Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia

Tripoto

It was initially Philippines, then Langkawi but finally with heavy heart settled for Cambodia. I'm very much a beach bum. So, to think of Cambodia was very depressing. Except for Angkor Wat I didn't know of any other places. But as it was in the bucket list of Priyanka and as I had planned our honeymoon as a surprise for her, I decided that our first anniversary would be of her choice. Apart from Angkor Wat she didn't have a huge bucket list like me. So, there is always a scope for travelling to different places down the line (if we survive Corona, that is)

Day 0 - Take off

2/28/2020

Amidst Corona scare we started off for our anniversary on Friday night. Got Uber auto from our place to Airport for nominal price. The resfeber feel was getting on me with every passing minute. We got to know that autos were not allowed inside the airport so we got down near the road. But it's okay as it wasn't very far from the terminal. The walk from outside to airport reminded me of the walk we took from bus stop to Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia 1/1 by Vikram Mn

We got inside the airport, took the walkalator and went to the check in place. It's a way which comes from Metro directly. Once inside, the police carefully scrutinized our tickets and allowed us inside. What was a silent airport last year was no more a silent airport now. There were few people in mask which was scary but with time, my pulse got settled.

Photo of Chennai International Airport (MAA), Grand Southern Trunk Road, Meenambakkam, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India by Vikram Mn

Our bags were exactly 7 kg as prescribed. So once the check in was done, we were relaxed. Our next hunt was to check for the free dining option for our credit/debit card. It took us some time to find out but finally got to it. First tried our luck with Priyanka's card and then mine. Thankfully I had got a credit card just the previous week. So now luck was on my side. Paying a meagre Rs. 2 per head we got to dine to our fullest, it was helpful in both passing time as well as keeping our tummy full. Point to note is that the food is inclusive of drinks. But the beer I had was crap, I should have gone for the regular KF. My bad.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We passed good amount of time there and then sat near our gate to get into the flight. I was starting to feel sleepy but as it was onward journey, there was excitement so controlled my sleep till then. As usual the Air Asia gate only opened at last minute. The flight was half empty. Priyanka noted that the flight fares were cheaper than what we bought for, four months before. Thanks to Corona.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

After seeing the mandatory take off, we dozed off

Day 1 - Bangkok Masks and Cambodian Landing

2/29/2020

We were welcomed into the leap year by a lot of masks in Bangkok, the same airport which was such a charm last year around wore a dystopian sci fi film look now with all the masks. It was shit scary. During the luggage checking, one of the gel bottles of ours were thrown in the bin and then we took a walk till the gate of our flights. The place was too darn cold near our gates so came back to one of the places where I had identified to be perfect juncture for sleep.

Photo of Don Muang Airport International Passenger Parking, Sanambin, Don Mueang, Bangkok, Thailand by Vikram Mn

Got a great place without hand rest where we slept our ass off. I don't know what got us so tired. It was 5 AM alright, plus it was jet lag but the previous time I went to Bangkok we were shopping in duty free excitedly. Anyways nothing to complain. Good that Priyanka had become almost a sport by then. Thanks to one-year training. While sleeping, I at least got up once in a while but Priyanka had a sound sleep. She got up just an hour before the next flight at 10 AM. The flight was less scary than airport.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The VISA process was as smooth as it could get. It was $30 per person and they didn't even ask for passport photo, something which we took in the last minute. The whole process got over within twenty minutes and we came out of the airport without any hassle.

Photo of Cambodia by Vikram Mn

I had already booked for a tuk-tuk ride by Klook from airport. Cambodia felt like home right from the word go, there wasn't any hassle in getting out, the place was not crowded, there were no touts and on top of it there were no masks. Absolutely none were wearing it. In Bangkok at least few people wear for pollution during normal time but here there were none. While searching for our driver, my name was not there in the list of hoardings which all the drivers were holding. I was a bit scared but Priyanka wasn't. After a while our driver came. I wanted to get SIM but couldn't at the last minute.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The tuk-tuk was parked just opposite to the airport. Priyanka got excited seeing it. We were already getting into the local flavor. I asked the driver for SIM card in airport but he suggested that we could get one on the way. The roads were clean with no traffic and no honking. Everyone was going in their own pace. Our tuk-tuk too wasn't as fast as the others. For starters, Tuk-tuks are nothing but modified bikes with carriage for people. Ours was some 125 cc bike I guess, so it was slow compared to some 150 cc. in a way it was good as we got to see the city and bask in the glory of it.

Photo of Siem Reap, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

As it took a while to go, I thought he had forgotten about the SIM card but he finally stopped at the place where the owner said the SIM is for seven dollars. I asked if there are anything for five dollars but he thought I was bargaining the same for five dollars so he gave me the same sim for six dollars. I couldn't explain him better. I got just one SIM and decided to buy another one later, which never happened. Our room came immediately after the shop.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The place ( Garden Village Guesthouse & Pool Bar) was not as classy as it was present in site but it sure was happening! with pool, bar and what not. The check in was hassle free. The room was something without a bath so it took a while for Priyanka to get used to common bath. But anyways after that she completely transformed and was a sport. The place was hot and humid. We took some time to freshen up, sleep and have lunch which we had already packed from home the previous day.

