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Angkor Wat and Siem Reap

The fact that Angkor Wat doesn’t seem to be included on any ‘wonders of the world’ list really shocks me. Angkor Wat, meaning ‘temple city’ in Khmer is a 12th century temple complex located in Siem Reap province. It is the largest religious monument in the world – originally a Hindu temple, it became a Buddhist during the 13th century.

We got the (very bumpy) seven hour coach down from Phnom Penh, and were taken by car to our hotel, the Memoire d’Angkor.  We arrived just in time for dinner, and made plans to get up at 4.30 the next morning in order to be at Angkor Wat for sunrise. The hotel staff were really helpful, arranging our tuktuk temple tour and packing us a breakfast of banana bread, croissants and fruit. Our tuktuk driver cost $10 for the morning, and took us round the temples, waiting for us to re-emerge once we’d explored each one. For those wary of waking up at the crack of dawn – I really recommend it. It looks stunning, and you get to miss the afternoon heat (and crowds!).

Angkor Wat at Sunrise

We pulled up to the ticket office around 4.50am, where there was already a sizeable queue. Tickets cost $20 a day for the site, and there’s no swapping tickets as each one has your face printed on it (and yes, they do check at the temples). Once we were sat down in the grounds and waiting for the sun to rise, I was feeling a mixture of emotions. I was completely in awe at the sight in front of me, as well as being completely furious that no one else had followed the dress code. I was sat there in trousers and an elbow-length top while the girl directly in front of me had on denim hotpants and a lace tank top with a coloured bra visible underneath. I was annoyed that someone would be so inconsiderate, while wishing I was wearing her outfit. I was looking a real treat,  looking and feeling sweaty and generally unpleasant in front of my boyfriend while she was looking fresh and comfortable in front of hers!

Once the sun had risen, we went into the temple and had a wander around. The very top doesn’t open until 8.30, but there was so much to see – enough intricate wall carvings, statues and roofs to keep us entertained for hours.

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Once the upstairs had opened a queue began forming. Denim hotpants and her boyfriend (who attempted to cover his exposed shoulders by swaddling himself up in a towel like a mummy, or a giant baby) weren’t allowed up. So I wasn’t suffering for nothing after all!

Unfortunately for hotpants, the view was worth the wait. The way back down the steep steps, however, was mildly horrific for me as I can’t stand heights. I scooted down on my butt, much to the dismay of Mr A and the crowd behind me.

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Angkor Wat Angkor Wat

Oh – and the place is crawling with monkeys, too!

Monkey Angkor Wat

We found our tuktuk driver who showed us round the other temples, including Angkor Thom (with all the faces), Ta Phrom (with all the trees) and some of the smaller ones like Ta Keo.

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It was one of the most incredible days I’ve ever had, and I am so glad we made it in time to see the sunrise. The only vaguely negative experience I had during my time at the temples involved the tour groups. Maybe this feeling has always been inside of me, or maybe some change took place while I was in Cambodia, but I have developed a pure, unadulterated hatred for tour groups. After the incident at the Killing Fields, large tour groups weren’t doing themselves any favours in my book. The tour groups would barge into cordoned off areas to take pictures of themselves, standing on and touching centuries-old carvings and stone. It drove me mad, and by 12 o’clock I was becoming grumpy due to their behaviour, combined with the excessive heat and feeling of hunger. So after a seven hour stretch at Angkor Wat, we got our tuktuk back to the hotel where we spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool.

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Even though I felt I’d packed a lot into my morning, I’ll definitely be going to Angkor Wat again. There is something like 28 temples to see, and I’m excited to head back again one day, to see everything I missed the first time.


The Mansion and Miss Sarawan

Later on during our stay we went out to have a few drinks at The Mansion, one street away from the royal palace. ‘The Mansion’ is an old French colonial building that has had many uses over the years, but is now a charmingly dilapidated venue and bar.

2014-03-29 20.31.11We were there to see Krawan Sarawan, or Miss Sarawan, a Khmer and Western fusion band with a sixties vibe. We had several good tips during our trip regarding gigs and nightlife from Leng Pleng, a guide to live music and DJ events in Cambodia. The band were great – so much fun and had a great sound, look and energy. The lead singers are twins which makes things even more trippy and interesting. I’ve had a look for them online but I can’t seem to find anything – so I guess you’ll just have to go see them yourself!

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And, of course, the review of the cocktails: I’m afraid to say that I tried the ‘Passionate Englishman’, loved it and didn’t try anything else the rest of the evening. The mixture of gin, passionfruit, vanilla and apple syrup and lime was too good to resist. Mr A had something called ‘Penicillin’ which contained absinthe and tasted like whiskey and nail polish remover – both things I hate the smell of!

2014-03-29 20.39.56 2014-03-29 20.44.56 2014-03-29 21.22.21The evening was definitely a highlight in terms of nightlife in Phnom Penh – if you get the chance to see Krawan Sarawan or head to The Mansion, please do! I’ll be green with envy.

