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Touring and exploring

Adventures in Cambodia and Vietnam

Rachael Young June 16, 2014

Everyone visits Cambodia to see the amazing temples at Angkor Archaeological Park, just north of Siem Reap, the most popular being Angkor Wat.The best time to view this incredible temple is at sunrise, so I set my alarm for the rather unpleasant hour of 4 am to ensure I arrived in time. 

When I got to Angkor Wat the sun was just starting to rise, the sky was turning a rosy pink colour and hundreds of monks were arriving in their saffron robes. I spent the first twenty minutes just taking in the views and capturing many pictures of the temple, while the sky changed colour in the background. I spent the next hour and a half exploring inside Angkor Wat, looking at the intricate carvings and climbing the steep and narrow staircase to what was once a library. 

In the evening, I took a stroll through the night market. The usual rules apply at markets in Cambodia – firstly, barter until you are blue in the face and secondly, don’t be afraid to walk away. The smell of food from the many carts lined up along the street captures your senses the moment you arrive. The market had so much to offer, from fake designer bags and purses to t-shirts, paintings and beautiful hand-made pop-up cards. 

The roads in many Asian cities are chaotic with tuk-tuks, bikes and cars - the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, is no different! I jumped in a tuk-tuk and asked the driver to take me around a few of the city’s key sights. Several times I found myself closing my eyes in the fear we were going to crash! 

I stopped off at Wat Phnom temple which is in the middle of a large roundabout, the Royal Palace and the Independence monument – all of which are incredible to see! My last stop was at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, an important part of Cambodia’s not so distant past. My stomach knotted as our guide told us about the Khmer Rouge and the school which they turned into a prison. 

After several busy days in Cambodia I flew to Danang, Vietnam. Unfortunately my flight was delayed, so I didn’t arrive at my hotel until gone midnight and missed some of the beautiful scenery en route. I woke up early the next morning and took a stroll down to the beach, which was far prettier than I had imagined, with beautiful golden sand and crystal clear water for miles on end.

I spent most of the day relaxing by the pool as it was far too hot for me, and in the evening I took a taxi to the nearby town of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town was lit with gorgeous lanterns and people were gathered around the many stalls. I couldn’t resist purchasing some lanterns in my favourite colour, purple, knowing they would look lovely in my garden this summer. 

Hoi An surprised me so much on my last visit that I couldn’t wait to return. This time, in the morning before it got to warm, I rented a bike and asked a local guide to show me around the scenic countryside. The landscape was truly stunning with rivers, narrow pathways and crop fields unfolding for miles on end.

After a tiring morning I returned to my hotel to enjoy a relaxing spa treatment, followed by a barbeque dinner on the beach – the perfect way to end an amazing trip to Cambodia and Vietnam!