Photo of Garden Village Guesthouse & Pool Bar, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

It was a dream sleep where all our tiredness vanished away. I checked for Angkor Wat package the next day and Kulen the day after but had to make adjustment as the cheaper package of Angkor Wat was available only on Monday. We made the booking of Kulen from the place we stayed. It was for $35 per person. Even though the package through hotel was cheaper than Klook, as we operated on a strict budget, it was a whole lot of dollars getting wasted. I had taken dollars exactly for fifty thousand which came to $691 dollars and remaining I thought I'll use Klook. Kulen was something I had planned through Klook and it was quite costly too but anyways we thought we'll manage and booked it. As for the Angkor package we got a good deal in Klook for Rs. 650 per head. We booked it for Monday.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

In the evening we took a walk from our place and spotted an Ice Tea shop where we had to call through telephone from the outside and people from inside would come up and serve Ice Tea. I was excited about the prospect but there were lot of kids there so couldn’t buy it. After walking for a while, we finally found out Wat Preah Prom Rath, which was a lovely little Pagoda. As we went around sunset and closing time, the Pagoda was fairly free. We had a Tender Coconut for $1 which was as huge as it can get, bigger than Priyanka’s face. There was a cute little Cambodian kid who said few things to us which we didn’t understand but he was happy to pose for us. We went around the temple a couple of times and video called our parents and relatives to show them the place. They all loved it. My cousin missed the chance this time.

From there we wanted to visit the museum or handicraft association but both would've been closed. It got be a bit confused so finally dropped the plan and went to Night Market, not before having an amazing Banana Pancake. As expected, the night market was a lovely little place to indulge in shopping. If you know to bargain it's a great place to get some interesting and useful stuffs. We spotted a lot of eat outs outside night market and settled for one of it.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We first had Barbecued Chicken which was hard and didn't feel like chicken at all. As all their chickens were country chickens it was kind of hard to chew. Priyanka was a little doubtful but I relished it. There were a lot of other food items too but again, thanks to Corona I couldn't try out many. A little walk from there and back to the Pagoda point, we settled for Fried Rice in one of the roadside stalls. With lake side and small chairs, it was a nice place to visit. We tried so hard to explain him about egg fried rice but couldn't. Anyways the food, in spite of being greasy and oily, was good.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We brought a Palm Fruit Shake and came back to room happily. Actually, the shake became an overdose because the quantity was huge. We could have even skipped one of the food items if we had known that it'd be this filling. Anyways as it was nice and tasty, we didn't complain. With a full tummy, we freshened up for the next day too (a process I generally follow while travelling) and slept off.

Day 2 - A long drive to Phnom Kulen National Park

3/1/2020

We got up early at 6 AM and went in search of breakfast at around 8 AM. The cab was supposed to pick us by 8.30 AM so we had to hurry. There weren’t any roadside stalls like we had the previous day so settled in the restaurant opposite to our lane. Ambience of Temple Restaurant was really cool. There were already a couple of people with beers, seriously? But what else do you expect when the bottled water and pint are of same price. Our breakfast was a modest Bread Toast and Jam along with Scrambled Eggs and Bread. The bread they gave along with eggs was like bun and was so rough so it didn’t taste good at all. It came to around $4 for the two together. Total waste of money when considering $1 fried rice we had the previous day.

We came back to our place by 8.30 AM but the cab hadn't come yet. So, we used that time to book tickets to Phnom Penh. I was thinking about Giant Ibis but they didn't have it in their package. Even though they said they would book online for us. I opted for the one they recommended as it was cheaper. With bad reviews of all the transport organizations apart from Giant Ibis I was very much skeptical but I took a chance and booked for Olongpich Transport as the rates were minimal. Plus, they had pick up service from our hotel too.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

There were few Tamil guys around whom we saw the previous day who were sitting and staring at us. They reminded us of that guy who keeps staring Vijay Sethupathi in 'Naanum Rowdy Than'. All they did was sit there in the hotel all the time. Funny fellows. My wife was making out a theory that they had come there to smuggle goods. Funny her.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

Our cab was actually a Mini Van which came around 9 AM and we boarded it. There were already a couple from Croatia in it. I thought it was a private tour but there were other people too. After picking us up we went to pick another UK settled Indian family who were outright annoying. The kids were so disinterested. Even the Croatian people were timid and not looking for any adventure.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The ride was a long one but the VIP van was very comfortable. Both of us took a good nap till the point they stopped for entrance ticket. From there we first went to Kbal Spean or Valley of a thousand Lingas, the place was very underwhelming. The lingas weren't as pronounced as it was in the pictures, plus the temperature was soaring. So, to walk in that humidity was a task in itself. We further went inside to see a water source which was really dirty. We came out, saw a souvenir shop and then proceeded to the temple.

Photo of Kbal Spean, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

From there we went to Wat Preah Ang Thom a Buddhist temple with reclining Buddha. Also, along with it were Sivan, Vishnu and Brammah. While posting the pictures online my friend asked whether I had gone for South Indian temple tour. It was like that. The reclining Buddha was nice to see but couldn't capture it as a whole as the place was really small but had fun hitting the bell and seeing various ceremonies being performed there.