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh is situated on the Western bank, where the Mekong and the Tonle Sap rivers meet.

2014-03-19 04.06.53The opportunity to explore a royal residence for $10 doesn’t come round often, so we took advantage and had a little wander.

Royal palace Phnom Penh Royal Palace Phnom Penh

Construction for the palace began in the 1860s, when the Cambodian capital moved to Phnom Penh. The royal family have resided there ever since, with the exception of a few years during the regime of the Khmer Rouge.

2014-03-19 04.14.26 2014-03-19 04.12.23 2014-03-19 04.23.56 2014-03-19 04.25.30-2 2014-03-19 04.26.56Everything in the palace is extremely ornate, and it was a pleasure to walk around the gardens. If I was to do the trip again, I would aim to go in the early morning as the afternoon heat became too much after a while. It’s worth keeping in mind that the palace closes for lunch (re-opens at 2), and that shoulders and knees are to be covered throughout.

There is a lot to take in, including a room full of gifts presented to the King. Several areas are closed off to the public as (understandably) the king resides in the palace – several American tourists seemed to be offended by this, for some bizarre reason. It made me want to book a trip to Ohio and wander round their backyard taking photos to see how they’d like it.

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2014-03-19 04.31.26Although I did enjoy my tour of the palace, I have to admit that it wasn’t the most captivating experience I’ve had during my stay – so if you only have a few hours to spend in Phnom Penh I’d suggest having a real cultural experience and explore some of the markets!


Sihanoukville is a four hour drive away from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh. It is a beautiful coastal province and port city on the Gulf of Thailand.

Sokha, Sihanoukville

We went down for the weekend, and stayed at the most incredible hotel, the Sokha Beach Resort.

Sokha Beach Resort

SihanoukvilleThe hotel is right on Sokha beach, and has an amazing pool (with a pool bar). They did the most incredible lychee martinis.


We spent most of the weekend down by the beach, or lounging by the pool, but we woke up early on Saturday and managed to hire a boat to ferry us to the islands just off the coast. We had a brilliant time being ferried around the islands by Mr. Yeats, snorkeling off of the boat and exploring the little islands. My favourite was Ko Ta Kiev.

Sihanoukville 2011-02-06 04.03.51 Mr Yeats, Sihanoukville Sihanoukville

Mr. A and I explored some of the bars on Serendipity beach at night, which was a lot of fun. It was such a perfect weekend and I don’t think you can get much closer to heaven than sitting on a beach in Cambodia! The islands are quiet and it’s worth bringing a packed lunch as there aren’t many shops or restaurants near by.

For food in Sihanoukville, I can’t recommend Chhne Meas enough! Recommended by a local friend, it’s a seafood restaurant looking over the water, and has some of the most delicious seafood I’ve ever had in my life. It’s unbelievably reasonable, too – we paid $48 for a table of six, with a bottle of rose, crab, prawns, lobster, little fried fish and a giant snapper – with personalised service! My favourite part of the meal (besides the lobster, of course) was the Khmer dipping sauce for the seafood. Made with salt, lime juice and kampot pepper, it complemented the seafood perfectly and will definitely be recreated at home!

Restaurant Review: Public House, Phnom Penh

Last Thursday we went to the season 3 premiere of Loy9, a mass media campaign funded by the UNDP and Sweden and produced by BBC Media Action. The show aims at empowering the youth of Cambodia (under 30) – who make up 68% of the population. The premiere was a great success, and the quality of the cinematography and writing of the show was excellent – I really enjoyed the episode, even if some of the references were lost in translation!

After the premiere a few of us trotted on down to street 240, and down an unassuming alley where we came across Public House.

Public House, Phnom Penh

This dark alley is full of hidden treasures, including the Artillery Cafe which is a must if you are into organic, healthy food and green juices. From the outside Public House doesn’t look like much but the interior is decked out nicely with a nautical feel.

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I absolutely love the design and attention to detail seen at the Public House. The cocktail menu was extensive (always a good sign) and the menu full of eccentric twists on classic dishes. They even had scotch eggs on the menu, which Mr. A couldn’t resist. They serve afternoon tea, which is something I will definitely be returning for soon! After a day of running around in the heat, I skipped the cocktail menu and settled on a pot of Japanese sencha.

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Each dish was presented beautifully – just look at this duck on this bed of cous cous!

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I couldn’t resist the burger, especially as the menu said it would be served with ‘tom tom’ sauce which piqued my interest. I was slightly disappointed to discover that ‘tom tom’ sauce is, in fact, ketchup, but that didn’t take away too much from the delicious burger in front of me.

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We finished the meal by sharing a Bailey’s ice cream which was absolutely divine.

Public House, PPDefinitely one to check out when you’re in Phnom Penh!