A year ago today we left home aboard a one way flight to Bangkok. Since then we’ve travelled through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Australia. It has been without a doubt, the most incredible, exciting, eye-opening and completely insane year of our lives.
Here’s our year in numbers:
1. Total stamps in passports (together): 31
2. Wonders of the world seen: 3
3. Properties stayed in: 72
Christmas 2012, a month before take off. All ready for the year ahead!
If there’s one thing we’ve learnt in the last six months, it’s this: we hate travelling by bus. However, backpacking on a budget in SE Asia rarely leaves us with a wide variety of transport options, and three weeks of travelling through Cambodia and Vietnam saw us on four ‘sleeper’ buses, and a total of 41 very, very uncomfortable hours.
Nothing is more nerve wracking than the wait for the bus (usually a couple of hours on the edge of a road by some bins), and the same questions circle our minds every time: will we be sitting near each other? Will the air con work? Will my neighbour be a vomiter? What time will we arrive – 4am? 1pm? (Both equally possible.) Why do they demand punctuality from us when it’s so hard to achieve themselves? Will they have toilets on board, or should I go to the toilet just one more time? And lastly, why do I still have some hope that it won’t be that bad? It will be.
The food here is incredible and the Friends Restaurant is unsurprisingly rated at number one on Trip Advisor for places to eat in Phnom Penh. Whilst we were guilt ridden by our calorie consumption of this exquisite Asian tapas, this was outweighed by our money going towards such a good cause…
The restaurant concept
Sundried tomato hummus on crispy wanton wrappers – we could have easily eaten 100 of these
*Please note that this post contains some disturbing images. We’ve used them only to further explain our experiences and not to intentionally distress anyone.*
One of the driving forces behind our desire to travel was to experience different cultures and learn about the countries that we wanted to visit. As sad and depressing as our day spent at the prison and Killing Fields was, it was completely moving, educational and left us feeling that we understood Cambodia and its history fractionally better.
Often listed as one of the 7 wonders of the world, we visited this stunning architectural and spiritual feat at 5.30am to see the sunrise. Typically we chose one of the cloudiest days we’ve experienced in SE Asia, so there was none of the infamous ‘red glow’, but it was still insanely beautiful. Something you have to see in your lifetime.
Charlotte’s dad claimed the 8th wonder was us getting up at 5am. Though disgruntled we were inclined to agree.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay near the centre of Siem Reap for less than three dollars a night, we found a hostel that’s a little bit different. With only a couple of very large rooms in a wooden hut with mattresses on the floor, staying at Mangolo felt more like a huge sleepover in a tree house than a budget hostel.
The reception, bar and social area are all outside (bring insect repellant) and are friendly and welcoming. The manager organised a great tuk tuk driver to take us to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat, even though we only asked the evening before. The bar was an easy place to meet other travellers too. There are comfy hammocks and mats on the floor, creating loads of space to hang out, and the WiFi is strong throughout.