Cambodia is a country with a history as tragic as any you will hear about. During the rule and subsequent guerrilla campaign of the Khmer Rouge between 1968 and the late 1990's, up to 2 million people were killed, representing a quarter of the total population. Most of these deaths happened over a 4 year period between 1975-1979 during the 'killing fields' era.
Despite a whole generation of Cambodians being wiped out, you can't help but see the positivity permeating in the country. The demographics are very youthful and there is an energy unmatched anywhere else. Sure there is still a lot of development that needs to happen as the difference between Cambodia and its two neighbouring countries, Vietnam and Thailand is extremely noticeable but changes are happening.
In this article I have included a selection of my favourite photo's that I took across the country, pictures that I think can give you a feel for Cambodia, its culture and its attractions.
I've been to Thailand a couple of times now, but before I first went out there, I had no idea how much cash to take with me or how much I would be spending out there.
I found Thailand to be one of my better value for money experiences. Sure, its not cheap to get there, however if you book flights in advance, you can get a good deal, especially with Russian or Chinese airlines. While you are out there, you really do get bang for your buck. You can do a whole range of activities, for a fraction of the cost of doing them in European cities.
I won't lie, I did have to save some money before I went, no matter how cheap a place is, spending a significant amount of time away from home will always eat into savings. Whats strange is, the longer you stay, the cost per day actually falls, this is because you begin to realise the cheapest places to eat and the most cost effective ways of travelling or finding shelter for the night.
How expensive is Thailand? Here's my take...
When it comes to Thailand, I can't limit myself to my usual 5 favourite experiences as this country has so much to offer.
I have been to Thailand twice in the past 3 years, covering the entire country from the ancient cities in the north to the beaches and islands of the south and everything in between and I loved absolutely everything about it.
From cycling in the beautiful countryside of Lampang to enjoying beach parties in Ko Phangan, here are the 10 things I loved about Thailand.
In terms of tragedy, not many countries have the recent history that Cambodia does. Up to three million people (about 25% of the population) were killed in the Cambodian genocide carried out by the ruling Khmer Rouge party in the late 70's and their continued resistance into the 90's. There is hardly a family in the country that wasn't in some way affected by this mass genocide.
However, the Cambodia that I saw was a young, confident nation that had come out of the worst of its adversity and lived to tell the tale. It was a nation that paid tribute to its past but also looked confidently to its future.
There's not much to dislike about Cambodia, but here are the 5 things I absolutely loved.
The 20th century saw large scale decolonisation throughout the world. Whilst some transfers happened relatively peacefully (Hong Kong, Macau) others happened more violently. One of the most violent struggles for freedom occurred in Vietnam. After fighting the Japanese, French and Americans, Vietnam entered the second half of the 20th century scarred by fighting and Saigon was a byword for destruction.
However, Vietnam is finally emerging from its tragic recent history by projecting an image of hope and beauty. Vietnam is no longer associated with just a war, its now associated with adventure and fun. From the communist feel of North Vietnam, to a more capitalist feel in South Vietnam, the country still has strong footprints of a tragic conflict, however it also adds to an already rich culture and history.
I didn't have time to visit the famous Ha Long Bay, and I'll be sure to make a return trip to visit the famous area, however, here are my top 5 favourite things about Vietnam.
The Red Passport
If you are a British citizen, you hold a passport ranked 1st in the world by the World Tourism Organisation in terms of freedom of travel.
A British Passport entitles the holder to have visa free, or visa on arrival travel for approximately 175 countries across the world, and in this entry I will list the different types of visa requirements for some of the most popular destinations in the world broken down by region.
South East Asia or South America. These two parts of the world have seen an explosion of popularity over the past decade and for most people the decision of where to visit first is often a difficult one. In this entry, I'll try and rate each of the locations on factors that are important to the average person and come up with an overall rating.
