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My Cambodia Travel Blog – Phnom Pemh to Siem Reap

cambodia travel blog for couple

Travelling Cambodia Essentials

Visa: We ordered Cambodia visas online which meant we saved time queuing up and got a slight discount. You can easily get visa on arrival too was pretty stress-free compared to Vietnam.

Weather: Extremely hot and humid temperatures were 35-40 degrees midday, highly recommend staying somewhere with a pool

Money: Mainly accepted US dollar was no need for local currency, very few places accepted credit cards.

Transport: We got buses from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap which is probably the best solution and get to see countryside too.

Food: We discovered chicken cashew nut rice dish here so will always be remembered for it.

Cambodia Travel Blog

Phnom Penh > Siem Reap

In Cambodia, we visited Phnom Penh the capital and Siem Reap which is also known as Angor Wat where all the temples are. Spent 3 days in Phnom Penh and 3 in Siem Reap and got a bus up to Siem Reap and left via plane to Thailand. Probably could have spent longer in Siem Reap to take more time exploring the temples but 3 days was plenty in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia Trip 2016

Highlights of Phnom Penh

  • Suicide Fields was a real eerie experience.
  • S-21 Jail Tour was one of the most eye-opening tours I have ever been on, the way it is presented was truly world class. (Make sure to get the audio tour)
  • Staying in Samsara Villa made our stay.

We got the bus from Saigon to Phnom Penh which went pretty quickly but we were taken back by the poverty in Phnom Penh. The majority of roads were not tarmac and the city had a weird kind of vibe to it. The city is only now 40 years later starting to recover from the genocide with new buildings and roads.

Main road in Phnom Pemh

Main road in Phnom Penh

 

Our villa really made the stay in Phnom Penh enjoyable the staff were super friendly and the food was absolutely amazing. There are more details on the Samsara villa here which we highly recommend!

We spent one day on a private tour in a car that we booked in a small tourist office on the river front. Was a lot easier to use a private car as got to spend as much time as we wanted at each place with no rushing.

Also got to get back to the villa straight away out of the torturous heat and into the swimming pool. The private tour took  us to the Killing Fields and the S-21 jail.

Killing Fields in Phnom Penh

Killing Fields in Phnom Penh

The Genocide by Pol Pot

On the way to the killing fields, we got to see the shanty town type of houses people were staying in and noticed there were no real old people around. The killing fields had an audio tour which we didn’t bother getting on a recommendation from the driver and don’t think we missed out on much. The site itself has a large tower with all the skulls found

The site itself has a commemorative stupa filled with the skulls of the victims at the Killing Field of Choeung Ek. The Khmer Rogue tried destroying all evidence of the killing fields before they left so any evidence has been destroyed. There is a building that has information and history of the site which I recommend going to first and then walking around the site which is basically dug up graves you are walking around.

S-21 Jail Tour

Next, we went to S-21 jail where people were imprisoned and tortured but before ending up at killing fields. There was only a handful survivors from the secret Khmer Rouge prison S21 where at least 12,273 people were tortured and executed. the tour was really well presented and highly recommend getting the audio tour which explains all the different parts of the prison and the graphic images displayed throughout the prison.

Highlights of Siem Reap

  • Temples, temples, temples
  • Pub street and special pizza
  • Our stay in Model Angkor Resort was really nice but too far away

We arrived by bus to a barrage of taxi drivers, tuks tuks and good knows what. The best bet is to have it booked but not essential, regardless still bargain the price. Also it is worth bargaining a package for them to take you into town or to the temples or airport.

Smiliar to Phnom Penh the Model Angkor Resort was amazing but only thing was a small bit outside town and they don’t have street lights so possibly dangerous for extra drunk tourists.

Cambodia Travel Blog for Couples

The main attraction to Siem Reap is temples. We spent the first day at the museum in town as we overheard someone recommend it on the bus. That was a mistake it was very boring and a waste of a day. You don’t need to know the background to appreciate the temples.

Next day we organised our tuk-tuk to pick us up at 4:30am to take us to get tickets so we can see the sunrise is Angor Wat one of the things nearly every travel blog recommends. There was actually queues of backpackers all with the same idea.Angor wat SUnrise

It’s pretty cool getting their so early with all these people but it was a major anti-climax. The sun was well up in the sky and people were still waiting for this amazing Instagram perfect picture to appear but it doesn’t.

