Arriving in Phnom Penh after having just been in Vietnam, felt a bit like no change. The traffic is easily as crazy, only with more cars and no “system” for hapless pedestrians (namely us!). However we soon got into the swing and enjoyed what there was to do for a week. Visiting the former Royal Palaces and museums. The harder choice was how much to share with our kids this countries tragic recent history. In the end we went for it and took them to the infamous Tol Sleung 21 prison, where thousands were tortured, and then went the primary Killing Fields site, now a remarkable peaceful place, where some very jolly staff and guides serve to brighten the place up with their humour (no mean feat)
A swift change of plan saw us in Battambang. A small tourist town, known for the local Phare circus which grew up out of a refugee camp in the 1980’s. The performers are all street kids who are taken in and trained and the group has gone from strength to strength by moving into music. Profits are ploughed back into local communities developing more artists. The show was amazing, and I would recommend to anyone. We also tried our hand at some Cambodian cuisine, at a local cooking school. Instruction must have been good as the food was delicious. Fish Amok and Beef Lok Lak with spring rolls. Coconut banana dessert. Yum! Originally we were going to head here after Siem Reap, but decided to do it the other way round. The Phare also have a show in Siem Reap, and it had been so good we went to that one as well, however the first was still our favourite. Sieam Reap itself is delightful, quite touristy but not to the point where it ruins it. If you want a tourist night out you can head to Pub Street (yes, seriously), however just over the river there is the Cambodia only market with some lovely quiet eateries and fantastic shops. The temples of Angkor are the main attraction and we found the best Tuktuk driver in Mr Ra to show us round. However there is also loads of other stuff to do. Our kids loved the Artbox, a picture museum where you stand in front of artwork and become part of it for the camera. They also have an attraction called the lost room, where spend an hour locked in a room with your family/friends and try to solve a puzzle. There are 3 scenarios. We did the Indiana ones stylie one and t was great fun (and we got out in 57 minutes). Other top things include the war museum for the gun nuts out there. Loads of M16’s and Kalashnikovs that you can handle, and mess around with. Fish massage in the street, where you sit while fish eat the dead skin off your feet, and more. When the hotels are as cheap as the one we found and supply a pool, it becomes a great place to holiday.