After spending a month in Cambodia, Hannah is back! She shares her experiences, tips and photos…
I found Cambodia to be a beautiful, sad, genuine and soulful country.
It’s recent history is brutal and traumatic, and the after effects of years of civil war and persecution are palpable: victims of landmines struggle (landmines still dot the countryside making it extremely dangerous to travel on unmarked paths in the countryside), and people over 40 years old are scarce. However people discuss their history and experiences readily, and the generosity of spirit and genuine positivity can be felt in the air, seen in people’s faces and sensed by the soul.
I spent the first 10 days on retreat in beautiful Siem Reap.
Rise early. Meditate. Practice. Eat. Sleep. This became my daily mantra.
When you spent time diving in to the inner work required on retreat, it is enhanced by the place in which you practice, and for me Cambodia’s grief but hopeful and exciting regeneration could be felt from word go.
After 10 days of tranquil (or not so tranquil) practice and reflection on retreat, I was released into the country-proper: the muddy streets (the last of the rainy season was subsiding), the tuk tuks and the street food.
My new mantra became: Eat. Walk. Eat. Walk. Eat. Walk. Sleep.
I am a slow traveller, never planning or itinerising, so in just over two weeks I only made it from Siem Reap (in the North-West) down to the South Coast and back again (the rest of the North and Eastern parts of Cambodia left to be explored in the future). Each place I spent time in had it’s own energy, but the ever constant was the beautiful people I encountered, always ready to offer help or advice (except maybe in Phnom Penh where people are just TOO BUSY and really don’t care, BEEP BEEP!)
My hot tips for the Siem Reap to South Coast trail:
Siem Reap - A busy but small town vibe. Straddling one of the many rivers that feeds into the mammoth Tonle Sap lake, it is beautiful and busy but with a small-town relaxed vibe. I can’t not mention Angkor Wat, which was unbelievably, breathtakingly beautiful.
Battambang - Bigger than Siem Reap but even more relaxed (no crowded streets in sight!) It was here that I first experienced the classic Cambodian Bor Bor rice porridge (think Congee-style, a delicate broth with rice and/or rice noodles with fish, chilli, spring onion… I can’t do it justice but please know that it was absolutely delicious and I ate it everyday thereafter). See below. Oh and with a savoury doughnut-style bread to dip… mmm…
Kampong Chhnang - A tiny town that I stopped in on my way through to Phnom Penh. Think: riding a clappity old bicycle along dirt country roads, getting accidentally sunburnt, visiting entire floating villages on the Tonle Sap lake, eating more Bor Bor and falling asleep.
Kampot - This was my number one favourite place in Cambodia. I ended up spending almost one whole week of my trip exploring sleepy Kampot town (good vibes, good food and as always good people), and the surrounding countryside (think: swimming in waterfalls and rivers, climbing mountains and practicing yoga on the rooftop looking out over the flat green patchwork countryside dotted with coconut palms).
Kep - a sleepy little beachside town with it’s very well known Crab Market… Seafood for days!
Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island) - This little island has about 10 basic bungalows, no electricity after 10pm and thousands upon thousands of phosphorescence in the water. I don’t really need to say more.