Trip Report, Cambodia 1st - 18th Nov 2012
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Nov 27, 2012 2:20 AM Last Post By: mem_ceres
Nov 25, 2012 10:50 AM
Trip Report, Cambodia 1st - 18th Nov 2012This report became much longer than I thought it would be. Thus, I shall be dividing it into a few posts in the same thread. I shall try to sort them by location and state that in the beginning of each post.
My trip schedule:
1-2nd: flight + road trip to Chi Phat. taxi PP-Andoung Teuk 80USD
3-5th: trekking in the jungle around Chi Phat
6th: just rest and hanging around my homestay, chat with locals
7th: road trip to Kampot, evening boat trip to see fireflies. 9,5USD for road trip. 4USD for boat trip.
8th: pepper plantation, drove by Kep, Phnom Sorsia and Phnom Chhnork. 20USD
9th: bus Kampot to Siem Reap, via PP 12USD
10th: Beng Mealea (entrance 5USD), Rulous group. 35USD
11th: Angkor little circuit: Angkor Wat, Prasat Kravan, Sras Srang, Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, into Angkor Thom via Victory Gate, lunch, Tep Pranan, Preah Palilay, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the elephants, Sras Srei, ruines of Royal Palace, Phimeanakas, Baphuon (just passed by, did not climb), Bayon, exit Angkor Thom via South Gate, Phnom Bakheng for sunset. 6USD per person x3
12th: Angkor big circuit. Sunrise at Pre Rup (leave from hotel at 5am). Banteay Srey, Kbal Spean, Banteay Samre, East Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Pean, Preah Khan, exit via Angkor Thom and pass by Angkor Wat. 11USD per person x3.
13th: Floating forest and Kompong Pluk village, pass by Rulous group. 7USD per person x 3. Entrance fee to Kompong Pluk 20USD. Paddle boat for 20-30min tour of the village + mangrove forest 4USD per person.
14th: Bus SR to PP.
15th: Royal palace, Silver pagoda (ticket 6.5USD). National Museum 3USD.
16th: Phnom Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary. tuktuk 35USD, entrance 6USD.
17th: walked about town, Central market, Night market,
18th: Sorya shopping centre, just some more walking about and resting. return flight in the evening.
Nov 25, 2012 10:59 AM
1Phnom Penh Airport and road trip to Chi Phat.
After landing at Phnom Penh, it was quite a straight-forward procedure getting the visa. You start at one end of the counter, handing your passport to the officials, and then go wait at the other end. When your visa is ready, an official would hold up the document and shout out your name. I chose to not have ID-photos with me and paid 2USD extra for that. This not because I was lazy, but that taking ID-photos in Sweden costs about 10USD. You pay the extra 2USD to the official that take in your passport, and pay the 20USD for visa to the official that hands out passport +visa.
I checked the price list at the Taxi booth at the Airport. Taxi to town costs 9USD, to Koh Kong 140USD. I planned to take taxi to Psar Thmei to find a taxi/shared taxi to Andoung Teuk. However, the taxi driver taking me towards town offered to take me to Andoung Teuk directly. He wanted a higher fee first but can accept a negotiated price of 100USD. I still found it too expensive. Then the driver offered to arrange a friend of his, who drives inter-province taxi, to take me to Andoung Teuk for 80USD. He explained that there are two types of taxis. One that only operated within PP, and one that travel to other provinces. The later is cheaper because the driver can take customers from the other province back to PP. I took the offer and the taxi trip to Andoung Teuk took about 3,5hours.
Please note that if you do not use the ticket fixed by the taxi booth and choose to negotiate your own price with the taxi driver, make sure you get the costs clear. My friends were told first that the taxi trip to Night Market would cost 7USD. When they arrived, the taxi driver told them it was 7USD per person. Also note that Phnom Penh Sorya's website says they had a bus departure for Koh Kong at 0745 and 1145 respectively; that is not true. They only have one departure for Koh Kong per day at 0745.
At Andoung Teuk, 3 young men approached the taxi at once and presented themselves as motorbike drivers for trip to Chi Phat. As I arrived at around 1-2pm, there was no boat available for trip to Chi Phat. The bike trip took about 30min and cost about 5 or 7USD (I cannot remember now). It is bumpy but one can get a nice view of the mountain range in the distance. Also, by travelling with motor, I arrived at CBET about 1hr earlier than the people to took the bus from PP and boat to Chi Phat.
