In this latest series, I will be going through all the countries I’ve travelled to on my mission to visit every single country in the world. In this article, we will be covering country #25: Cambodia. If you haven’t gotten a chance already, read this story first to find out why I’m trying to visit all 193 UN-recognized countries.
VIDEO – Country #25: Cambodia
Blog post on Cambodia
- My Complete Philippines, Laos, and Cambodia Spending Breakdown
- Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – A Frightening Look Into Cambodia’s Past
- My Step-by-Step Journal to Traveling to Angkor Wat from Phnom Penh
- Denied Exiting the Cambodian Border – A Miracle Happens
Arriving in Phnom Penh
When I arrived in Phnom Penh, I decided to stay in a strange-looking hotel with tiny rooms inside. I was feeling dead tired from constantly moving and travelling; so, I decided I would get some time to just rest on my first night in Phnom Penh.
I noticed that prices seem to vary greatly in this city. Sometimes, I would pay $1-$2 for a big meal and sometimes I would pay $5-$6. Truthfully, I think I was getting scammed sometimes and other times, I was paying a fair price.
The next day, I checked out the Tuol Sleng, Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh. To fully experience my time here, I decided to do the audio tour. This turned out to be a good choice because of how real and vivid the storytelling was.
You can hear the pain of the genocide survivors as they recall the horror they experienced under Pol Pot’s reign of terror.
People were forced to admit they were conspiring against the government and Pol Pot’s regime would then execute you afterward.
Strangely, some of the survivors now sign their autographs when you decide to buy books with tales of life in this prison-turned-museum.
Royal Palace of Cambodia
Next, I went to the Royal Palace of Cambodia. It wasn’t open yet when I arrived so while waiting outside, a Cambodian tout started harassing me. I ended up yelling at this annoying man and told him I don’t want to buy anything from him. Funny enough, the other tourist was watching this whole event happen. They looked entertained as I tried getting rid of this relentless tout.
The Royal Palace itself was neat but I wouldn’t say it’s a must-see when travelling in Phnom Penh. Had I not visited the genocide museum already, I would have probably visited the Killing Fields instead of the palace.
When I went back to my hotel, a local businessman approached me and asked me if I was interested in doing business with him. Seems that a lot of locals are determined to make friends with foreigners and start a business deal with them.
The bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
My next journey would take me to Siem Reap. I befriended some locals on the bus as they eagerly talked to me. This man had really good English and was telling me about his job working in Cambodia and nearby Asian countries. It seems that many Cambodian locals are very friendly and eager to make friends with travellers.
Tuk Tuk driver negotiation
Upon arriving in Siem Reap, I waited for all the tourists to get their tuk-tuk drivers to take them to their accommodations. When I was the only one left, I knew I had the advantage when it comes to bargaining with the tuk-tuk drivers.
One man was pressing me to pay for his day tour price to go to Angkor Wat. However, I didn’t like his offer and started walking away. Finally, one younger tuk-tuk driver agreed to my price of about $15 USD for a full-day tour of Angkor Wat and $3 USD to drive me to my accommodation.
I redeemed some of my Starwood Points (now merged with Marriott) for a 2-night stay at Le Meridien Angkor Wat. I wanted to relax a bit. Sometimes, staying at beat up hostels gets old and you want comfort and a nice shower just to feel human again.
Touring Angkor Wat
The next day, my tuk-tuk driver picked me up from the hotel and drove me to the place where I can buy a ticket to see Angkor Wat.
Our first destination afterward is the legendary Angkor Wat complex itself.
Despite the huge amount of tourists visiting Angkor Wat, it definitely did not disappoint. It makes perfect sense why Angkor Wat is the number one place visited by tourists who travel to Cambodia.
My next destination is Angkor Thom. And it did not disappoint. Many people think it’s nicer than Angkor Wat.
While I was enjoying taking pictures and making videos, this one scammer started following me around the temple. At first, he was pretending to be a student helping tourists. I told him right away that I wasn’t giving him any money. And he said that’s fine, he just wants to help.
Later on, he finally asked for money and I told him he’s not getting any because he’s dishonest about his intent. I understand that life is hard in Cambodia but scamming people is not the way to earn a living.
Terrace of the Elephants
We had a quick stop at the Terrace of the Elephants. It wasn’t that spectacular so I asked the tuk-tuk driver to go to the next stop not too long after.
