Kingdom of Cambodia Before I had to dive into the dreaded adulthood

Kingdom of Cambodia
Before I had to dive into the dreaded adulthood, I wanted to take a memorable trip and I did just that. My graduation was being held in Malaysia and hence my boyfriend and I took this opportunity to plan a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam before ending it in Malaysia. We were both so enthusiastic while planning the trip that we ended up planning almost every minute of it, leaving us a minimal amount of rest time. No regrets! Our bucket list was all set and we were eager to start crossing off each experience we listed therein.
I definitely recommend those three countries to early adults who are on a tight budget but still want a fairly decent holiday. I am also obliged to devote this article to Cambodia only because Vietnam and Malaysia both deserve their own travel guides.
My boyfriend and I left our home country (Mauritius) and flew for approximately 7 hours to arrive in Malaysia where we had a stopover of 2 hours before our next flight to Cambodia which took about another 2 hours. After approximately 12 hours of airplanes and airports, we landed in Siem Reap International Airport, Cambodia. Props to the organization ‘See Asia Differently’ which did an amazing work from the time we landed in Cambodia until we left for Vietnam. We got a ride on a tuk-tuk (photo below) from the airport to the hotel (Steung Siem Reap Hotel) located in Pub Street. I enjoyed the ride while my boyfriend was terrified. Unfortunately for my boyfriend, that tuk-tuk was going to be our ride for the next 2 days.

Figure 1. My boyfriend and I outside Siem Reap International Airport, Cambodia in front of our tuk-tuk ride
We met a representative of ‘See Asia Differently’ for a quick debriefing of our itinerary and refreshing drinks at the hotel. We then had an obligatory quick shower and lunch before heading to the emblematic and the largest religious monument in the world: Angkor Wat (photo below).
Clothing Alert: If you are planning to visit Angkor Wat, I highly advise that you bring clothes which cover 90% of your body. I was wearing a long skirt and a sleeveless shirt and the guide politely and shyly requested that I change my shirt. Since I had limited amount of clothes available, I had to wear the jacket of my boyfriend in the heat of Cambodia.
The architecture and cultural history behind that monument was fascinating and all that was explained to us by our personal guide. After about 4 hours of guided visit, continuous walking, beautiful sceneries and pictures, we decided to head back to the hotel. We were now exhausted and sleep-deprived. It was time for a power nap!

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Figure 2. Angkor Wat
However, as we arrived at the hotel, we decided to slip in our swimsuits and head straight to the pool. We lounged by the pool, swam, ordered some snacks and cocktails. Luckily our hotel was located in Pub Street and the latter was always animated. We hence logically went out to have more cocktails and some street food for dinner in Pub Street (photo below).

Figure 3. Street vendor selling a variety of cocktails I had never heard of before. FYI: I did not suffer from diarrhea the next day but I did suffer from a feeble hangover

Figure 4. Street food: I went all in with chicken curry in a coconut and my boyfriend stayed safe with his barbecue-ish food. Still no diarrhea alert!
We finally went to bed at around 2 am as we had to wake up at 5 am to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat and with no surprise the guide had to wake us up via the hotel staff as we were hammered from the travel/ cocktail high. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy and we could not see the perfect sunrise. The tuk-tuk brought us to our hotel where we had our breakfast after which we left for the elephant sanctuary situated in Sen Monorom. The tuk-tuk rides were over and the 8-hour long drive started but fortunately we were travelling in a very comfortable jeep type vehicle in which we took several power naps. The driver was very cordial and we had stopovers for pictures and local food tasting.

Figure 5. Rice and beans cooked in bamboo. That was definitely an acquired taste.

In the late evening we finally arrived at the Nature Lodge where we stayed for the following two days. As soon as we arrived, we left our luggage in our lodge and went straight for dinner and devoured tons of food. While walking from the restaurant to our room, we saw a variety of animals ranging from cows to horses walking/ resting freely. We had an amazing view over the mountains from our doorstep (photo below) and above all the staff there were very friendly. The lodge had an outside bathroom and a cozy bedroom. It also does get cold at night in that part of Cambodia so I do advise you to bring warm clothes if you are planning to visit the elephant sanctuary.

Figure 6. Nature lodge located in Mondulkiri Province, Sen Monorom
We left the lodge early morning to head to the elephant sanctuary which was approximately 1 hour drive from the lodge. We planned a full day at the elephant sanctuary operated by the ‘Elephant Valley Project’. It started with a debriefing about dos and don’ts during the visit, the importance of elephants, the suffering they had to endure and the work undertaken by the nonprofit community organization. Visitors were also encouraged to volunteer for the organization.
Soon after starting the visit, I saw an elephant for the first time in front of me. It was majestic, calm and powerful at the same time. It is also a shame that elephants suffer from so much cruelty. The first part of the day involved walking along with the elephants; we saw them have their baths; we listened to anecdotes of each elephant then we had lunch. The second part of the visit was more or less the same as the first half but in a different area of the sanctuary. However, the highlight of the second half of the visit was being able to touch an elephant. I never gave much thought about how the skin of an elephant felt but I certainly did not expect it to be kind of prickly.

Figure 7. My favorite photo of two elephants greeting each other
We returned back to the lodge in the late evening and the next morning we left for Siem Reap International Airport where we took a flight to Vietnam.
We had a very short stay in Cambodia and the approximate cost of our stay (4 days) was 1200 USD. The fee mentioned does not include flight tickets. Also, the cost can be further reduced provided that you do not book your trip last minute like we did.