What is cool though is all the people situating around the two adjacent lakes in front of the temple all eagerly waiting for the sunrise.

Also since it is so early the place is practically empty so you get to walk around undisturbed and appreciate the vast size of the temple. The other temples we visited that day were also quiet since it was so early.

We went to see the jungle temple, another main one and a ruined temple. All pretty epic but a small bit repetitive after awhile. Maybe because we had no breakfast and was up at 4am in the morning. Most people have itineraries to visit all temples in so many days we were happy to see the main ones and go back relaxing by the pool out of the 8-degree heat.

Pub Street

Siem reap is a really popular backpacker spot with all the temples and they have a night life to match. A dedicated street called Pub street with bars and restaurants down a strip in the middle of town. This being said I couldn’t find anywhere that was showing the Liverpool match in Europa league final so pub street didn’t pass my test.

If we were to do Cambodia again?

We would like to include the following….

  • Get out of the cities and see more countryside
  • Go to the coast and see one of the islands
  • Go see the Royal Palace (When we went it was closed for lunch and was too hot to go back into city to go do the tour)
  • Plan ahead our time in Siem Reap like horse riding while visiting a temple

Other Cambodia Travel Blogs Worth Checking Out

  1. The Indie Traveler – Cambodia Travel Blog
  2. Girl about a Globe – Cambodia Trip
  3. That Backpacker – 1 Month in Cambodia

My Vietnam Travel Blog – Hanoi to Saigon

Vietnam Travel Blog halong bay

Travelling Vietnam Essentials

Visa: Travellers are advised to arrange Vietnam Visa before their departure by applying online for the Approval Letter first. You will receive the letter by email, print it and bring it with you to Vietnam. You will also need to bring two passport photos with you. To get the Visa Stamped on your passport you will need to pay a fee ($25 for single entry; $50 for multiple entry visas) at Vietnam Airports upon arrival.

Food: Favourite Vietnamese dish was the spring rolls. Most dishes came with rice and were not spicy. Started to love pineapple after the trip.

Weather: Very humid and hot around 32°C when we were there in May.

Money: 12 days excluding shopping we spent $1600 on tours, transport, accommodation & eating out.

Transport: The scooter should be their national symbol as they are used so much. I definitely would not have trusted myself to drive one on the streets of Hanoi as it seemed there are no rules of the road. At traffic lights, there is a speaker explaining the rules of the road to drivers, however, this does not seem to have a huge impact. Taxis are the way to go, haggle with the taxi drivers and get a fixed price before departure.

Shopping: Lots of markets where you can haggle. A lot of cheap knockoffs such as t-shirts, shorts and runners.

Vietnam Travel Blog

Hanoi -> Halong Bay -> Hanoi -> Saigon -> Mekong Delta -> Saigon

We travelled from North to South which we personally think was the best way to appreciate both Hanoi and Saigon. Hanoi is a relic and is recently adapting to a new way of thinking while Saigon is a thriving mammoth of a city. If we went to Saigon first I doubt we would have appreciated Hanoi’s quirky smells and culture as much as we did.

Vietnam Travel Blog

Vietnam trip 2016

Highlights of  Hanoi, North Vietnam

  1. Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful places in the world
  2. Buying a 3 piece Cashmere suit just off Silk Street by the old Cathedral
  3. The Ho Chi Minh museum was the most interesting thing we saw in Hanoi besides the people & scooters
  4. The night market, shoe street, silk street are all just crazy and can’t be missed
  5. Staying in HM Boutique in the historic 1000-year-old city Hanoi.

We arrived on a Friday evening to our hotel, HM Boutique on Shoe Street just off  Hoan Kiem lake in the Old Quarter. The first thing we encountered was trying to cross the road in Hanoi is an adventure in itself, with a wave of mopeds coming at in every direction you just need to take it step by step.

As it was Friday the night market was open (Only open Friday to Sunday) . It is one long street with stalls down the centre and at the sides. You have everything and anything for sale there with loads of opportunities to haggle. We weren’t too sure about the street food so we gave that a miss and kept our hands in our pockets just to be safe.