This next place looks like a pyramid. I often wonder why some of these temples look similar to the Pyramids of Giza or Chichen Itza. While exploring Ta Keo, it made me wonder how these temples had no influence from the Pyramids or Chichen Itza yet they somehow looked very similar in design.
Also known as the Angelina Jolie temple thanks to the movie Tomb Raider, Ta Prohm is the second most popular site in the Angkor Wat complex.
Famous for the trees growing out of the temple, it’s quite a sight to see. It’s also quite a sight to see all the tourist flooding here and getting in the way of each other’s pictures.
After taking shots of the trees, I went into the temple itself to take other amazing pictures and videos of this beautiful ancient temple.
My last stop was Banteay Kdei. And truly it’s another magnificent temple. But, at this point, I was dead tired from exploring temples all day and I wanted to go back to my hotel to rest up. I took a few more pictures before wrapping up my trip and heading back to my accommodation.
My tuk-tuk driver was really friendly the entire time and did a great job. I gave him a big tip and he was ecstatic. I also told him to keep all the money for himself and don’t give it to his boss. He was very happy and the hotel staff watching this interaction was laughing when they heard me say that.
I can tell he’s a hard worker and probably being taken advantage of by the tuk-tuk operators. So I bargained hard the first day but deep down inside, I planned on giving him a good tip assuming he delivered a great service. Which he did.
Denied leaving Cambodia
On my last day in Cambodia, I would be taking a bus going from Siem Reap to Bangkok, Thailand. There, I would be catching a flight in the evening going to Chiang Mai. It would be an all-day transit kind of trip.
It started fine as I sat beside a Finnish guy and we chatted about travelling. When we finally reached the Cambodia border, that’s when things went sideways.
The immigration officer asked me for a copy of my e-visa and I replied saying I gave it when I entered the country. He told me that he needs a copy of it also and took my passport and threw it at me. My passport bounced off my chest as I stood there furious at how much of an asshole this immigration officer is. I think he just wanted a bribe looking in hindsight.
I started looking around for a place that might have a printer. I went from hotel to hotel asking if they had a printer I can use and I can pay them to use it. But everyone said they didn’t have one. I paid for a motorcycle taxi to help me find a place with a printer and he drove me back to the border instead.
Finally, I ended up in this casino and I asked them if they have a printer and I will pay them money to use it. They told me that they have one but it’s broken. However, they will try and fix it. And guess what…they did fix it! I emailed them my e-visa document (thankfully, I got a Cambodia Simcard) and they printed it for me. I tried paying them but they refuse to take my money.
There are definitely kind people in this world. Quickly, I hurried back to the border and got stamped out of Cambodia. My next job is to get through Thai immigration. Unfortunately, luck is just not on my side on this day.
The bus leaves me
The Thai border immigration was on their lunch break and it took 2 hours for me to get through. By the time I made it to the other side, the bus I was on had left me. Feeling defeated, I accepted that I probably lost my bag and will miss my flight that evening.
Out of nowhere, a man sitting in a random shop yelled at me. He told me I was too slow and my bus left me. I then asked him if I can take another bus and he said they will put me on another bus. Afterward, I asked about the status of my bag and he told me to try my luck at the bus depot.
I boarded another bus not too long after and off we went to Bangkok.
A miracle happens
By the time we reached Bangkok, I asked the bus driver where my previous bus was. He pointed it out to me and I asked someone to open the bus for me. To my surprise, my bag was there! What a miracle!
I looked at the time and I had 1 hour and 30 minutes left before my flight would depart. Quickly, I hired a taxi that I’m 100% sure had scammed. But, there’s no time to bargain, I needed to catch my flight. At about 30 minutes left, we made it to the airport.
Immediately, I checked in and made it to my flight just in the nick of time! This was truly a miracle. And I attribute this to good karma after tipping that tuk-tuk driver handsomely the day before.
Cambodia is a country full of good people. And while bad things do happen in this country. I think there are more good people than bad ones. I would just avoid entering the country through the border because it’s quite corrupt. Even if it’s slightly more pricey, I would gladly pay money now to fly out than to deal with the border hassles.
Would I return to Cambodia one day? I most likely will. I enjoyed Cambodia and I think it has a lot to offer to tourists and foreign investors.