I immediately loved Cambodia. Was it the widely-available baguette that did it? The quick-to-smile people? The insanely sweet pineapple that doesn’t burn your mouth being sold everywhere? The pink toilet paper? Cambodia just felt right. And the pineapple was amazing.

We arrived in Phnom Penh, the bustling capital, and explored the markets and Royal Palace.


We boldly dove right in, trying various things on skewers at the Phnom Penh night market (ok, after some hesitation). We sat on the mats on the hot ground and ate, waved at babies, and stared at all the people.

I don’t want to boast, but I got quite good at crossing the street. If you wait for a break in traffic or for anyone to stop, you’ll spend your entire time in Cambodia on that street corner (although you’d be soon saved by a tuk-tuk driver offering you a lift.)

No- I managed to cross those streets, having faith that the tuk-tuks (Lonely Planet lied- no one calls them remorques), cyclos, cars, and motorbikes would swerve around me. I can count on only one hand the times I thought I would actually die.


We visited the Royal Palace, where I took some artsy-fartsy pictures after being slightly disappointed that 2086 diamonds on a solid gold Buddha don’t actually sparkle that much.


In one of the exhibition rooms in the palace, we stumbled upon someone’s half-finished hat-sewing project.

Our ride up to Siem Reap in a mini-bus driven by a maniac was shared with cell-phone-yakking adults and iPhone-game-playing children. In Cambodia, you only feel the air-con once the sun sets.

We made it in one piece to our air-conditioned room (worth the extra $3). For the second time in a week, I’d booked accommodation for the wrong day. I’ve truly lost track. But there was room amd the next morning, it was off to visit the temples of Angkor- the largest religious monument in the world (400 square km), one of the seven wonders of the world, a UNESCO world heritage site.


Chun, our tuk-tuk driver, greeted us with this lovely sign.


At the temples in Siem Reap. We saw many temples. I’m afraid I travel like a bag of dirty laundry (as my mother would say) and don’t remember which temple is which.


A cool sight for hot eyes- a nice little oasis amidst the temples.


Little girl selling things at Angkor.

I wish we could have bought all the books, magnets, scarves, noise-makers, and cold drinks being sold by children (who insisted they go to school in the morning) around the temples. But we didn’t. One little girl responded to our “sorry, no” by stamping her foot and sputtering “Sorry you don’t buy anything!” I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.

The next morning we rose early to greet the sun at Angkor Wat. We’d saved the big temples for the second day. We were already sweating by 6 am.


We were not the only ones who thought seeing the sun rise behind Angkor Wat was a good idea. So much for a serene experience.


Angkor Wat cutting its way out of a lightening sky.


Sunrise at Angkor Wat.

They don’t tell you that some of the hidden corners of these magestic temples smell a bit of urine.


Monk checking out the temples.

Under the Cambodian sun, it’s easy to become templed-out. Luckily, our tuk-tuk offered us a breezy rest between temples (it’s impossible to imagine the vastness of this ancient city before experiencing it). I don’t know how people did the circuit on their bikes. And how they managed to look cooler and fresher than we did. And how did that 70-year-old couple manage all the temple stairs without breaking a sweat when we could barely walk because of our sore muscles? Visiting the temples might make you seriously question your fitness level.

By midday, the crowds of people had descended and took away from our exploration- it’s hard to pretend you’ve discovered something mysterious when you’re being pushed around so people can take a picture.

Luckily, people-watching is a favourite activity and we were entertained by the Russian couple dressed excactly the same (lemon-yellow tank top, bandana, purple elephant pants, and Thai bag) and groups of old ladies posing for pictures where Tomb Raider was filmed.

Many people crammed into a small room in a big temple.

Many people crammed into a small room in a big temple.

Very colourful people at the temples.

Very colourful people at the temples.

All in all, it was quite an overwhelming, beautiful, eye-opening experience. I would suggest a guide, though that would diminish the thrill of stealthily eavesdropping on other guides and piecing together the history of the sites.

Also suggested while at Angkor Wat: it is advised to meet a couple of nice French guys who are staying at a beautiful hotel that has a pool, as it is possible that they might invite you for a swim after the temples, for which you will forever be grateful.