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  • Writer's pictureClotaire Mandel

Tricks and tips : Cambodia

Heading east after Thailand, next stop will be Cambodia ! Far from being my fav country, it remains a taste of misunderstanding, even after 2 transits through it. Mostly know for it's famous Angkor temple site, the country is big enough to offer more than just a sightseeing. And here is a few infos !

Visa : You can get the visa in advance with your embassy. But for most of us, makes no sens as it will take more time, money and energy. Same for the Evisa. Double check regarding your nationality, but it's quit easy and quick to get a visa at the border. The official price is 30USD. ALTHOUGH : it's most of the time a bit of a fight not to pay extra fee who goes direct in the customs pocket. Corruption is decaying the country from the inside. So if you patient and courteous, of if you don't care giving up a few extra dollars, the problem is quickly solved. But if you're a bit stubborn as I do, it can be a bit more agitated but never spent any extra dollars on those borders even if I went across 4 different land borders. It's easier to avoid it than in Laos tho. You can extend your 30 days visa for an extra 30 days for about 45USD. It seems a bit tricky as the immigration office is next to the airport in Phnom Penh. For an extra few dollars, I'd rather advise to let a kinda ravel agency to manage it. If it's just for a couple of days you should know that you can just pay an overstay fee at the border. It's around 10USD per extra day. So for any longer than a few days, worth looking at the extensions. ` Currency : Riels and US dollars. This last one is actually the most used currency as a tourist. Easy to get at any ATM, sometimes easier to get than riels. Time zone : GMT+07h

Border crossing : Cambodia - Thailand : - Cham Yeam - Koh Kong - Poipet - Banteay Meanchey

- O’Smach - Oddar Meanchey

- Chong Sa Ngam - Oddar Meanchey - Ban Pakard - Pailin

- Ban Laem - Battambang Cambodia - Laos : - Stung Treng border Cambodia - Vietnam : - Bavet - Svay Rieng

- Kha Orm Sam Nor «passage de Chau Doc» - Kandal

- Phnom Den - Takeo

- Trapeang Phlong - Kampong Cham

- Ha Tien - Prek Chak

- Oyadaw - Ratanakiri

- Trapeang Srer - Kratie, Cambodge

- Banteay Chakre - Prey Veng Where to sleep : - Lub D hotel, Siem reap.

Typical backpacker place. If you are allergic to crowd and your people, stay away. Although, super cool place, with pool, bar and restaurant. Very good vibe, good prices range. Super clean and cosy dorms. Love it !

- Bungalows, Koh Tonsay. No road on this super small island, just a row of bungalows. Nothing special anyway, they are all pretty much similar. All of this to say that this small island in front of Kep is a cool place to chill for a few days. Not much to do but a couple of beers, an hammock and a good book, can't bea bad idea. Morning and evening are pretty chill as during the day daily tourist come to enjoy with family and friends.

- Suns of beaches, Koh rong. Rustic but super cool because of the location. A huge and empty beach, few hammocks, beers and fluo planktons when the night comes. The first shop is an hour walking away so it's pretty remote but perfect for a few days with a few good books to get out of the Sihanouk or Koh rong animation.

- Police station, everywhere. Works in Cambodia as well ! But anyway, if I feel it I ask to any kind of public building. - Manor house hostel, Phnom Penh. Far from being the best hostel in Phnom Penh, but fair enough regarding the coast, and the proximity between the pool, the bar and the pool table. In a quiet street a few hundred meters away from touristic sites. Large inner yard to park the bikes.

- Buddhist temples, everywhere ! An option among others. And even more than that, must do in SE Asia. I've never had any problem in Cambodia to sleep in temples. And when I asked people in villages they were always sending me to temples. On the main roads, monks are use to cyclists and they will guide you to your square where "pilgrims" use to sleep. Sometimes you got some food as well, sometimes nobody really cares of your presence. Sometimes you got a warm welcome, sometimes not.

Not the true love with the accommodation offers in Cambodia, or you need to spend way more. And for free camping it's actually not as easy as it looks. Between rice fields and huge flat area where it's impossible to hide, and also a fairly high density of population, it's not the easiest country ever to wild camp. Despite of the lack of understanding about the concept of camping, I found the locals super lovely and attentive. They were offering often a cool shower during my afternoon break. I could have camp in their garden, but I like riding the last hour of sun.

Coffee shop : - Sister Srey Cafe, Siem Reap. Under renovation when I went there, but looks like a cool shop in the city centre, which sells coffee as well. Probably the best option in town to get some beans. - Footprint café, Siem Reap.. Not an exceptional cup of coffee but a cool place to hang a bit and smash an espresso while working online or reading. They also do good food and sell some books. - Brown roastery, Siem Reap. Never been there so can't say much about it. But if seems to be a good place to get coffee and pastries. they might have coffee beans as well.