Night market Hanoi Vietnam Travel Blog

Night market in Hanoi

The next day we went on a tour to see our first Pagoda (temple), Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and the Ethnology Museum. The ethnology museum focuses on the 54 officially recognised ethnic groups in Vietnam showing how they live their lives.  The real eye opener of the day though was visiting Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum.

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology Vietnam Travel Blog

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

Ho Chi Minh  was a Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader who was prime minister (1945–55) and president (1945–69) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). He was a key figure in the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945, as well as the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the Việt Cộng (NLF or VC) during the Vietnam War. (Source Wikipedia)

Firstly Martina had to buy a scarf to cover her shoulders before we went through the security check and then followed a path around the complex taking us into this huge building. We didn’t know anything about Ho Chi Minh and definitely did not expect to walk in and see a guarded “corpse”. The tour guide said it is actually Ho Chi Minh as they got some special chemicals from the Russians to persevere the body. I think a wax statue made more sense but I didn’t bother debating.

Out tour guide had a lot of admiration for Ho Chi Minh but he wasn’t the only one, you had the army protecting the “body”, tonnes of local Vietnamese people there and hoards of school children on school tours. Every citizen tries to visit the body at least once in their lifetime and they renamed Saigon to Ho Chi Minh city.

Yellow House Hanoi Vietnam Travel Blog

The Yellow House in Hanoi

In the same complex, we got to see The Yellow House where the president lives, Ho Chi Minh living quarters and the One-Pillar Pagoda that is modelled after a lotus flower.

Our next stop was to a factory that was representing a rural village who created Lacquer art ,which is a famous ancient trade of Vietnam. Lacquer paintings with  pearls and sea shells inlay are Vietnamese specialities. A guide illustrated to us how they were created while we also got to see the craftsmen at work first hand.

Vietnamese Lacquer Paintings Vietnam Travel Blog

Vietnamese Lacquer Paintings

That night we ate in Highway 4 recommended by TripAdvisor. we hadn’t truly understood the value of TripAdvisor then unlike now which we treat like a bible. We highly recommend the fried rice, with regards liquors such as Son-Tinh (a Vietnamese rice liquor) we would recommend asking for a taster before you order 2 cocktails of it as it has a required taste.

Highway 4 Hanoi Vietnam Travel Blog

Highway 4

Next day we went shopping. First mission, was to go find a suit that after some initial online research we had a shortlist of 5 places.We ended up choosing Bamboo Silk where I got a cashmere suit, blazer, 2 pants, 4 shirts and Martian got a blazer all custom made for around $450. The lady was extremely helpful and not forceful at all making it a very pleasant experience.

Buying a 3 Piece Suit in Vietnam

We paid half with the arrangement of paying the rest when we came to collect 3 days later. We were over the moon with the results, the 3 piece suit fit like a glove, ironically we only had to get Martina’s blazer slightly adjusted none of mine. We did other shopping on silk street, silver street, shoe street which all had loads of options.

Shoe Street + Silver Street Hanoi Vietnam Travel Blog

Shoe Street + Silver Street Hanoi

The following 2 days we spent on an overnight boat tour of Halong Bay which we booked with Halong Tours Bookings. Pictures just don’t do it justice it really is breathtaking. That plus having an amazingly entertaining local tour guide called Hugh made it one of the highlights of the entire trip. Hugh gave us a history lesson on the bus, magic tricks after dinner, Thai Chi at 6am in the morning on the deck and most importantly was an all round nice guy. The food was absolutely amazing we got to taste a range of Vietnamese food for lunch and dinner.

Halong Bay Vietnam

Halong Bay Vietnam Travel Blog

Halong Bay

The tour also included kayaking in the crystal water around the islands, squid fishing at night, a trip to a beach, explore a huge cave and cooking demonstration on how to make fried spring rolls.

Next stop Saigon

Highlights of  Saigon, South Vietnam

  • Exploring the Mekong Delta and eating coconut candy.
  • The emotional visit to the War Remnants Museum a collection of war photographs.
  • Chu Chi Tunnel tour and shooting range was a really interesting unique trip.
  • The general buzz of Saigon it was just great to walk around and soak it in.
  • Relaxing on top of the FX Tower watching the sunset over the city.