Photo of Wat Preah Ang Thom, Krong Stung Treng, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

There were shops serving delicacies like chicken, quail, pork, scorpion, snake, mussels etc. Also, there was a drink with scorpion, snake and something else. I couldn't have anything because of Corona scare and also due to the group who were conservative more than my family. What use coming from a western country then.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We proceeded from there to First Waterfall where there were a lot of sheds for people to eat, drink and make merry. I loved the setup. Cambodians are one happy people. I've heard that Bhutan is the happiest country. If it tops Cambodia then I really feel like I should visit there too. The waterfalls were horrible. I felt like such a waste going till there to see that falls. It was like Kumbakarai. From there we took a short trek to Second waterfall. Now that was brilliant. I thought of diving into it but thanks to the grannies' group which I went along, who were totally unsupportive, so I couldn't. it was such a waste. We had to return to the cab.

Photo of Phnom Kulen National Park, ផ្លូវលេខ ៣១៥, រាជធានី​ភ្នំពេញ, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The cab driver was happily sleeping while we returned. We went for a view point from there named Poeng Ta Kho, the views from the cliff was really breathtaking. If it had not been that hot, we could have enjoyed better. The driver asked whether we'd like him to stop at a local restaurant. Both the groups said 'no' in unison. Of course, they wouldn't want. They don't like trying out anything. I didn't feel much bad as the guide said it'd be costly. But at least I was curious.

Photo of Poeng Ta Kho (Amazing Cliff), Banteay Srei, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

I asked our guide to stop near the ticketing center to get Sticky Rice which was terrific for just 25 cents. It was my quick fix lunch amidst all these idiotic people. We used that time and went into deep slumber in that time. We quickly freshened up once we went back to our place and again took a nap, I guess.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

For the night I had planned for partying in Pub Street but also made sure that we'd not be drunk. So before going to the Pub Street I didn't want to go in an empty stomach and let alcohol take effect so had a Doner Kebab in a nearby street food place which was awesome. From there we took a walk to Pub Street, the environment of which was lovely. We visited the famous Temple Bar and wasted $6 for a lousy cocktail but the Fish Amok in Khmer Kitchen Restaurant was terrific. The street as such had great vibe but it was not happening as much as the Walking Street in Pattaya. Not only was it not raunchy but the crowd too wasn't as vibrant as that. We had an amazing Cold Stone Mango Ice-Cream for $1 and explored a local market near Pub Street where we purchased a couple of wallets for my family. There were $1 t-shirts which I missed to buy and also missed to have $1 foot massage. Those were my only regrets on an otherwise amazing day.

Photo of Pub Street, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

All the walking and eating got us tired. Again, we felt as if we overate because the portions were always huge. We somehow managed to pick ourselves up and walk till the room to crash.

Day 3 - Angkor Baba ki Darshan

3/2/2020

Supposedly the most important day of the tour, the reason why we chose Cambodia for our first anniversary. As per routine we got up early and had breakfast in our hotel. The same silly breads. On top of it there were a number of annoying cats who were jumping here and there while having breakfast. More than dogs, cats are a nuisance in Cambodia, they are everywhere and no one shoos them off. I somehow managed to complete my breakfast amidst all this chaos.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We were told beforehand that time extension in room was not possible so they suggested to check out and keep the bags in reception. We did as per their suggestion so as to not pay extra bucks.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

A similar Minivan to the previous day arrived. There was already a Filipino girl named Sarah in it and after us a Japanese-looking-Australian-settled-elderly-couple arrived in the cab. This time the people were more friendly than the previous day.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

After picking them all up we went to the ticket counter. The elderly couple already had tickets. We and Sarah got our tickets. As a special offer the pass was valid for two days. My bad. If we had proceeded as per plan, we could have used it for two days. But never mind, going again and again to the same place would have got boring. Kulen is not something everyone visits.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

Once we got our tickets our enthusiastic guide Rain explained about Cambodian history and about its people. But being Indians, the stories about gods were nothing new for us. We first went to Angkor Wat, the entry to it felt terrific. Like how it felt while crossing the gateway in Taj Mahal. It gave goosebumps to both of us. I didn't expect the temple to be this big. When it was mentioned in the itinerary that it'd take two hours to see the temple, I was skeptical. I thought I'd be bored but I was more tired than bored. One can take more time and look everything in detail but as the architecture wasn't anything drastically different from back home, it wasn't very overwhelming. We had Palm Sugar juice inside the temple which quenched our thirst and was also very tasty. Something one must try while going to Angkor Wat. Interestingly they'd close it by noon because it becomes alcohol post noon.

Photo of Angkor Wat, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

From there we proceeded through Tonle Oum Gate which had carvings of devas on one side and asuras on the other. The road encircling the gate looked terrific. We proceeded to Bayon Temple from there. The temple was made up of six faces, one on each tower. Many of which were deteriorated during civil war.