Nov 25, 2012 11:12 AM
The secretary at CBET who presents trip and accommodation options to visitors is uninspirational to say the least. She sounds like a recorder on play-back mode and any further questions apart from the price list are not much in her answer range. She did not seem to have knowledge of the trekking trail nor the wildlife, but she would warn you about the 'lychees' (leeches). If you find her English (and that of a few other locals) difficult to understand, it is because they do not pronounce the last syllabol of words. Thus, guest house would become 'ge(t) how', rice is 'rye', ice is 'I' and so on. Guess from the context. Worth noting that the secretary also charges an additional 7% administration fee on top of the total cost for the activities. This administration fee is not listed in the cost-list of the CBET organisation and very unclear where this money ends up. I met another visitor who just refused to pay that sum as it was not listed on the official price list and the secretary accepted it. So, yeah, there is a suspicion that this admin fee just goes to her pocket.
I chose to stay at a home-stay (number 4). The room was neat and clean, the host family most friendly, and the food delicious. It's better compared to the CBET restaurant. Guest Houses are slightly bigger houses than home-stays. Eco-lodge is a bit from the village centre and I believe you can get the owner to pick you up by motor. The view at Eco-lodge is great. A room costs 10/15USD per night, s/d.
Trekking trips start from the CBET office early in the morning. CBET provides a big backpack for you the day before with a hammock, a raincoat, and a blanket towel inside. You can then add your own belongings into the backpack. You will also be provided with 6 bottles of 500ml water.
I chose Itinerary Nr 2, 3 days 2 nights trekking. The morning boat trip is relaxing, and gives some nice views of the riverbank settlements. We saw monkeys twice (rather difficult to photograph, as in general you'd just see branches shaking and just seconds of moving fur), and a hornbill. The trekking was not difficult, but the temperature of 25-30 degree Cel and no wind means you sweat by the bucketful and risk dehydration if you don't keep drinking. The guide will prepare poison liquid to spay onto your trousers and socks to reduce risk of leech bites. Put on long trousers and high socks, have the socks over the ends of your trousers. Arm yourself with a stick to fling away leeches crawling up your legs, and keep checking your legs regularly. There were MANY MANY leeches as it was just past the end of rain season. If you visit towards the end of Jan or during Feb, the forest would be brown and the leeches would have disappeared.
Along the trail we got to stop at a small rapid with natural pool for swimming. This was also a lunch stop. A few minutes after we got out from the cooling water, a small viper joined our enjoyment of the pool. Later that day, I was also graced by the sighting of a larger viper, about perhaps 3-4cm in diametre and ca 1m long. The first night in the jungle, it rained all night. The Camp site is a shed on stilts. There is a squat toilet in another hut. Saw 4 hornbills flying past the camp site at about sunset.
Second day of trekking, same none-difficult road but hot weather. One needs to cross a stream once, so zip-off pants or shorts can be a good option. Before reaching camp site one passes by village settlement where one can buy water, soft drinks, or snacks. For the more adventurous, get a bottle of the home-brewed rice wine. It's about 30-40% alcohol. The camp site is reached by lunch time. One can go to see the nearby waterfall and swim in the natural pool. The rocks around the waterfall are the same type as at the Giants Causeway, but smaller in diameter. Despite the guides said the camp sites had no leech, quite a few of these thirsty creatures showed up. So keep your eyes sharp and keep your leech stick at hand. Toilet at this camp site was not clean. Saw a troop of monkeys near the camp site around sunset time and early in the morning.
Day three was a long walk back to Chi Phat. Very hot and there was no shade, as it was along a dust road through rice fields and farms. Bring enough water. We reached CBET at about noon.
Nov 25, 2012 11:21 AM
AT CBET office, one can buy bus tickets to a selection of big cities. There is a time table and cost list on the wall facing the restaurant. I took the boat trip from Chi Phat to Andoung Teuk this time. The trip took about 2,5hours. The bus dropped me off at a small town and there was a crowd of taxi/minibus drivers waiting as vultures. They fought for my bag and I ended up in a minibus. It was a wait of slightly more than an hour before the minibus filled up with local ppl and departed. The cost for this leg is included in the ticket booked at CBET and the minibus dropped me off at New Bridge in Kampot.
