as concerns safety in Cambodia. But frankly
I didn't have problems.
"not pushy at all" attitude of the people, how much
"history" I learnt just travelling there and travelling
on the roof of the boat from Stung Treng to Kompong Thom
What I disliked:
the f...ing superhumidity and hotness, that made my brain melted,
and travelling 10 km/h on the superbumpy roads!
nothing more than few T-shirts, some pants, and, if you wanna
enjoy the travel, don't bother for the hygenic local conditions.
The last but not the least, see more than SIEM REAP!
Cambodia, Kampuchea, Pol Pot,
Khmer Rouge.... all these names echo fears and sadness in those
who know the Cambodian thirty years long civil war. Now the
war is over, but the present is inevitably son of the past and
as result Cambodia still shows his deep
wounds. Neither Laos is a develop country but when I
entered Cambodia I immediately noticed a general different mood.
The calm and kindness were the same characterising the whole
Indochina, but I felt a kind melancholy and a hidden anger in
the people, being aware of a bad past and an uncertain future:
not so many smiles handing you your fried chicken, just bought
at the stall, compared to the ones you received in Laos or Thailand.
The roads and the means of transport are the worse you can find
in Asia and the UXOs (unexploded ordains) are still spread in
many areas. In addition the country is governed by the vietnamese
party (CPP (07/2003) that exploit the resources and threat the
Cambodian confidence. But for a traveller, not for a tourist
scared by the bumpy roads, Cambodia is
charming. No pushy or dodgey people, no real hassles
crossing the country; on the opposite it has been a great chance
of understanding an important part of the world's history and
I still remember how fun it has been driving a crap moped in
the night in Stung Treng searching a stall for a noodle soup,
or floating on the slow and endless Mekong in one of the wildest
part of the country sit a kind of big trunk called "boat".
I think in Cambodia, unlike Laos or Thailand what really pays
you off is what you understand of the country more than what
you see, and if you're eager of it than get there, despite the
hot, the humidity and the pouring daily rain typical of the
wet season (June-August).
If you're heading just to Siem Reap, you'll see a cute town
(I liked it, maybe just cause I finally rested there) and awesome
temples, but Siem Reap is not representative
of Cambodia, you must be aware of it!
Cambodia is fast changing and, for a traveller,
not to the wrong way.
don't really know why it's years that the idea of hanging out
in Indochina buzzes in my mind; attracted by this cluster of
nations so known as stages of some past human madness (from
the '65-'73 war to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge), on the opposite
so few mentioned in their actual situation.
At the beginning I was mainly focused on Vietnam and Cambodia,
but then, for several reasons, despite already handing an expensive
Vietnamese visa, I swapped the Hochi Min country with the earth
of the elephant: Laos.
fly to Bangkok rather than directly to my goals was the only
way to save bunches of euros and if you add I had to wait
the Laotian visa for 5 days in the north of Thailand you figure
out why part of my travel passed through the former country.
I prepared this trip
for months before leaving: first of all reading pages and pages
of funny reports to plan my itinerary and at the end I completely
changed my way following my instinct and some funny fellows
known on the road (thanks Leigh, thanks Enn). But this is the
fun of travelling.
"Travellers don't know where they are going, while tourist
don't know where they have been". Moreover I straived to
carry just the indispensable stuff on
my shoulders encompassing gears for my daily fight against supposed
mosquito swarms. However evidently they were on holiday
somewhere else and, as every travel (maybe even more than others),
I utilised just a part of my 19 Kg bag... this freaks my out
every time I come back!!!!! (equipment
I've promised myself next travel just
two pairs of slip and a toothbrush (I'll borrow the paste) in
a plastic bag ;-))
ITINERARY IN CAMBODIA
I enter Cambodia from the border with Laos
after having spent few wonderfull days on the Mekong.
It has been an hassle to cross the border and I immediately
experienced how these two countries differ.
Cambodia few years ago came out from a
30 years war, and this obviously cannot be devoid of consequences:
while Laotians are far far more laid-back and smiling, in Cambodian
I felt a kind of melancholy. It took one day to get to Stung
Treng by a kind of wooden boat floating on the Mekong and
this was definitely an off-of-the-beaten-track leg. I got well
impressed by this colonial town far from everywhere, where I
knew my first cambodian friend who took me to know his mother
in the darkness of his "hut" (read
the story). Then another day to Kompong Thom, still sailing,
but now on the roof of a fast steel boat... no way, the first
steel boat I've seen in the last 20 days!!
And finally one day more through the
dusty bumpy roads of the flat Cambodia to get to the famous
where I stopped some days enjoying the eases to be in so a touristy
Then again on the road for the last bumpy hours before reaching the Thai border, where a
four lane highway takes you to the crazy Bangkok, where I spent three days sweating and
sorting out images, thoughts and memories crowding my mind.
Note: the paragraphs INTRO,
PREPARATION and ITINERARY are equal to those in the Loas and Thailand chapters since the
travel was the same, while the last one about the IMPRESSION differs for the three