Photo of Bayon Temple, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We were getting damn hungry by then so we were happy to know that we'd be going for lunch next. Rain assured us that the place will have good air condition and AC. It was as promised. All of us sat together in Palmboo Restaurant, the menu was wide and there were a lot of lip-smacking options but I chose for a safe bet and had only Chicken Fried Rice. Again, Corona fear. Even though costly, the food was really tasty. Also, there was a cute looking Korean girl next to us, so icing on the cake.

From there we proceeded to the Tomb Raider temple, made famous by Angelina Jolie as the film was shot there. Ta Prohm had many huge trees growing inside the temple. Efforts were taken to restore the temple without cutting much of the trees. Trees and the walls together formed a terrific combo. It was my favorite of the lot. But by that time, we were too tired to take pictures. Also, we weren't dressed well enough for the pictures. In one corner of the temple there were a couple of people sketching the temple which was a sight to behold.

We had Tender Coconut again which was so filling that it felt like second lunch. We proceeded to an offbeat temple from there known as Neak Pean which was an island temple. But a makeshift bridge was constructed to get into it. It was actually an artificial island with four chapels. Two of which was for renovation. Rain said through each hole we could see a face. Human, elephant, horse and lion but we couldn't spot any. The place wasn't interesting anyways so it took us barely few minutes to cover it. As the elderly couple had already visited it the previous day, they took a break there.

Photo of Neak Pean, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

It was only about 3 PM but we already went to the last point for sunset. We had a lot of free time in Pre Rup Temple where we settled for a good spot for sunset, made few video calls and more importantly we were in peace. It felt so soothing. It was awesome to see so many people waiting for sunset. The stairs to get to the top was not an easy one. But there were so many old people who climbed it to see the sunset. I loved the enthusiasm of them. When the sunset actually happened, it was really a sight to behold. Not only was it picturesque but it was also an emotional moment which can't be explained in words. As for the sunset, no picture could do justice. It's something to be experienced.

Photo of Pre Rup, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

After spending a good three hours in the last temple we all returned back to our places. First thing we did was to have Doner in the same place we had yesterday, it was again lovely. From there we proceeded to have Beef Tacos which was tremendously awesome.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We then proceeded to our hotel, borrowed a couple of towels by paying $10 (refundable). While Priyanka freshened up, I used the time to get set for the night travel. Post that I used the pool and had dinner in the pool café. There was some quiz going on, just for fun, it was pretty easy too. There were lot of mozzies around but I was happy that I could finally use the pool for which I had booked the hotel. I also played a game of 8 ball pool. I was satisfied. That was the moment where Priyanka became a complete traveler, without even a room to check in and with minimal resource she freshened up and got ready for the journey.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The Burger and Hot Chocolate there were not up to the mark. In fact, it was a mistake by us to have ordered Hot Chocolate. We just ordered it to pass time. As I was getting symptom of sore throat, I didn't want to take a risk of having a cold drink. It was only around 10.15 PM, but our pickup van already came and dropped us at the bus stand. The place looked very shady and the bus looked interesting. There was no space below the lower birth and we were given a carry bag to keep our sandals as we were not allowed to enter with our footwear inside the bus.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We settled on the first top sleeper and made video call to our cousin. Someway to kill time. As it was only around 11 PM we had to kill one more hour. I guess they clubbed both 11 PM and midnight bus together. Only when another group of foreigners boarded the bus, I was relieved. As soon as the bus started, we went into deep sleep. The driver just like back home was playing old songs. His driving too was awesome. Slow and gracious with absolutely no jerk. I didn't even feel like he braked anywhere. So, it was an overwhelming experience. I guess he stopped for a break somewhere at night, I didn't realize even that.

Day 4 - Our anniversary couldn't get better than this

3/3/2020

We woke up with puffy eyes at 6 AM as if we had been fully sloshed the previous day. The early morning light and the high rises greeted us. The place had some charm. We felt happy as soon as we saw it. I started checking for my hotel from bus to see how long it is. It was more than a couple of kilometers. I was lamenting whether to walk or take a tuk-tuk. But to my surprise I noted less tuk-tuks and more autos, that too with a symbol call ' Pass App '. I had read about 'Grab' in blogs before but not 'Pass' so I quickly googled and saw that the app was legit. Also, the number of autos in sight with 'Pass App' symbol kept increasing. So, I installed before I got down.

The 'Pass App' was user friendly and the amount was pregiven. The countdown happens in seconds for the last minute so we got the cab fairly soon and were dropped at our point. Once we went into the street, we noticed our ' Mini Banana Guesthouse ' locked. We tried to call them but phone was not reachable. We walked the streets a couple of times and walked around the road next, still we couldn't pass more than half an hour. Finally, a good Samaritan who had the phone number of the owner made a call and we got the room.