Hotel with a modern bathroom was a wonderful change after a week without a good shower. I stayed at Mea Culpa. The room was clean. The owner was very friendly. The tuktuk driver Mea Culpa helped me arrange charged higher price than random tuktuks in town. the driver's name is Pari and his service was ok. The reason I think he overcharges is that he wanted 25USD for the day trip to pepper plantation and the caves. A trip like that costs 15-18USD normally, according to another tuktuk driver in Kampot I later met and talked to. And even after the firefly trip, when another two tourists and I decided to share the tuktuk for the part of trip to pepper plantation and Kep, Pari agreed to reducing the charge to 20USD (20USD for the other couple, 20USD for me). He dropped off the couple at the pier at Kep, then drove me around the caves and would return to Kep later in the afternoon to drive the couple back to Kampot.
Boat trip for firefly watching cost 4USD and was about 45min long. The trip was organised from Les Manguiers, a shared motorboat with 7-8 tourists. It was not a band or trees of pulsating light. Nevertheless we saw a few branches full of luminescent action. It was a fun experience and worth the money.
Pepper plantation was interesting to see. The tutuk driver acted as a guide and explained the process of pepper growing, harvest, and process. One can buy pepper from the plantation but the prices are the same or even slightly higher than that in town. Kep was just a seaside resort town. If you are looking for sun- and sea-bathing, it is quite alright. I supposed the price level here is higher than Kampot. There are many boats full of western tourists heading out to the island. I did not go to the island nor stayed in Kep. You can find pepper crabs just as good in Kampot, for a lower price, I was told.
Phnom Sorsia I found much more pleasant than Phnom Chhnork. A man (care-taker of the place?) showed me around the temples and caves at Phnom Sorsia. He does not charge a specific price but you pay him what you think fit. I was told that the usual cost was 1-2USD. The man was polite and friendly. The caves are great. Quite a lot of bats live in the caves, esp the bat cave. The caves were spacious and light seeps through the rocky roof every now and then, providing good photo opportunities. At Phnom Chhnork one would be left in the hands of one or more local children. I found it not to be so pleasant: the children were affected by the flow of rich tourists, acted as salespersons, and charged 2USD per child. It was not a large sum by western standards but I just did not like how the children became little grown-up salesmen. The caves here are darker and more narrow.
Nov 25, 2012 11:32 AM
The bus trip from Kampot to Siem Reap took a whole day. I travelled with Phnom Penh Sorya. The bus departed from Kampot at around 07:00. There is an one-hour layover time at PP. The bus was scheduled to arrive in Siem Reap at 18:00 but we arrived at about 19:40. Toilet-stops were once every 2 hours or so, and there was a 30min lunch stop. I am not sure if the lunch stop place was at Spiderville (Skuon) but there were vendors selling cooked insects and a big pan of live spiders on the veranda.
The tuktuk driver, whose name is Pol or Pou, I met at the bus station was nice and spoke good English, so I had him as my driver for the whole Siem Reap stay. We set off early to Beng Mealea and managed to avoid the tourist groups for about 2hours. Pou showed me round Beng Mealea and was a good tour guide, explaining the history and the various structures of the temple. He also explained that he cannot be my guide in the Angkor area or at the Roluos Group because there were policemen prohibiting tuktuk drivers to act as guides. Beng Mealea was great. The lunch place near by Preah Ko was crap, every single tourist groups came and the food was bad. Avoid it.
From the 11th onwards I was joined by two friends of mine. Angkor Wat was impressive but tourists were everywhere. One tourist trap was that in the temple, there were locals around the few statues remaining and would give you incense to offer to the gods. Then, you would be asked to give money 'for the monks'. I am not convinced that there were monks living in Angkor Wat. Banteay Kdei was very nice. Ta Prohm was over-crowded. There was a queue up that temple window between tree roots; every single tourist seemed to want a pic there. Maintenance work was in process so some trees were cut down and there were some work platforms around. Lunch was at one of the stalls opposite Angkor Thom (facing the Terrace of the Leper King). Food was great. By the time we got to Baphuon we were tired and templed out, so we just had a look from the gate and did not climb up. Phnom Bakheng was very crowded for sunset viewing. One can get a nice overview of the main complex of Angkor Wat. Sunset was ok. Having a torch with you may help if you want to stay for the whole sunset. It gets dark quickly once the sun is down, and there are no lamps along the path to/from the hill top.
