Crossing into Cambodia via speedboat sounds like an adventure, and let me tell you – it was. Some of our group, us included, had E visas, which it turned out wouldn’t be accepted where we were going. We were re-routed to an alternative border crossing which we travelled to by getting a speedboat out of a warehouse somewhere in Vietnam, Tien made sure we had a crate of beer to see us on our way!, and we sped downstream (or was it upstream) for 3 hours watching the river. The Mekong perhaps isn’t the prettiest river- it’s quite brown – but its traffic was interesting, we watched huge ships dredge up sludge from the base and we saw smaller boats zipping along. The river was wide and the sun was shining. It was relaxing, but 3hours probably was enough to be honest.

We pulled up beside a small hut, passed our passports over, checked our luggage was there, had a quick beer, and then walked- with our can of beer- about 200 metres down a quiet road.

We then arrived at another hut- got stamped out of Vietnam, and lingered in No mans land. A coach arrived with our luggage, we all piled on and the some of us (under 65s) kept our passports and the over 65s didn’t. I’m still not sure why this happened, but we (the under 65s) then got walked about half a mile down some alleys to another hit- entitled police station.

Those of us with E visas had our hearts in our mouth. It was sweltering and we had to queue in a tin hut whilst our passports were scrutinised. Eventually the first of our party got stamped into Cambodia. One by one we got checked in and then the rest of the group (the over 65s) arrived and went through the same thing. About 2 hours later, we were all in. I think I literally saw the relief on Ian’s face. It was an unusual border crossing- but one we would remember. Typing it up, it doesn’t quite match the true experience but believe me when I say it had an air of let’s smuggle these brits in!

Verak, our new guide, loaded us back onto the coach and then onto Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital- a coach journey which replaced a further 6 hours on the speed boat. A good upgrade if you ask me, we saw some very small villages and farms. At times the road wasn’t much bigger than a dirt track. It immediately felt different to Vietnam, and we liked what we saw.

By the time we reached PP, we’d been travelling about 12 hours and we were tired but our hotel was lovely- they’d extended dinner for us and our room was amazing. Absolutely breathtaking.

The next day was my birthday! We enjoyed a sightseeing tour in the morning of Phnom Penh, with its palace and silver pagoda.

We enjoyed the museum too.

We were taken to an arts school where we watched some local traditional dance and music, and also got to take part too.

After a lovely lunch, featuring the national dish of Cambodia, amok – a fish curry – which was delicious- we had a harrowing afternoon ahead.

First up was the genocide museum at the high school. A very necessary excursion for us but hard going. Even more when we learnt our guide, Verak lost his entire family other than his mum to the Khmer Rouge and his dad very likely was brought to the high school torture area where he likely died.

The strength this man showed was hard to fathom as he described what happened here. 

We went from here to the Killing fields. Another very hard place to visit, yet essential.

What we hadn’t realised was that the graves are still as they were when they found – rightly so- but following rain- of which we’d had lots- teeth, bones and clothing remains protruded the ground. Once you’ve done a loop of the fields you have the opportunity to go inside the memorial, a tall tower filled high with over 8000 skulls of innocent victims of the Khmer Rouge. Just heartbreaking.

Our evening in Phnom Penh was spent trying to make sense of what we’d seen. We took a tuk tuk to town and had some drinks and a meal and enjoyed a walk along the river. The promenade was buzzing with people. It helped take our mind off the horror we’d seen but we’ll never forgot our day there and all those innocent people who lost their lives. 

From Phnom Penh we travelled by coach to Siem Riep. Our journey took us through the countryside of Cambodia. We passed rice paddies, water buffalo and fields upon fields of lotus flowers. It was a nice treat to stop and take some pictures of the lotus fields.

Verak took us to a spider market where we got to see some live tarantulas and even tried some deep fried spiders- and other insects. It was like being thrown into the I’m a celeb jungle. I have a deep fear of spiders, but I channeled my inner strength and managed- albeit briefly- to have a live spider on me. I also tried a deep fried tarantula.

Keith didn’t fancy the spiders but did manage a silk worm, whilst in the spirit of adventure I also tried a cockroach. In actual fact, they weren’t too bad at all. Give me the dead ones over the live versions any day. Many of our group were brave and it made for an unusual hour of our day!

We also stopped at the oldest bridge in Cambodia, Dragon bridge(Spean Praptos ) a 12th century cobbled bridge which also used to hold the title of longest cobbled arch bridge in the world. It was worth the stop and we enjoyed crossing it by foot- our coach diverted around – unbelievable it only stopped having motorised vehicles on it recently.

We arrived at Siem Riep in time to check into our beautiful hotel, complete with large pool area, in time for a dip to cool off.

We enjoyed canapés and a free flowing happy hour – ie – free drinks for an hour- that’s my sort of happy hour, before taking tuk tuks to the night market. We enjoyed drinks and shopping in town during the evening.

Next day arrived and a big BIG bucket list tick. It was time to visit the Angkor Watt temples. We travelled by tuk tuk and spent the day being lead around the various temples in the huge hidden city in the jungle.

The jungle Temple, the one with the huge roots overtaking the ruins, was a favourite of ours.

but the finale- the Angkor watt temple was just Marvellous too. We climbed to the very top, scaling some steep steps and were rewarded with tremendous views. The wall paintings were terrific and reminded us of our recent trip to Egypt. How incredible to think of these buildings being built at the same time around the globe, with no forms of contact.

Just as we left Angkor watt the heavens opened and we got drenched in a monsoon style rainstorm. But it didn’t dampened our mood- we were high as kites – in awe with what we’d seen. We had a swim and some pool beers on our return to the hotel, before a night out as a group to a local restaurant which had a local show on for us. We enjoyed local music and more local dancing. It was a lovely colourful evening. We’d had a brilliant day.

Sadly it was our last night as a group though- it was time to head home in the morning, via Singapore- where the rest of the group were just changing planes- Keith and I were staying in Singapore for a couple of nights.

Before we left Siem Riep, we went for a monk’s blessing.

More beautiful architecture and colourful artwork, followed by a delicious lunch to send us on our way. I cried so much saying goodbye to our lovely travelling companions. It had been a great group, we lifted each others spirits throughout and shared some great moments together. But we still had more adventure left….

Until next time


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