Photo of Mini Banana, Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The room this time was smaller than previous one and the bathroom was just toilet with makeshift shower. But I was happy that Priyanka didn't complain. It didn't feel like she was just adjusting anymore but was truly okay with whatever available. Bad rooms meant we'd spend more time exploring outside. That's my logic. Still it took us around 10 AM to start from room. Also, we missed breakfast from one of the thatha (grandfather) who was selling something which got sold like hot cakes.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

But as a blessing in disguise we got to a South Indian restaurant called ' Idli Dosa'. We had a couple of Dosas and a divine Coffee (which spoilt us for the remaining trip) and proceeded for local sightseeing. All our travel from there was through Pass App, a totally hassle-free way to travel. No need to talk, no need to bargain. Just hop on and go. Our first destination was Wat Phnom, a cute little pagoda on top of a hill. I guess that's the place where school kids cut school and go. The temple was nice and we inquired someone else on how they made their itinerary. While descending there were some other temple where the gods were served bacon, sausage etc. I was very excited about that. Also, there was some pooja done for a girl. I was keenly looking at it. Only while coming down I saw that the temple was some Spirit Temple so maybe it was a kind of black magic. Priyanka dragged me down saying, "what a nice way to celebrate anniversary"

Photo of IDLI DOSA Indian Restaurant, Rue Pasteur No. 51, Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We purchased a mango to eat on the go and based on the inputs of a couple of cute German travelers we proceeded to see Raffles Hotel Le Royal which was not in my initial plan and not a spot worth visiting. Its known for its French colonial architecture but you can't look at anything great from outside. For people who've been to Pondicherry, they'd have seen better buildings. From there we went to National Library of Cambodia, another needless place. There isn't much one can read in English there. Tried to get an English map but couldn't get that too. Thanks to the ventilation. We just sat there for few minutes and came back. Good thing about people there is they don't give you a weird look seeing a foreigner. So, we felt at home even in such a place.

Photo of Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The heat was scorching but still we started to walk to explore Central Market. Luckily found a shopping mall on the way to it, called as Vattanac Capital, the design of which was exquisite. Without even thinking, we got into it. The AC was so relaxing. We spent a good amount of time inside. Went to explore Bang and Olufsen speaker complex. It's definitely not affordable and we just went to inquire but people were so sweet to explain to us about it. We further proceeded towards the basement and saw a cute little cake in Dance Bakery and Café, we decided to buy it for our anniversary celebration. We took to the front door, had a seat overlooking the road and heat and celebrated our anniversary. The best way to celebrate and we were very happy.

Photo of Central Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We again started walking from there to Central Market, which was crowded like hell and was scary. There were locals who were stopping passerby's going in vehicle and giving then some package. Also, when a group of people arrive, few touts with bag were running to greet them. We couldn't exactly guess as to what was happening but something was happening. Inside the Central Market it was even worse. The atrium in the middle was awesome but, on the sides, the places were too congested and got us scary. Priyanka bought a dress there and refused to touch me before washing hands. Our initial plan was to have lunch there but seeing how yucky and smelly the place was Priyanka suggested that we go back to the mall and eat. I obeyed and had lunch at a point I had already made a note of. Yam Yam was almost empty at 2 PM. Guess their lunch time was already over. But we spent some time, had lunch and came out.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn
Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

Now we had too much time to kill and only one more place to go so walked as slow as we can. Grabbed an awesome Ice Tea and went to The National Museum of Cambodia, expecting it to be a disaster. But to our surprise, it was terrific. Museums work only during these times. When you have too much time to spend and don't want to hurry to next place. So, we slowly roamed around, read most of the information and passed time. From there we went to Wat Ounnalom and made a video wish for someone's birthday in Russian, don't know whether it really was a birthday wish or not. By this time the heat was down so we could relax a bit more. We took a slow walk back to our room overseeing all fried delicacies like crickets, cockroaches etc. but couldn't try it due to corona scare.

Photo of National Museum of Cambodia, Preah Ang Eng St. (13), Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The long walk was awesome around sunset time. We took a lane behind the Royal Palace which had a host of schools and liquor shops. What funny combination. We finally reached Independence Monument which was a sight to behold. I wanted to further walk to Olympic Stadium to witness sunset but that was a blunder. It was a long distance from there and Priyanka's shoe started hurting so she became cranky too. What's worse was there was no Olympic Stadium at all there. Big bulb.

Photo of Independence Monument, Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We took an auto and came back to room and freshened up. The atmosphere was really lit up. The place was totally opposite to what we saw in the morning. It was happening. As her feet was aching, we decided to skip night market and party there for the anniversary. Somehow, she made the waiters understand how to make half boil and got it for us. We repeated the same four times with our beer. So, it was a day well spent.

Day 5 - A Day of Horror

3/4/2020

I didn't want to see these places along with the rest so reserved just these two places for a day. As usual we ate at 'Idli Dosa' and took an auto to The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. The place was quite far, I was skeptical about getting an auto but he came without wincing. We used the time to video call our parents, relatives and everyone and showed around.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

After getting an entrance ticket we first saw the skulls and bones kept in the museum, proceed to the documentary center and read about it further in the museum. The documentary shocked everyone present. The entire place was quiet and eerie. To know that we're actually standing in a place where thousands were massacred made us queasy. We took a good two hours to go around the place and finally came out. Only then were we able to feel better.

Photo of Killing Fields, ផ្លូវជើងឯក, Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We grabbed a Tender Coconut and went to Russian Market for lunch amidst low expectations. Thanks to the previous day's experience in Central Market. But luckily the place was amazing and not yucky like Central Market. We got an awesome Cold Coffee, roamed around and bought a couple of wallets again for relatives and had Fried Chicken from a local vendor. We struggled to get change as we had only a $100 bill so had to give up on our backup cash. Fried Chicken was terrific. He was also selling mussels and snails which looked yummy but we didn't have, you know why.

