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Cambodia

I told myself a few weeks before I got to Cambodia that my beach time would be total holiday from travel time. I wouldn’t do any work. I wouldn’t worry about updating the blog or searching for jobs or organising my life. Nothing but swimming and eating and reading. And then once I got there, it wasn’t really the beach I was thinking of.

Because the thing about paradise beaches is… they’re kind of boring.

I KNOW, I know, what kind of weirdo complains about sapphire blue water and sunshine and nightly beach barbecues and people serving you drinks in chairs and all of that. But if you know me at all, you know that I have a pretty hard time doing nothing. Also, perfection is dull. So I have discovered that while this is some peoples’ idea of the ideal holiday, well. I prefer Delaware. Or at the very least, somewhere with some actual waves. Somewhere a bit rougher around the edges.

So I didn’t end up doing much work due to lack of good wifi, but I didn’t really do that thing where you just sit on the beach for 6 days. Because I CAN’T. And that is a valuable lesson to learn. Now I know precisely what sorts of beaches I can enjoy. I think next time I’ll go somewhere like Cornwall.

It wasn’t all bad. One of the first nights when I was in Sihanoukville, there were two girls from Australia, Tina and Darlene, who were Cambodian. Darlene actually spoke Cambodian so a few of us went for dinner at a super local place one night where I had the best Cambodian food I had the whole time I was in the country. And Tina and Darlene were both like, ‘THIS is home food. This is really good.’ And I never would have eaten somewhere like that otherwise.

But after a week of not really loving the beach like I’d hoped, I moved east to Kampot, which is on a river, and far more chilled out. It’s full of expats and therefore full of amazing places to eat, as well as one damn good coffee shop owned by Australians. It was there that I decided to get all honest about what travel exhaustion is like, and that got a bigger response than anything I’ve ever written. That was weird. I’m not really sure what I expected. It did help me work out how to slow down even more and pick out the things I wanted to do and the things that didn’t matter. It also helped me decide to go to Bangkok a whole week early so I could stay in one place and get to do a bit more dancing on the local scene before The Big Bang.

I also took a day trip to Bokor National Park to see the old abandoned Black Palace and French hill station/hotel/casino. THAT was pretty awesome. Particularly wandering through the maze-like Palace Hotel as the clouds slowly descended on the mountain. There was a sunset river cruise included in the package as well, and then I went to a freakin’ wine bar and had a (really good) cheese plate after bemoaning the lack of the stuff in my life, so it wasn’t a bad way to spend a day.

After a week of chilling out in Kampot the way I’d sort of meant to at the beach, I had a brief stop in Phnom Penh where I was able to meet back up with Stu from England, who I’d initially met in the hostel in Hanoi. This was very good for my whole low social energy thing. It was really nice to hang out with someone I’d already got to know a bit. We had cheap beers and dinner and talked travel challenges. I then used my one full day in the city to visit the Prison 21 genocide museum, which is very well done but obviously a pretty rough thing to take in. After that I had energy for nothing but noodles and iced coffee.

No trip to Cambodia would be complete without a trip to Angkor Wat, and I had marked that as my last true Tourist Thing I was going to do. I took a bus to Siem Reap and sort of gave up on trying to find someone to share the cost of a tuk tuk driver with for my day at the temples. This ended up being a better decision than I’d initially thought. If you get a one day pass to the temples, it allows you in for sunset the night before. So I went at 5pm, got my ticket, poked around the actual Angkor Wat temple when it was much less crowded, and staked out a spot to watch the sunrise the next morning. Because THE THING to do is get up at 4.30am and watch the sunrise behind the main temple with about ten billion other tourists.

So I did that, and it was worth it, but I immediately saw the value of paying for my own tuk tuk driver. Before the actual sun appeared, the clouds made the point of sunrise kind of pointless, so rather than wait with the increasingly restless and jerkfaced hoardes, I buzzed out of there early so I could get to Bayon before the crowds followed. This meant I had the place virtually to myself for at least 15 minutes. The early morning light was incredible, it wasn’t too hot yet, and it basically felt like I was in a movie. It was probably my favourite of the temples.

I went on to the rest of the places in the small circuit at my own pace, hopping back in the tuk tuk when I’d seen enough. By the time I got to Ta Prohm, which is the Tomb Raider temple, it was MAD crowded and I was completely exhausted. There are TONS of temples and you could spend days on end seeing them all, but when you’ve been up since 4.30am and it’s 10am and things are starting to get hot and busy, everything starts looking the same and you become INCREDIBLY happy that the when-to-go-home decision is yours and yours alone. Hooray for that. I was back at the hostel just before 11am, where I had second breakfast and a well-earned nap. But know that Angkor Wat is absolutely amazing, and totally worth the exhaustion. I’ll let the pictures speak for me.

I then had one last long-distance bus ride and one last land border crossing and now I am in Bangkok where I’m spending 6 nights in the same bed for the first time since November. I am dancing, eating, and applying for jobs. I got a haircut. I’m doing arts and crafts in the hostel to make my party costumes for the Big Bang. I went to the cinema to see Deadpool and it was So. Fucking. Good. (Also, fun fact, in Thailand you have to stand for the King’s Anthem before all movies. It was… interesting.) I’m basically in travel recovery doing whatever the hell I want. On the weekend I’ll dance my face off, and then I will fly home. And that is that. I’ll post some wrap-ups and probably something on The Big Bang once I’m back, but for this week, I’m really on holiday. Thanks for sticking with me guys.