Cambodia is on every Southeast Asia backpacker’s list of places to visit and for good reason. There are a ton of other backpackers, but you can’t miss it. At the very least, you have to visit Krong Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat. We also stopped over in Phnom Penh. I highly suggest that you don’t take any overnight buses while you are in Cambodia. They are known for crashing, and one of our friends was involved in one of the crashes. The bus driver died during the crash, and it was traumatizing (obviously) for her. Just don’t do it.
Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
This is where the backpackers flock to. Angkor Wat and all the other temples! Look at our photos from Cambodia here to see photos of each of the temples we visited in Krong Siem Reap. We went to Angkor Wat (duh), Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm (the Lara Croft / Tomb Raider temple), Preah Khan Temple, Ta Keo, Neak Pean / Jayatataka (in the middle of a lake), Ta Som Temple, Eastern Mebon, Prae Roup Temple, and some other smaller ones that I don’t even remember. There are so many, and they are everywhere.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
I talk more about the Cambodian genocide in my overview post here, but Phnom Penh is really the place to go to learn about it. There is also the Royal Palace to see, but it wasn’t too exciting.
We stayed at Eighty8 Backpackers, and there was a lot of partying with all the other backpackers. It was really fun, and the pool was much needed in the heat. They had beer pong too!! They also have a sign-up sheet so you can find other people to split a tuk tuk with to go out to the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21). I, personally, had seen enough about the genocide after the Killing Fields, but I think you may as well see both while you’re there. It’s devastating stuff.
See our photos from Cambodia here.
You can’t visit Vietnam and not learn about the Vietnam War – it’s a key part of history and the region’s current identity and conflicts. Vietnam had been a French colony since the 1880s. The Vietnamese had been fighting the French for independence for a long time before the Japanese came in during WWII. After Japan left, the Vietnamese took over what was left and kicked out the French. The country was split into communist North Vietnam and non-communist South Vietnam. The Vietnam War was fought between North Vietnam (supported by China and the Soviet Union) and South Vietnam (supported by the US and allies to defeat communism), and it was nearly 20 years from 1955 – 1975. North Vietnam ended up winning, but the country still seems very divided. For example, people in the southern city of Ho Chi Minh City still call the city Saigon (the name of the city before the south lost).
In lighter news, my favorite part about Vietnam was the food. Yummmmm, the food! What you need to make sure you eat:
Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An is known for tailors. You can get anything you want custom made for you, and there are hundreds to choose from. Colin and I got matching outfits:
Hanoi means “land inside the river.” You definitely can’t skip Hanoi if you’re visiting Vietnam. Come for the food, history, and bars.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Halong Bay means descending dragon bay. It is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. There are about 2,000 islands in about 1,500 square kilometers. We took a 2 day cruise around the bay through Rosa Cruise for $235 (total for both of us). We spent another $55 on drinks, and another $10 for tip. Total was $300 for the 2 days for 2 people.
Overall, I don’t think it was worth it. I mean, it may have been if it had been sunny, but the weather didn’t totally cooperate. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t bright and perfect either. See our video of the bay here to see what I’m talking about.
Colin and I really liked Myanmar. It’s a lot less touristy than other areas we’ve been to. The people are really nice and still seem happy to see tourists; whereas in other more touristy areas, I think that you get a lot of locals who hate the tourists (and I’m one of those crotchety locals when I’m at home too, so I don’t blame them). Colin and I actually got stopped a lot to take photos with locals and other Asian tourists (because of my purple hair and Colin’s red beard). In the photo above, I took individual pictures with almost everyone in the group – men and women. All the girls I passed stared at me, and a lot of them complimented me with something like, “pretty hair!” At one point, Colin was approached in a temple by about 15 men with military uniforms on. He was thinking he was in big trouble for something, but each of them wanted a picture with him so they could show their friends back in the smaller town in Myanmar that they were all from. It was fun!
Inle Lake, Myanmar
We spent 2 full days in Inle Lake. I could have been fine with 1, but Colin wanted to explore more on the second day, so it depends on how interesting you find the area. Lake Inle is the second largest lake in Myanmar. There are a lot of people that live on the shores and also on the lake itself. A lot of the houses you see are on stilts on the lake. They even grow gardens that float on the surface of the lake! Take a look at this video to get a better idea of what you’ll see in Inle Lake: Boating Inle Lake, Myanmar.
From Wiki because I’m classy like that: “Bagan is an ancient city... From the 9th to 13th centuries, the city was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom, the first kingdom that unified the regions that would later constitute modern Myanmar. During the kingdom's height between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day.” OVER TWO THOUSAND, TWO HUNDRED! You don’t even know how many that is until you are driving around and see them EVERYWHERE!
Hi, I'm Sara Monica Patton. I love animals, traveling, and eating. Read more about me in my first blog post here.