Photo of Russian Market, Saint 163, Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

After a satisfying lunch we went to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 Prison). I was getting a feel of school premise seeing that. I didn't know that it was a prison made from school. The place was small but a lot of members were kept there. That shows how congested the place would have been. When you read all that's written over there, it gives an eerie feel. There were also a couple of people who had come out alive from the prison. They were present there narrating their stories and selling books about their story. It was really tough to stand there. As it was the final point before sunset we relaxed there after all the walking. Priyanka got few free mangos from the worker ladies there.

Photo of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, សង្កាត់​បឹង​កេងកង​៣ ខណ្ឌ​ចំការ​មន, Saint 113, Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

From there we took an auto to Sisowath Quay aka Riverside to go on a sunset cruise. We couldn’t find the travels present in the net so just took a walk thinking we’d at least spend some time there looking at the vastness of Mekong River, luckily, we got a guy with whom we bargained for a cruise for $5 each. It was a steal. We witnessed a great sunset. It was funny to see one other foreign guy who was by himself and very happy being in the boat. We enjoyed it more than the sunset.

Being thoroughly satisfied with the experience, we came back to room. After relaxing a bit, went to Duplex Bar for some Salsa fun. Even though Priyanka didn't dance I felt good dancing after a really long time and I was close to the best male dancer there. Good to get some admiration among the people there. I was glad that I hadn't forgotten much of my moves. No skill acquired goes waste. Food was so-so there, so, came back to room after having a couple of beers. Thanks to this salsaing, it was a complete day for me.

Day 6 - A Day on the road

3/5/2020

As there was no night transport to Sihanoukville we chose to go by VIP Van during day time, just to try out another option instead of bus. Our hotels didn't have any booking options for both ferry and VIP van so we had directly come to Cambodia Post office and booked tickets. Luckily there were only three of us in the Van so it was very spacious.

Photo of Duplex Belgian Tavern (Duplex Bar), Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

As the van was at 7.30 AM, Idli Dosa had not opened. We grabbed a couple of Cupcakes in a nearby café called Brown Coffee and started from our room. We came to the starting point much before time. I used that time to search for breakfast. Most of it revolved around Bacon so I didn't feel like it. Just grabbed a cup of cold coffee and got on the van. The driver was a friendly guy who was always smiling. Behind him was a local guy and behind him were us. The row behind us was empty. As soon as the van started, we dozed off. Priyanka went to the seat behind and slept off and I slept in the middle row.

Photo of Cambodia Post, Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

It's a brilliant idea for a post office to use a transport service. Our first break was at some post office on the way where the driver delivered a parcel and we used the restroom. From there we didn't sleep much. Made video calls on the way again as we were bored. For some reason we enjoyed the drive. We chitchatted our way till lunch point.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

Lunch Point was a motel where all the dish looked yummy. Even barbecued frog looked yummy. The curries looked mouthwatering. We had a tough time to make the owner get us a Chicken dish. She and the little girl were nice and smiling but we didn't get the answer we wanted. Finally, one of the passersby who understood a little bit English was able to help us with a chicken dish. Food was really yummy and the Sugarcane Juice post that was awesome too.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The local guy got down few minutes after lunch point. Wonder why he had to have lunch if he's to get down so soon. Guess Cambodians can't miss their lunch time. Such happy people. Post lunch the driver's mood became cranky, I couldn't understand why. Priyanka told it might be because he was pissed that he couldn't sleep post lunch. I asked the driver whether it'll go till pier. He just shooed us off.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

Finally, he stopped near a petrol bunk. There was one person who told he'll arrange taxi, ferry tickets etc. Had a tough time escaping him but luckily pass app was of use there too and got our auto. The whole of Sihanoukville was under construction, literally. It was so dirty and muddy, it felt like a war zone. We reached the pier and had to overpay the driver.

Photo of Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

Touts were everywhere near the pier. After being in Cambodia close to a week, this was the place where we were irritated. We just didn't listen to anyone and proceeded to the pier and asked a foreigner as to where one has to get a ferry ticket. It was right on the pier. Generally, the Speed Ferry Cambodia gets pre booked so it was not available there. We asked GTVC, it had already left so she gave Buva Sea tickets. All the reviews went for a toss. No need to book it beforehand as the ticket rates are same and tickets are widely available too. All ferries are more or less the same.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The bigger bags were kept separately and we took a smaller one. Another girl who had come by herself sat opposite to us. Once the speedboat started it revved through the sea. It was amazing to be there in it, we made video calls to irritate our fellow families and then enjoyed the sea. The boat stopped at Long Beach first. I went in front to make sure our luggage's was safe. Only then I noticed that it was in an enclosed container so it won't get wet. But we were wholly wet thanks to the splashing sea. From long beach, our island was pretty close. Our island was more happening too.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We set foot in Koh Rong and went in search of our room. We had to take a little street and walk up to the place. We went there and made payment. The girl who was in the ferry too came in search of the same place. It's a proper hippie place and the rates are cheap, that's why most go there. I was pretty excited about the place and thought it'd be a good surprise for Priyanka. But the place pissed her as it was tent stay. That spoilt my mood too. She had a headache and wanted to rest in a better place, which didn't happen. Because its tent she felt it was better to take a walk than to stay inside. It was hot too.