We stayed in the Ruby River hotel which is very central and everything was walking distance. the first day we walked to the Remnants War Museum which is an absolute must for anyone visiting the city. What the people went through is horrific and was deeply disturbing can’t imagine what Americans think when they go there. I took a lot of pictures of facts and other points of interest that can be seen in the below album. It was a really sad experience reading everything about how brutal the war was for civilians we both left in silence.

Vietnam war Vietnam Travel Blog

Picture of US Soldier holding child’s corpse, a tiger cage where prisoners were held and a graphic showing how much bombs were dropped during the war.

Then we took a tour to take us to Interdependence museum (Reunification Palace), Cathedral and Post Office. Paying for a tour was a mistake it was literally a bus dropping us off no tour guide with information and the cathedral and post office are across the road from each other.

Lesson: Do Not Get The Tour

Before they took us to the museum we went on a detour to see a factory for disabled people still affected by the war where they demonstrated lacquer art and then made us exit through the shop. We could have easily got our own transport to the museum and the cathedral/post office are not that useful unless you want to send a postcard.

Interdependence museum (Reunification Palace) Vietnam Travel Blog

Interdependence museum (Reunification Palace)

The Interdependence museum was definitely worth the trip. It was the headquarters and home of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the war when a tank came crashing through its gate in the fall of Saigon. It has been preserved immaculately giving you as true feel how they lived upstairs and fought the war in the bunker underneath the palace.

Exploring the Mekong Delta

Next day we went to visit the Mekong Delta where we got a bus from Saigon along the national highway bordered by green rice fields. On the way our tour guide asked what do we call the city and he had a clear passion in the name Saigon as it was the original name of the city before they renamed it Ho Chi Minh after the war. There was a clear contrast to Hanoi where Hugh conveyed that the people would rather forget about the war and are trying to move forward. Was interesting to see the different opinions based on where they lived who have different opinions of their past.

Mekong Delta Vietnam Travel Blog

Hand rowed sampan up the natural canals

We got a boat ride along the river to Tortoise islet where we were greeted with the sound of Southern Vietnamese folk music performed by locals. We got to taste tea honey and nervously stick my finger into a beehive. We were then taken on a hand-rowed sampan ride under the shadow of water coconut trees along the natural canals. We got to see a coconut candy workshop which very tasty and ended up coming home with a few packets of sweets 🙂

Cu Chi Tunnels Vietnam Travel Blog

Cu Chi Tunnels

The next day we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Cu Chi is located 60km from the city so we got to see rural Vietnam, covered in rice paddy fields and water buffalo’s swimming in the rivers alongside the road. Cu Chi is considered a heroic district in its role in the anti-American war in Vietnam. It is legendary for the original tunnel system of over 220km. We were only shown the top layer of the 3 layer tunnel system as the guide said they are not shown to the public in case there is ever another war.

Best Food in Saigon

We found it genuinely hard to find good restaurants in Saigon by just walking around the city centre. We hadn’t realised the importance of TripAdvisor at the time. On our last night, we did take TripAdvisor’s recommendations and found an absolute gem in the middle of the backpacker madness called Bun Chả 145 Bui Viện. Moral of the story TripAdvisor is you’re going to source for information on restaurants while flashpacking Vietnam.

Best food saigon Vietnam Travel Blog

Best food in Saigon

On our last night we went on a tour which started a water puppet show then we got taken through the city to the pier on cyclos and then had dinner on a river cruise. The water puppet show was pretty cool the way they did it but was in Vietnamese so didn’t have a clue what the story was but the young girl in front of us thought it was hilarious. We ended the night with a dinner cruise and taxi home.

Saigon at night Vietnam Travel Blog

Saigon at night taken on the river cruise

Our next stop was Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

If we were to do Vietnam again?

We would like to include the following….

  • Trekking in the mountains in North Vietnam, you can go on 3-4 day guided trekking tours.
  • Central Vietnam, instead of flying would have liked to take a train an make a few stops in central Vietnam.
  • There are some fabulous beaches in the South of Vietnam which we should of went to after Saigon.

Good Vietnam Travel Resources

Vietnam Travel Blog Snaps

Check out my Facebook Vietnam Album for all my travel pictures and my Instagram to keep up to date with my latest adventures.

For More Details on our, Vietnam Trip Check out the below posts…

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Comment below if you have been to Vietnam and leat me know how your trip was.