- Feel Good 2 Cafe & Coffee Roasters, Phnom Penh. Small coffee shop/restaurant in a small and quiet street of the centre. A walk away from a bike shop as well. Cool terrace, good food and coffee beans ! - Des coffee roasters, Phnom Penh. It seems that they are Hario retailer, so if you have a need of coffee gear, might be the place. Although I didn't try their coffee, seems that they propose drip coffee.

Bike Shops :

The end of the good ol' Thai period where you could have establish a list of the coolest bike shop and see a super cool touring bike shop popping from nowhere. In the capital city and the biggest cities you'll find some of the classical brands shops like giant or specialized. But beside of it, not much I'm afraid. To fix your bike, find a tyre or some sort of basic spare parts, no problem. But for some specific touring gear, better not having the need.

- Everything and nothing, Phnom Penh. Big range of different shops. From the really local to the big American brands stores. Nothing too specific for tourer as far I know. But to any fixing or spare parts, will be sufficient. - Grasshopers adventure, Siem reap. It's more of a travel agency/bike rental than anything else but I heard that this could be the best option in town if you need some infos about the area and about specific piece of kit you might be looking for. And at least you can communicate in English.

Fooooooooooood : Here again, it's not Thailand any more. Easy to find food stale pretty much everywhere, but it's always the same sort of food you'll be able to find. In touristic places you'll find everything, and also French food as they kept a strong French touch in their culture. Out of this, that will mostly be around a bowl of noodles or a plate of rice. Which is very good tho, enough to not get too quickly bored of it at least. - L’épi d'or, Kep. French bakery who serves nice baguettes and pastries. And, thanks Jesus, they also have a fairly good choice of French cheese. The dude next door sells red wine. Price range is very affordable as well. And with the beach two steps away, which is a perfect place for sunset, it's probably my fav' place in Cambodia. - Ecran noodles, Kampot. Super super good. Noodles and dumplings are damn good. I was always close by when the opening hour was about to approach. And the closing day was more of a mourning day. Very good price. My fav' restaurant in Kampot, and from far. - The famous roasted pork for breakfast, everywhere ! Sort of tradi national brekkie dish, roasted pork on rice. A sip of tea to swallow it and you able to jump back on your saddle. It's mostly a morning dish which you could be able to find everywhere. Never been disappointed !

- The food situation in the capital. I had a few good places to share but impossible to find it back. No too important tho. For a shoestring budget, it's kinda always the same and not very exceptional. But it's quit easy to find French cheese and bread. And as usual, if you spend a bit more you clearly have access to a fairly good range of fancy restaurant. - Food situation in Siem Reap Pretty much the same feeling as above. Good addresses that I can't find any more. The city centre is pretty small so a bit less choice. Although it's pretty easy to find a good address you walking through the small alleys.

It could surprise you but I kinda like this city. It's a bit of a mess and everything sounds clearly fake, but I see it as an amusement park. And some alcoholic nights were pretty epic ! To see :

How to talk about Cambodia without mentioning the Angkor site ? But, after a first try and a second one a few years later, I'm still sceptical. It's impressive, no question. But beauty doesn't mean charm. I didn't feel much in there. Nothing mind blowing either. Or yes, maybe the mass of tourist, which I was part of. It's actually quit crazy. And guide books give advise to how avoid the crowd and enjoy the site for what it is and not for selfying yourself. But is so many people visiting everyday of the year this site that you have the same crowd outside of busy hours. The crowd and the anti crowd, which ends up to be a crowd as well at the end. Was so intense that I get quickly bored and start dreaming of a 50c pint in town. Sad hey ? It's beautiful, clearly. But it remains a pile of rock. And the modern spasm of search for a spirituality seems to be so fake that it's clearly beyond belief. This year I saw some fackin crazy situations between monks and tourists. I can pretend having be dumbstruck. Even the famous sunrise is boring. Sorry. Mostly because you have to snake between cameras, groups, and selfie and globally speaking, the mass of not-yet-awake tourist mass who came to see this manifestation of sacred which are the sunrise, and who doesn't exists in their life except during their fackin vacation. Just to have this impression two weeks a year to be part of the whole All. Coming to Cambodia without visiting it would be a shame, also because the country doesn't clearly overflow with amazing sightseeing, human made or natural. But overall I don't really know what to think about it. I just skip my tradi chorus on the mass tourism in this area, and even more globally in the country.

But my favourite temple is hiding a bit further east. Yep, it's a temple, completely stuck in this strangler fig tree roots.

This temple is located in Sambor Pre Kuk. And to conclude, a glimpse of culture. Did you know that the Khmer alphabet is the longest one in the world with 74 letters ?


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