Photo of Koh Rong, Preah Sihanouk, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We took a walk from our hotel and explored the beaches one by one. The farther we went, more amazing the beaches were. But it'd be good to stay there only once as it's not happening like Koh Rong. There is a good chance that one can get bored. The Koh Rong beach wasn't a good place for swim as it was full of restaurants. Next beach, White Sand Beach, was a perfect place for it if one likes to take a dip close to Koh Rong. After passing through a small private property, was Nest Beach which was less cluttered than the White Sand. There were a row of sea facing tents and a bar. Further down was the Long Set Beach or the 4K Beach. From the information we got, that's the last point to where we can trek. We witnessed beautiful sunset throughout our walk. I had reserved this experience for next day but owing to time and Priyanka's mood, chose to do it that day. I wasn't disappointed.

Photo of Long Set Resort, Preah Sihanouk, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

But what disappointed me was the Chicken Roll during the walk and Coffee post it. After having enjoyed beautiful Filter Coffee in an Indian Restaurant. I couldn't digest the coffee with milk. Also, the attitude of the restaurant owner was not good. They were out for only money. The warm Cambodian smile was missing.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We went back to our place, freshened up and came for dinner. As per our hosts suggestion, we had brilliant Kebab and Barbecue. We couldn't complete the latter as the portions were huge. If we had started with barbecue first, we could have avoided spending for Kebab. I got to know that the pub crawl wasn't happening that night. So before going back to our tents as Priyanka wanted to do Pedicure, we chose Foot Massage instead. That changed our mood as the girls were really fun and commented on how Priyanka looks like a Cambodian, that comment made my day. They did an amazing job for $5, still costlier than Siem Reap, but it was worthy.

Day 7 - Nothingness in Koh Rong

3/6/2020

Actually, there is nothing much to write for the day. We planned a whole lot of things and cancelled everything due to some practical constraints. We had an amazing breakfast of Banana Pancake and Cambodian Chicken Sandwich in our resort. My mouth waters thinking about it even now. We explained a lot on how to make tea. I thought we finally made it clear when he said, “Milk with Tea” but unfortunately, we ended up having green tea with milk. We just walked around a bit, confirmed return tickets, had a Dragon Fruit Shake, checked for Pub Crawl later than night and came back to room and slept.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

I slept for a couple of hours but Priyanka slept her ass off. She was joking the previous day of how the first room didn't have bathroom, second room didn't have mirror and the last one didn't even have a roof. It didn't go well with me as I was pissed too but, in that tent, in that heat and in the most uncomfortable of spaces she slept all day long. She finally woke up around sunset time. Thankfully so.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

I quickly grabbed my towel and went for a swim in White Sand Beach, at least for formality. The sea was warm and waves very less. It'd have been an awesome place to spend with girlfriends or spouse. Post that we had Khmer Massage in a beach shack. The massage did more damage than good as it was very heavy. Imagine someone holding your hand and walking on you. At least I was okay. Priyanka is puny. So, it was impossible. Anyways I didn't want to miss out on Khmer Massage when in Cambodia, as I wouldn't get a chance again. Add to it, it was beach facing. So, the sound of waves during the sunset with cool breeze felt terrific. As it was a day of relaxation, it couldn't have ended better.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

For dinner we had a Beef Burger which was amazing and topped it up with Banana Shake. We went back to room thinking of freshening up and coming back for Pub Crawl but for some reason we were not enthusiastic about it. Just grabbed a beer and ate Chicken Kebab (which comes with a sub). It was too filling, so again we came back to room with heavy stomach. The girl at the Kebab store looked chic. We passed time looking at her.

We came back to tent and again slept like a log. I don't know, how after such heavy sleeping we could still sleep like that. I woke up to some sound at night. It was of that girl in the ferry who seemed to have gone to Pub Crawl with her friends. The conversation was fun because they looked amateurish. I guess it was the first time she had gotten drunk. Funny fellas. Yeah, I guess one of the reasons we felt like not going to pub crawl was because of the Indians, the only Indians who were there who were loud and trying to be cool which ended up being horrible. They were such a letdown in that place. I don't know why Indians can't behave themselves anywhere.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

There were magic biscuits and magic pizzas everywhere. I didn't try that too. I don't know the reason for it. I thought how it'd have been if I had gone there with my Pattaya Pals. Like our host said, we'd have been lying somewhere in the forest after having a full biscuit. People who go to Koh Rong, don't worry it's so freely available everywhere. It's definitely a great place to party.

