The Cambodia Vacation Blog: There Are Many Like It, But This One Is Mine
I was reminded this winter vacation why teaching abroad is such a cool, and great thing. Very few jobs or “careers” permit the time or prompt one to travel to another country on their vacation. It’s strange; there’s no reason why I couldn’t have traveled to other countries for vacation during all those years of working in another career. I just didn’t.
Teaching English in a place like Korea makes it easy to travel for a couple reasons.
First, you have less stress from the job than one normally would in a conventional career. There are no projects or tasks to catch up on. No emails to stay on top of. Think of that for a moment. One of the most stressful aspects of a job can be the management of email communication, so there is never really a break away from it. You can’t just put things on hold for the sake of your little travel excursion. However, teaching ESL abroad, in most cases, involves work while you’re there in person (albeit the lesson planning). When you’re away, you’re away.
Second, Korea is so conveniently located in Asia that getting around to other countries is a fairly simple effort. It’s just a few short hours from Tokyo. A few short hours to most major destinations in China. Korea is also a relatively reasonable distance from SE Asia. The flight time is similar to what it would take to go from NYC to LA.
This makes planning a trip easy as well. For me, I live about an hour from Gimhae International Airport. There is a bus service for about $6 and it’s very easy to jump on. From Gimhae, I can essentially go to any destination with relative ease. If I was back in the US, it would be an ungodly trip to make it to one of these places in Asia, unless I lived in California. But I don’t.
I live in Korea now and before I knew it I was on my way to visit Cambodia.
Cambodia is one of those places that I know about, but never really put a whole lot of thought into as a vacation spot.
Cambodia has two main destination cities: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. I visited both over the course of about 6 days.
Phnom Penh is the capital city of Cambodia. It’s big attraction for foreigners from many different countries and it’s easy to see this once you arrive. The central hub near the Royal Palace caters to the foreign tourist presence. It’s an area around the boardwalk of the Tonle Sap River. There are numerous restaurants and bars meant to entertain the foreign guests.
Phnom Penh has a slightly gritty feel to it. One that feels like it’s a well-trotted upon place. Considering the sheer number of times I was asked by my hotel if I wanted to order a massage, it’s safe to say there’s a reason for this. The normal demand by tourists must be high.
The main attractions in Phnom Penh are the Choeung Ek Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The Royal Palace and the Boardwalk are also great ways to spend the time without having to venture out too far.
After a couple days in Phnom Penh, I boarded a bus to Siem Reap. I went with the newer and highly recommended Giant Ibis bus company and I’m glad I did. Considering the bumpy, swervy, 7 hour ride, this was about as good as it can get short of just taking a flight (which I will probably do should I find myself back in Cambodia some day).
Siem Reap is a city full of many of the activities that travelers look for. The bulk of things to do in Cambodia for the general traveler will be found in Siem Reap.
This is where all the incredible temple spots are such as Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm. What incredible sights these are too. There are many other temples in the same region, but these are typically the ones most visited.
In addition to the temples, I also took a 4 hour tour on a four-wheeler with a company called Quad Adventure Cambodia. I can’t stress enough how much awesome fun this was. It’s a trek that takes you way off the beaten path away from all the touristy stuff. It gives you a great view into the realness of how many people of Cambodia live, and also what the countryside looks like. I highly recommend this for anyone.
Siem Reap is full of many other smaller activities to keep you busy and you won’t have trouble finding them. There are a few things I had planned to do but didn’t have a chance to get to.
There is also a foreigner-friendly market in Siem Reap with many great restaurants and pubs to visit. One street is appropriately named “Pub Street” and has many Western-styled bars and restaurants to make you feel at ease.
Cambodia is a country rich in history and culture and it won’t disappoint. I’ll be teaching ESL abroad for quite some time and I have many plans to visit other countries. However, if I ever find myself looking to revisit a place, Cambodia will definitely be on the list of contenders.
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ESL, Travel, and Judo!