Over the years I have been to Cambodia roughly 7 times. Maybe more. Maybe less. My first in 2003 and last in 2006. I’ve been to Phnom Penh, I’ve been to Siem Reap and I’ve toured the temples of Angkor. Yet in total I have spent little more than 24 hours in Cambodia. Why? Most of my travels were on VISA runs. I arrive to Poipet on the Cambodian border, stamp out of Thailand, stamp back into Thailand. Back to Bangkok. Each visit spending no more than 20 mins on the opposite end. Needless to say there was no enjoyment in my travels to Cambodia yet each month I would be there without fail. Thankfully Thailand scrapped this 3o day tourist VISA at land borders which made me happily diversify my VISA runs. Since 2006 I haven’t been back to Cambodia bar close encounters during times traversing Thai borders.
So you probably noticed I’ve been to Siem Reap, Angkor Wat and Phnom Penh. Places found many miles from border crossings and to visit them all in 24 hours is a little absurd. But yes I did it. I didn’t mean to do it, I didn’t plan to do it, it was more bad luck than anything. On top of this we spent near half the time stuck in a minivan. The journey begins on a standard VISA run when I feel adventurous. Instead of the planned back and forth at the border I decide to push further to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. A route not so difficult in normal conditions. At the time (2006) there was only one road running between Siem Reap and the Thai border. A road bumpier than any I’ve met since. The journey should take little more than a few hours to travel; that is if the bridge doesn’t break before our eyes. The only bridge on the only route to Siem Reap. Roughly two hours from the emergency repair vehicle which was now slowly driving towards us from Siem Reap. We sit, sweltered, in a remote area of Western Cambodia, watching a local, crazy lady throw stones at our stranded vehicles. The sun sets over rice paddies and wooden huts. When we finally arrive to Siem Reap it is 4am and I feel like dirt.
Considering the little time we have – we do cover Angkor Wat surprisingly well. Normally people take days to explore these temples but I think we did it in roughly 3 hours. Three hours zipping temple to temple on the back of motorbike taxis. Obviously not ideal but in no doubt an exciting and memorable experience. In three hours we visit Angkor Thom (South Gate), Angkor Thom Bayon, Angkor Thom Baphuon and reach as far as Ta Prohm. Saving best last we visit the iconic Angkor Wat temple before darting off to catch our flight out.
So I don’t claim to explore these places in detail. I just happened to visit them. If things went to plan I’d have been straight back to Bangkok. Direct flight, no hassle. The backpacker scenario I find myself having little appeal to me. The first thing we did waking in Siem Reap was getting to the streets and booking flights to Bangkok. Unfortunately not so easy on last minute. The only flights from Siem Reap to Bangkok include a layover in Phnom Penh in the complete opposite direction. With alternatives depleted we book the flights before scooting round Angkor Wat (as above) the motorbikes dropping us off at the airport. Next stop Phnom Penh. Again not much time to spare here so we go little further than areas surrounding the airport. Hangout with some kick ass taxi driver then back on the next flight to Bangkok. My 24 hours in Cambodia complete. Would I do it again? Hell no. For my next travels to Cambodia I will be flying in then kicking back for days and eating a whole load of food. To see our journey check the video at the bottom (remember it was made in 2006).