Day 8 - Puzuthi Parakum Paru (Dust and Sihanoukville)

3/7/2020

We woke up and went to our ferry without having breakfast. But it came around an hour late. So had a Watermelon Juice which was disastrous as she had made it with seeds. Their mixies are funny, it fits perfectly and doesn't splash too. Priyanka once told that it'd be the only worthy thing to take back home.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We had to spend a lot of free time in the pier and finally got on board and went to the top. We went and stood near the front end which gave in to a lot of breeze and amazing view. We shot few videos, photos and also saw jumping fishes. The forty-five-minute journey went like a breeze.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

While returning we were much aware of the touts. So, went near the road and got auto through Pass App and went to the room. The autos expect us to round it off to the nearest dollar which we did few times. There is no other go as the roads are in horrible condition. Just like we were coming in, we noticed a lot of casinos en route to our resort too. This time our resort was nice looking but again everything around it was either bulldozed or dirty.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

Our room was nice but was covered with asbestos sheet so it was hot as hell. We went out and had amazing Burger. Somehow, I've the knack of finding out good restaurant. Post that we freshened up and slept the afternoon. Our plan was to visit Otres Beach and Otres Market so took a Pass auto with whom I had to bargain again. We downed a lot of Cold Coffee, Strawberry Slush in the meantime. There was an old lady selling squid which was tempting but she told that she'd give 10 for $5. I couldn't risk eating that much so decided against it.

At the other end of the beach was a swing, right in the middle of the beach. Can you imagine how awesome it'd be? But as the light was down and people were photobombing, we couldn't take good pictures there. From there we took an auto to Otres Market where there was no market at all. The place was scary with no lights and dusty road. We decided to have dinner at one of the few opened places there but as there were none thought the wise thing would be to get back to the room.

We thought of walking back to our place as it was just a kilometer from there but the route in map was not at all there so took an auto instead. Luckily for us there were few restaurants open in the street leading to our restaurant. The place was economical and lively too. Food was amazing. I finally had the Squid that I dreamed off. It was as fresh as it could get.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We walked off to our resort and downed the mosquito net fearing the mosquitoes. Whether or not there were mosquitoes, the setting was romantic. We had a sound sleep, one last time.

Day 9 - The return amidst boredom

3/8/2020

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The drive to airport was truly scary, it was like being in a slow roller coaster. We were afraid whether the auto could really pull us in such steep road but the driver was happily driving sipping ice coffee and eating his lunch. When the roads were good, I guess he dozed off and went past the airport. If we had not stopped, he'd have taken us back to Angkor Wat. All the while he was smiling for everything we said, so it was difficult to get angry on him.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

The airport was like just another guest house, you could get in and get out anyways you want, no one does any checking. It was needless to have come there so ahead of time. As a ritual we wore our masks, ogled at girls together and spent time.

Photo of Sihanouk International Airport, National Road 4, Preah Sihanouk, Cambodia by Vikram Mn

Priyanka wanted a Chocolate and because of that I had to spend my last Riel. I had planned carefully to have kept only one note of riel but my plan went haywire as I had to spend on it. But I didn't want to go without having any Riel. It was a mark of my travel history. As it was my last chance to get a Cambodian currency, I bought another box of chocolates and got few Riels as change. But instead of that I'd have been happier if I could have saved that one Riel as a memento of success.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We boarded the flight and landed in Kuala Lumpur airport. I was very excited about it. We had a huge layover of about five hours. I thought the airport would be much more awesome than Bangkok but to our dismay, the airport was horrible. We had a really tough time spending our next few hours there in spite of eating a couple of times. Food there was wonderful. If airport food was this good, wonder how it'd be in inside the city. No wonder it's called culinary capital of the world. An annoying receptionist with fake smile didn't give proper explanation as to why we were not allowed in Travel Club lounge in spite of having valid card. But we used that time wisely to check on the documentary ' S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine '. It's good that we could watch it in the flow, otherwise we'd never get a chance to watch it at all. Like the saying goes, "read the good books first, otherwise you'd not get time to read them at all"

Photo of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL), Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia by Vikram Mn

We were put into another cabin before boarding which felt like Tirupati koondu (cage). We finally boarded the flight and was warmly welcomed by a GVM look alike air steward who had a charming personality. We were greeted warmly and made comfortable. Later a couple of forms were given to us where we had to fill our travel history. It was precautionary measure by India for COVID-19. I was amazed seeing the sincerity of Indian government. I had never known of any such incident before.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

As soon as we landed, we were given hand sanitizer and only then given another form. Our temperatures were checked and the forms were collected at two points. First one at health department and second one at the immigration. Our immigrations were already slow, this meant we had to wait a good one hour for the whole process to get over.

Photo of Travelogue: Lovesu in the time of Corona - A backpacking anniversary in Cambodia by Vikram Mn

We had a sigh of relief once we came out of the airport, as if someone coming out of a verdict without any punishment. We quickly walked to the outside of airport. As auto was costlier than cab, we chose a cab. The feeling of cushioned seats and AC felt really new for our bum as we were in hardcore backpacking mode for a week. We were smiling with glee like a bird escaping a cage. Oh, the taste of freedom!

The guide has everything you need to know if you're planning for Cambodia (Angkor Wat) for a week in a budget within 1 lakh per couple. The places/stays/food/restaurants are highlighted for quick reference. If you still have any doubts and need help in planning itinerary, feel free to comment. I'll reply back with the details. Happy traveling.

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