A Second Jaunt Around Cambodia (aka Godzilla Geckos and Riverside Karaoke)

Given that it was only last year that we had visited Cambodia and travelled around the country, our plan for this visit was to see a bit more of places that we had really liked and take a little time to chill.

Last year, we had spent a few days in the town of Kampot, on the south coast of Cambodia and really enjoyed it and the surrounding area. It is a very chilled place with friendly people and decent bars and cafes. On this occasion, we decided to spend a few days here and stay a little outside the town in the countryside. And what better place to book when you want to get a bit closer to nature than a non-AC, three storey tree house.

It did seem like a really good and spontaneous idea when we booked it, but as the stay was approaching and the heat of Cambodia became apparent, I was having a little apprehension. However, Giles (probably knowing he would be be the one having to look for a new place to stay) was pretty adamant he wanted the tree house.

As soon as we arrived, I was converted.

It was truly a fantastic setting in a quiet location by the river and surrounded by mango trees. Yes, it was bloody hot. Yes, we got eaten alive by the mosquitos. But as a place to chill for a few days, we thought it was perfect.

The next morning, it was clear I would have to manage my expectations of what staying in the countryside would actually entail.

A 5.00am wake up call from the chorus of chickens started the day, and that evening we were serenaded by the adjacent village’s own Khmer karaoke king giving his best renditions of Cambodian schlager songs. I was genuinely impressed by the lady singing with him in the duets – but then it was explained to us that this was actually the recording, and it was only him and his two mates getting hammered and singing the night away. If it wasn’t for them being across the other side of the river, I would have joined them as it sounded great fun.

It was on our last night in the tree house that I was outside and suddenly screamed “Giles! – Come here now!”

“Why?” – Giles typically wanting an explanation for everything.

“There’s a gecko”

“So? It wont hurt … Oh, that’s quite big…”

Giles had just seen what I had – a huge gecko (over a foot long) glancing right at us. Now I understand some people will say that’s not that big – to them I would ask if they wanted it in their bedroom. Within a few minutes, he also had a friend. Thankfully, after dinner they seemed to have hidden elsewhere but all that night I kept on hearing gecko squeaks, so had to wake Giles up to check – he wasn’t very happy.

Despite my freaking out, I have to admit how all of this added to the experience – for anyone heading to Cambodia I would absolutely recommend a few days in Kampot, and if you are up for a tree house, take a look at Sabay Beach. They are a really friendly bunch.

We took a bumpy three hour taxi ride to Sihanoukville Airport. It was on this drive that the amount of development and Chinese investment in Cambodia became even more apparent than on our previous trip. Building work was going on everywhere, and the amount of large, brand new SUVs was testament to this change. The airport was certainly targeting this wave of wealthy individuals – even a cup of tea was upwards of €6.

Arriving in Siem Reap, in the north of the country, our plan was to see a bit more of the Angkor monuments and ruins than we had time for last year. But before that, we had read about a NGO called Apopo that had a visitor centre we really wanted to see. This organisation train African Giant Rats to smell and detect live land mines in the ground. After years of conflict, these landmines are a huge problem in Cambodia and are responsible for the deaths of many individuals (disproportionately children) every year. At the visitor centre, the team demonstrate the scale of the problem and then demonstrate why the rats perform so well at detecting the mines and how it is done. These rats are huge (so much so, sunblock is even put on them to protect their ears and tails) and it is so impressive the work that they do. I actually felt guilty for eating one of their cousins last year…

Seeing more of Angkor was as impressive as last time, and I’m glad we got to see more of the less visited sites. Everything that can be said on visiting these has been said so I’ll finish with a few pictures! It is staggering how quickly time seems to be going – only seven weeks until we fly to the UK for a family Christmas pre South America pit stop and still Thailand, Laos and Myanmar to go before then!

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