I heard that twice a year the sun rises from behind the main tower of Angkor Wat, once on the 15th of March and once on the 15th of Sept. I guess it can be worth the crowds if one is staying in Siem Reap longer time, to battle with the other tourists for a good position to see sunrise at Angkor Wat. We chose to avoid the crowds though and headed to Pre Rup. We were the only people there at sunrise and suddenly, it was an ancient temple again, instead of just tourist sites. It felt serene and spiritual. The view was beautiful. Banteay Srey lived up to its fame. Kbal Spean was a nice walk. Banteay Samre and Ta Som were lovely temples. The passage way over water at Neak Pean was interesting, but the shrine was not accessable. Preah Khan was good but crowded.
Entrance fee to Kompong Pluk was a whooping 20USD. The village was interesting but maybe not really match the high cost. Forget about seeing monkeys or other wildlife: the motorboats speed to and fro like on a highway and the paddle boats just take you some 20m or so into the mangrove forest, where you can still see and hear the village life.
Nov 25, 2012 11:46 AM
5Phnom Penh. some names and accommodations.
In Phnom Penh, tuktuk drivers will charge you higher price if you stay at a fancy hotel. The Royal Palace is close for 100 days due to funeral process and lamentation for the late old king. Silver Pagoda is open and worth a look. Entrance fee for the Silver Pagoda and Palace is 6.5USD, not the price quoted in LP. National Museum is good and very much worth the 3USD ticket. Watch out for SCAM in PP, re my other thread.
Mondulkiri-coffee's shop is not at 41, Str 108, Phnom Penh, but 63, str 60, PP.
Farm link in Kampot has moved to a new address. You can find it on the first side street to the right hand side across the New Bridge (the other side from town).
Tuktuk driver who I chatted with in Kampot who quote me some prices for comparison: Van Dan, tel +855 (0) 89 604 506. You may find him at Kampot Souvenirs too.
Tuktuk driver in Siem Reap: Pou, tel 017437166. He speaks good English and is the only person during my Cambodia-trip who managed to use my NIkon DSLR camera in an adequate way. A bonus if you are travelling alone. He also prepares for his customers bottled water chilled in his ice-box for temple day trips.
Kampot: Mea Culpa
Siem Reap: Siem Reap Garden Inn.
Phnom Penh: Kambuja Inn. I like the place, it is clean and friendly, with helpful staff. Also, it is owned by a kmer family. I tried getting a room at Alibi hotel first but it was fully booked.
Siem Reap: Cambodian Traditional Chef, Sok San Road, Tel 092 45 75 12. Family-run restaurant that also offer cooking classes. It's within walking distance from my hotel, on the same side street.
Phnom Penh: Friends, Lucky Pho (2 good options after visiting the National Museum). Romdeng (walking distance from my hotel).
Edited by: mem_ceres
Nov 25, 2012 1:52 PM
Nov 25, 2012 4:54 PM
7Thank you for a very detailed trip report. I am especially delighted that you chose to spend some time at a home stay in Chi Phat; I wish more people would realize that Cambodia has many other interesting offerings besides Siem Reap. Your criticisms seemed quite reasonable and serve as fair warning to drawbacks. By the way, Cambodians do pronounce the last syllable. If you look at your list of words you will see that they do not pronounce the final "S" although the initial one is pronounced. For anyone interested in other home stays please visit http://cambodianhomestays.webs.com/apps/links/
There are couple listed here in Vietnam as well.
Nov 25, 2012 11:45 PM
8Re Nijkerk: oh yes, that's how I felt when I finished writing the whole thing too, lol. Somehow it just got longer and longer...
Re Sonuvcdouille: I find home stay and my time in Chi Phat in general the best part of the trip actually. I agree with you absolutely that more people should visit and experience rural Cambodian life. Good point with the ending 'S'-s.
Thank you all for reading my report! Feedbacks and questions are more than welcomed.
Nov 26, 2012 4:14 AM
9Fantastic report Ceres and given our correspondence before you travelled to Chi Phat I am glad that you enjoyed it
For others note that both web pages and the signs at bus stations/offices with bus times for the long distance services are often/usually wrong and always confirm departure times verbally with someone if you are not booking in advance
Nov 27, 2012 1:18 AM
10Thank you very much for sharing your experiences - especially I will check out this Kampot boat trip to see fireflies, I was not aware of that, never seen any and want to see :) Also I might ring up your driver in Siem Reap.
Nov 27, 2012 2:20 AM
Boat trip was nice, esp considering its low cost. Pou is a friendly guy and I like him a lot (I find him to be my best driver for the trip), but that should not stop you from comparing prices with other tuktuk drivers you meet on the way. If you do choose to go with him though, please send him greetings from the Hong Kong girl he drove around in Nov. :)
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