September was time for another quick trip and we were excited to head to Cambodia for several days. Neither of us had been there before and we scored some insanely cheap tickets to fly from San Francisco to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, via Seoul, South Korea.
The video below chronicles our quick trip as we took a Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” on the first leg of the journey for the 12.5+ hour flight to Seoul’s Incheon airport. Approaching Incheon was interesting in that it was situated seemingly far from any kind of urban civilization.
My assumption was that I would see the incredible density of people and development that is my image of South Korea. Instead, we approached a bay and islands that led to a landing at this large airport, but there were no signs of actual Seoul or any of what I expected to see.
We had a brief layover and then hopped on the final leg to Phnom Penh that was another 5.5 hours. We began our journey midday Thursday morning Pacific Time and arrived in the Cambodian capital around 10:30pm Friday night, since you “gain” a day when you fly West to Asia like this. The drive from the airport to our hotel downtown was interesting in the amount of development and wealth that we observed in the capital.
Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and we were expecting scenes similar to what we saw in Kathmandu, Nepal, when we traveled there 2 years ago to trek to Mount Everest Base Camp. Traveling around Kathmandu was a chaotic, dusty, and fairly ragged experience. Phnom Penh, by contrast, struck us as another developed country’s capital city in terms of the amount of high-story buildings, luxury automobile dealerships, and well-paved organized roads.
We had a brief overnight stay in our hotel and had a late morning flight to Siem Reap, which is a 45 minute flight to the northeast part of Cambodia. Siem Reap is where the massive temple complexes are located, including the main Angkor Wat complex. Angkor Wat is an United Nations World Heritage Site and the area gets massive tourism, especially from China.
Even though the vast majority of the Cambodian people are quite poor and the capital has the concentration of the overall wealth of the country, Siem Reap shows what all of the tourism dollars can buy. Everything from the ticketing system to the grounds of the temples were nicely organized and well-maintained. Given the climate, you’re in for a hot and steamy time visiting this area. But, amenities are well attended to and tourists can remain comfortable with plenty of beverages, cold towels, and no shortage of locals that want to provide a service or sell you something.
We visited 3 temples over two half days that we spent in Siem Reap, including the main Angkor Wat complex on the second day. We opted to get up really early and walk to Angkor Wat in the dark to be there in time for the sunrise. The sunrise wasn’t particularly great that morning in terms of eye candy and stellar photos. Regardless, experiencing a new dawn coming to light over this amazing ancient site was very special and fully worth the effort.
There’s no question that the sights in Siem Reap are absolutely stunning, historically significant, and deliver example after example of the incredible accomplishments of the ancient Cambodians.
We stayed at a lovely boutique hotel called Maison Polanka, which we strongly endorse. They are situated close to everything in Siem Reap and are situated on the walled-off grounds of a historic home that has been turned into a small hotel of sorts. They have on-premise spa treatments and a restaurant, a refreshing pool, and a wonderful staff that we got to know a bit and appreciated greatly.
We arrived back in Phnom Penh for our final night in the capital’s nice Sofitel hotel. We enjoyed a great breakfast buffet of Eastern and Western flavors and headed to the airport for the return journey home. We had an opportunity to fly home via Singapore and enjoy a quick overnight in this amazing city-state.
We enjoyed this Cambodia trip quite a bit and especially loved the people that we met there. It’s a beautiful country and one we definitely would like to visit again. This also capped off a year that featured all countries in our international travels that started with a “C”.
This wasn’t intentional, but it just worked out that way! We started the year with a Quick Trip to China in March, another Quick Trip to Chile in May, this Quick Trip to Cambodia in September, and finally a return visit to one of our favorite destinations in November — Costa Rica.
Maybe 2019 will have a run of countries that start with the same letter, we’ll see. We’re continuing to keep a sharp eye on international destinations for 2019 and see what interesting flight deals come our way. Thanks for following our journeys in 2018. We wish you a very happy New Year and hope the year ahead is filled with health, happiness, and prosperity.