* Note to reader; nothing I write will do this country or its people, the justice it so deserves. Pack your bags, get on a plane and see for yourself!
Landing at Cambodia International airport was like landing in a private airstrip at the back of a beautiful Cambodian villa. We stumbled down the aeroplane steps, hollering at Monty to “keep walking” and telling Poppy “look where you’re going” , the heat hitting us like a train! It was about 38 degrees and really humid. I just love that first gulp of air in a new country, especially after a short flight on which the children have slept! *high five
The beautifully air conditioned arrivals hall looks brand new, shiny marble floors, beautiful teak tables for filling out your visa forms, and apart from my little darlings bickering it was peaceful. Nothing like arrivals at Sydney.
We dutifully filled out our visa applications, handed them over with our two extra passport photos and a wad of cash. A guy behind the counter spotted us and ushered Tim further forward. Pointing at me and the children he hollered “this your family?” (My heart sunk! Has Monty just peed on a shrine without me noticing??), Tim nodded and we had our passports taken off us and were whisked through to baggage collection and told to wait. Brucey bonus, we missed all the queues! We pointed and laughed at everyone else waiting in line and the children bickered some more while all our paperwork was sorted for us. We collected our bag, as the man scurried over with our passports. He looked at Tim’s wallet and said “tip”, so we handed him a dollar and he skipped away, happy as a pig in mud! So, anyone travelling to Cambodia, fan yourself with your cash in the airport and hope that same little guy spots you!
The sliding doors parted and we were greeted by a beautiful, happy man who was waiting to drive us to our hotel. And what a drive it was. I have never been anywhere like Cambodia. The scenery, the smells, the people, the noise, everything about it felt magical to me. Within an hour of landing I was in love and just knew this was going to be a very special place.
Monty spent about ten minutes of the journey yelling “bleugh I’m gonna be sick” and “muuuuuum my nose is bleedin'”, but nothing was distracting me from this beautiful place. It takes about twenty minutes to get to our hotel (Mulberry Boutique Hotel ), which was like an oasis, a beautiful gem up a tiny alley way, hidden from the hustle and bustle of central Siem Reap. It was only 8am when we arrived, we obviously looked exhausted, as the beautiful lady on reception showed us straight to breakfast. Ahhhh coco pops! Anything to fill their mouths right now!! Tim and I went straight for the pad Thai, no regrets at all. Just look at it.
The hustle and bustle was incredible. Every little shop like an aladdins cave, everyone shouting “hey boy” , desperate for a reaction from Monty. They didn’t get one! The centre itself is easily walkable if, unlike Poppy, you look where you’re walking. We stood out like a sore thumb with Monty asleep and sweating buckets in the buggy, (giant British child) Poppy with a black eye (poolside mishap) and me trying to negotiate pot holes and Tuk Tuks without waking the snoozer. Safe to say the children have learnt the word “shit” this holiday. Monty even says it in the right context. #makesmeproud
We arranged for Mr Snar from the hotel to take us to the Butterfly Farm in his Tuk Tuk. This was an astonishing journey, through rice fields, past road side dwellings with hammocks filled full of folk resting in the heat or mothers fanning their babies. There were chickens & dogs, huge pots bubbling on fires, lady’s selling fresh coconuts and piles of mangoes. There were school children riding their bikes to school alongside air conditioned mini buses full of tourists. And there we were, in our Tuk Tuk, us 4, the wind like a hairdryer blowing in our faces, hurtling through this enchanting land.
After an hour we arrived at the farm. Our guide came to greet us, and took us through the mesh gate into butterfly heaven. The children were mesmerised. A huge black and silver beauty landed on my hand and crawled up my arm, the children’s eyes were like saucers. Our lovely guide was incredibly patient as Monty took 47 photos of each caterpillar, cocoon and the mating couple on the fence! For children who love ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ you must visit. The conservation work they are doing is unimaginable out there in the sticks.
Day 3 was an early start and the only day we didn’t wake to the sound of the local school children chanting their work. (What a beautiful sound, I can still hear it now if I really try). We drove hell for leather in Mr Snar’s Tuk Tuk through the darkness to catch sight of sunrise over Angkor Wat. What a sight it was. I have never been anywhere so awesome, so ethereal, just so utterly spectacular.
Monty and Poppy were elated to be at the real Temple Run temple, (that’s how we kept them amused) and Monty spent all day asking where the Vulture Monkeys were. We nailed 4 temples in 7 hours, with a couple of pit stops to meet Mr Snar’s friends, who just happened to sell coffee in their tent and had a relatively smart bathroom. *Always go for a can of sprite rather than the coffee. This is by no means meant in a rude way, these are beautiful people, they just don’t make good coffee.
After 7 hours of incredible temple hunting, and watching big fat tourists ride exhausted elephants we made our way back into town. The hotel pool was more inviting than ever before. Gosh Cambodia was hot!
The next day we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Cambodian Cultural Village, where we witnessed a traditional wedding ceremony with sighs and groans from two bored sweaty children, and a few shorter performances of crazy acrobatics, traditional dancing and some seriously bendy ladies.
There was a “museum” which was just 2 rooms. Room 1 was filled with terrifying stuffed animals; tigers, hog badgers, lizards, all with odd facial expressions and a little bit scruffy looking. Room 2 was even more creepy; Cambodian wax works of people through the ages whose eyes followed you as you walked. This made Poppy cry, trip up and then have a sweaty melt down. We took the children outside to calm down and were confronted by a big chubby man running towards us, arm stretched out snapping photos randomly. We later found these photos of our shocked faces, (Poppy rather snotty and still snivelling) on little plates for us to purchase. I blatantly wanted one, Tim put his foot down .
Cambodia we genuinely love you. We ate delicious food, had wonderful massages, had exciting tuk tuk rides, made lovely friends and saw sights we couldn’t have dreamt of. All that and we didn’t get eaten alive by mosquitoes.
Note to travellers:
*Eat great ice cream whilst lying on a bed, skyping your friends at Blue Pumpkin
* For pizza and beer when you really need that fix, go to Belmiro’s on street 7!
*if you send your laundry to be done in Siem Reap, choose a laundry off the main road, otherwise your undies are on display for everyone to see! “Aren’t those your knickers mum!”
Title: “Good luck for you & good luck for me!” This was said to us time and time again in Cambodia💖