Now many of you who follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram will already know what happened to me while travelling from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap, but for those who don’t, it wasn’t pretty. I was in yet another crash – they do say these things come in threes – but this one was the most serious of all. The minibus I had paid extra for in the hopes it would be a safer ride than the buses was run off the road by a lorry and ended up in a ditch on the other side of the road. It was a bad crash and it all happened so fast, in true Asian style there were no seat belts so it was sheer luck, and the quick reactions of the driver who grabbed me, that kept me from being killed when I was thrown against the windscreen of the vehicle. An Australian guy who was motor biking past and saw the crash pulled me out of the minibus and said he couldn’t believe he wasn’t pulling out dead bodies. I won’t go into loads of detail because you can read more here, but my legs were so badly bruised and cut that I could barely walk, and one of my legs now sports a fabulous huge scar from where it was cut open. It took me over 36 hours to complete the journey and I finally arrived in Siem Reap and made my way to Downtown Hostel. I spent the next few days resting and letting my body heal, and shopping to replace the items that were lost in the crash.
I went to Downtown Hostel after recommendations from friends but to be honest I wasn’t that impressed. I had messaged them ahead of time to let them know about the crash and my injuries because they were supposed to be picking me up when I arrived, I could barely walk but they had put me in a top bunk on the top floor. Now I’m not normally fussy, but they weren’t even bothered about helping me with my bags when I had blood running down my legs fm my cuts and was covered in mud from the ditch, not a good first impression for a hostel run by westerners. I just went to bed and lay there trying to sleep without thinking about the day. Eventually I went to sleep and woke up to find the power was out – there was no lights, air conditioning, no electricity and barely any water. I couldn’t even have a shower or clean my cuts because they didn’t have a back up generator – I appreciate that Cambodian power is unreliable but that’s when you should prepare for these situations. I had to hobble down the street to find a cafe round the corner where the power was working so I could contact my family to let them know I was okay. These power cuts happened every single day I was in Siem Reap but only seemed to affect the street where Downtown Hostel stood, round the corner and in the centre there was no problem.I really liked Siem Reap, I didn’t arrive there in the best frame of mind, but it was the first place I felt completely safe in Cambodia and felt like I actually wanted to explore. I was pretty upset though – I had really been looking forward to having a few days here to visit the temples and Angkor Wat and I was supposed to be doing a yoga retreat the following week but I could barely walk! I was really worried my time there would be completely wasted but my determination won over and I made sure that I had a few days to heal before taking on the temples and everything I wanted to do. I started by treating myself to some real TLC – plenty of sleep, gentle walking to stop my legs from seizing up and lots of good food – something I’d been missing while in Cambodia. I went for a couple of treatments including a fabulous facial that was easily the best one I’ve ever had at a little salon off the main strip. I can’t remember the name of the place now but it is worth paying slightly more for treatments in Cambodia and not just picking a $1-3 massage on the street – they’re definitely not as skilled or good quality as Thailand and you can tell most aren’t trained. I had one or two painful massages while there and I wouldn’t go back to the really cheap places. Unfortunately I was never really well enough to enjoy Pub Street but I would love to go back to see what the nightlife is like.
There are so many great places to eat in Siem Reap but my favourites were Amok Restaurant, which advertised itself as offering the best Amok in the area and it was easily the best one I have had – and the best Cambodian dish I have had at all. I also loved Chamkar, which was a vegan restaurant down the same street – after a week of vegan living at the yoga retreat it was a perfect leaving meal. There are also loads of other amazing street food restaurants including a huge corner one in the night market that does amazing food with loads of choice. The night market is fantastic here and I just wish my bag hadn’t been so jam packed by this point so I could have shopped more, but I was saving myself for Bangkok. I stayed in Siem Reap for around a week overall, spread either side of my yoga retreat, and loved my time there. After the retreat I refused to return to the hostel so instead I booked in to stay at Popular Boutique Hotel which was even closer to the centre, had luxury rooms – mine was a double room – plus a swimming pool and restaurant – I paid just $18 for a night – a serious treat in Asia but nothing compared to at home. It meant I had two days by the pool to relax and reflect on what had been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and to get a good night’s sleep without being woken for yoga at 6.30am. Priceless, if you ask me.I would definitely return to Siem Reap in the future and I would love a chance to experience it without injuries because there is so much more I would have liked to have seen and done. But that’s a plan for future Lucy – in the meantime, it meant I could leave Cambodia on a high which is something I’m really happy about. It didn’t sit right with me to dislike a country so much and I’m glad I was able to see another side of Cambodia.
Have you been to Siem Reap – how did you think it compared to other parts of Cambodia? Any hostels or hotels to recommend?