What I learned From Buying Suit Vietnam

tips buying suit Vietnam

My Top Tips Buying Suit Vietnam

Getting a high quality 3 piece suit Vietnam wasn’t that hard after some initial research. I bought the 3 piece suit in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi and it worked out really well for me. Even though every second website says you must get a suit in Hoi An in Vietnam (this nearly lead to a detour).
After a little more reading on Hoi An suit tailors I came to the understanding that since everybody recommends it, the good local tailors have put their prices and people end up getting the not so good tailors looking for a bargain.
I gathered the below information from various blogs so I was prepared when I bought my first suit Vietnam.

Knowing Suit Material

As we are not all Harvey Spector buy suits everyday here are the basics you need to know. I’m no expert either and got my information from eBay suit selection choices article. Firstly you must decide the material the suit will be made out of, you have the following options…3 piece suit vietnam

Cashmere Suit: Extremely soft and expensive. Tends to show wear earlier than other suits though as not as durable.
Wool Suit: Safest and best choice if you’re not sure what type to get as it is suitable in warm and winter conditions.
Linen Suit: Extremely lightweight suit, they wrinkle easily though and very difficult to get a stain out.
Velvet Suit: If you are looking for a flash head turning suit velvet is the way to go!
Silk Suit: Very soft and expensive and suitable for any weather.
Cotton Suit: Breath well in outside events and in hot weather but if choosing a 100% cotton suit it will wrinkle and crease very easily.
You don’t have to buy a 100% one material suit most people blend two materials to meet their requirements.

Tips buying suit Vietnam – The Essentials

Colour is just as important to some people as material and you should confirm the colour for both inside and outside of the suit. When choosing colour also choose button type and colour.
The pocket details need to be specified especially if you want long pockets which aren’t standard in Asia. Get them to show examples and even try on sample pairs to ensure they 100% understand the type of pockets you want as I personally hate small tiny pockets my hands barely fit into.
Also, even though this is usually standard but it is worth just double checking that the tailor is going to use double stitching throughout the suit.
Finally, confirm the final design details of the suit make sure to have shown a picture do not just describe it and expect it to be what you want.

Before Any Payment Confirm…..

When you buy a custom made suit it is very rare that the first time everything will fit you perfect so make sure additional fitting/adjustments are free of charge.
Absolutely critical to get a detailed itemised receipt with fabrics stapled on so you can double check you got what you paid for when the suit is complete.
Finally, make sure tax is included in the quoted price!
Suit pants have a habit of wear and tear especially zippers so for very little extra you can get another suit pants made!

My Experience Picking a Suit Tailor Hanoi Vietnam

There are loads of tailors in Hanoi there is even a street called Silk Street so to narrow it down I relied on good old TripAdvisor. I got following tips buying suit Vietnam and made a shortlist of:
  • Khai Silk (Doesn’t make men’s suits don’t know how it got recommended)
  • Tan My Design (Second place we visited and priced)
  • Bamboo Silk (Third place and won us over with excellent customer service)
  • Duc Minh

I choose Bamboo Silk which was a bit of a struggle to find (3-4 minute walk past the Cathedral heading away from town on the left-hand side of the road).

We were welcomed by a mother and daughter who were extremely helpful and accommodating. I got a 3 piece suit, 2 pants, a blazer and 3 shirts with high collars custom made from showing them a picture and they got them spot-on (Martina got a blazer too).

We were absolutely delighted with the service and when we went to collect ironically the only refitting we had to do was Martina’s blazer.

Ordering a 3 Piece Suit Vietnam Online

It is also possible to order a 3 piece suit from Vietnam but you will need to provide measurements and pay for shipping which is different per country. Expected suit measurements for those wondering what is required to order a suit online.
Collar 44tips buying suit Vietnam
Chest 103
Waist 89
Belly 93
Hip 107
Waist Pants 92
Long Pants 104
High 63
Scarf 40
Shoulder 48
Sleeve 62
Bicep 39
Blazer Length 70
Vest length 61
Bamboo Silk place we went to in Hanoi take online orders you can contact Mrs Loan by the following details:
tips buying suit Vietnam
(I didn’t add the email address here so she doesn’t get spammed by bots especially since I didn’t tell her I was going writing a review)

 

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