Things to consider
Before I get things started, its important to note that my experiences over the two locations will vary. I spent more time in South East Asia, and it was also the place I decided to visit first. There are important locations missing from both locations. I didn't visit Laos in SE Asia and I didn't visit Colombia and Argentina in South America. Personally, I feel that Argentina is a significant omission due to the size of the country and the number of things to see and do. Ratings and experiences are also very subjective, my experience could be significantly different from the experience of others so I'd bare this in mind when you make your decision.
Finally, a comparison between the two locations isn't an exact science. The phrase apples and oranges comes to mind. Peru and Brazil have completely different cultures, speak completely different languages, yet for the purpose of comparison they have been lumped together under a loose 'South American' category. This entry is a subjective rough overview of my experiences and can form part of your research into each location.
Airport Rating ****
Reception of locals *****
Bangkok is an assault on the senses. The sights, sounds and smells are overwhelming and impressive in equal measure. The dichotomy of rich and poor, modern Bangkok and the old city are amplified when compared to other cities in SE Asia. There is a lot to see and a lot to do, and if you can handle the humidity and heat you could easily spend months here and still be exploring the city.
I caught an overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok with a few people that I had met on my way to the north of Thailand. The trains from the north are quite big, I'm a reasonably sized guy and didn't have much trouble in the beds located in the carriages. There were about 9 of us who headed down together, most were around my age or a little bit older and the journey was a lot of fun (probably not for those around us though). We spent most of the journey enjoying the scenery of the Thai countryside. We played a few games and spoke about our home countries. An attendant on the train came round late in the evening to convert the seating into beds.
We decided we weren't ready to sleep just yet and decided to have some competitions. The girls thought it would be fun to have a tricep dip competition. As a guy that likes to work out, I had a lot of fun doing it but it was hilarious, One Swiss girl in particular spent the best part of 20 minutes trying to do one tricep dip. Everytime she would get close, everyone would burst out laughing. I felt bad for her, but when you start laughing, pretty much anything is funny.
By 3am most people were asleep so instead of disturbing everyone if someone wanted to talk they would just come over to your bed or you would go to theirs. It was funny watching people trying to jump from bed to bed then disappearing behind curtains. After an hour or so I felt ready to close my eyes and just then I saw a head poke through the curtain. There was no way anyone was getting any sleep.
Airport Rating N/A
Reception of locals *****
Whenever I get asked what my favourite city that I visited is, the answer is always the same - Chiang Mai.
There is a buzz about this city that isn't easily explained and must be experienced. I travelled to Chiang Mai via coach after spending a few days in Lampang. Surrounded on all sides by hills and mountains, Chiang Mai is built in the valley and naturally very beautiful, although the fact it is built in a valley could explain the humidity. I thought Bangkok was humid, this wasn't far off.
After getting some food, I headed off to Doi Suthep, a temple on the edge of the city. The temple is about a 45 minute drive from the city centre along a beautiful ,scenic winding road up the side of a very steep hill. As I reached the end of the road for cars, I stepped outside into a busy market place set up at the base of the temple, as with most other tourist attractions in Thailand, stalls ranged from Doi Suthep themed souvenirs, to strange objects, clothes and quite uniquely, swords. As I walked through the markets I reached the end of the paved road and was greeted by a 300 step naga guarded staircase.
Airport Rating N/A
Reception of locals *****
The drive from Sukhothai to Lampang was a pleasant 3/4 hours. The roads weren't particularly bumpy and greenery of the central Thai countryside was slowly transformed into more mountainous terrain as we moved north.
Lampang is one of Thailand's relatively untouched cities. Locals refer to it as the 'last paradise' in their country. Tourism has brought a significant amount of benefits for the north of the country, but with tourist money has come new developments. The traditional cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai have been transformed into cities with skyscrapers, catering to the tourism industry. Lampang stands out in this development. The cityscape has remained broadly the same, and tourism is still in its infancy. Those tourists that do stay, tend only to stop off for a lunch break. I fell into a third category, staying slightly longer to explore the surrounding area.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.