Cambodia: Free and Easy

Floating the Mekong River, Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat & Hopping down Pub Street in Siem Reap

The Beginning of FNEZ LTC 25 day trip: 
After 20 days in southern Thailand, enjoying a new beach paradise at every corner, I was off to join a new Free & Easy Traveler group for the LTC (or Laos, Thailand, Cambodia) 25-day tour. We hit the ground running to our first city of Siem Reap in Cambodia.
There is a lot of culture and history to this place. It brings about much more sadness and tragedy due to its’ more recent history. Although I loved every second of the beach bum life on the islands, it was very important to me that I was able to immerse myself into a new culture and see how people live after being affected by so much trauma + living with the bare minimal.

A little bit of history on the Kingdom of Cambodia:

  • The Khmer Rouge ruled for four years and during this time, 20% of the Cambodian population was killed; many were priests, monks and educated people
  • 50% of Cambodia’s current population is under 25 years old
  • Birthdays are not traditionally celebrated and many older people do not actually know their exact birth dates
  • Cambodians biggest source of income is textiles and second is tourism

Crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia is an experience in itself. The infrastructure, housing, and the animals sold on the side of the street for food are all steps out of my comfort zone (fried frogs, birds… you name it).

We took a bus from the border to our hotel, enjoying “Angkor” , the local Cambodian $1 beers. Each tab on the beer gives you a chance to win another free beer, and believe it or not, many of the beer tabs are winners.

There I was, bumping along dirt roads in unknown territory, eating & drinking unfamiliar food and drinks, with a group of complete strangers (at the time).  Very quickly you lose some of your modesty as you are faced with the daily challenges of adjusting to these new places and you get to know these ‘strangers’ really well, very fast.

Siem Reap:

Where to stay: 

  • The Popular Guest House:  a short walk away from Pub Street, the night market and tons of other small shops + mini-marts

Getting around:

  • Tuk tuks line the streets, similar to Thailand; these people will ask you 1-2-3x if you would like a tuk tuk ride, massage or food… our trip leaders advised the best strategy is to smile and politely and say no instead of getting annoyed. It is important to remember that this is their full time job and they are just working to make a living for their families.


Day 1: 

We went to explore the three temples of Angkor Wat
It is nearly impossible to imagine what these temples looked like thousands of years ago when they were shining gold and had rooms of rubies inside.
The 1st temple we went to had smiling Buddha faces carved into the stones . The wall art was intricate and still fairly well-preserved. All of the large stones were put together like a set of Legos.
The 2nd temple we visited was where the Tomb Raider was filmed. The trees here were absolutely ridiculous. They looked magical, like something out of a movie with their roots wrapping around the structures and stretching out over the ground.
The 3rd and final temple we visited was the famous Angkor Wat. It is grand as you could imagine and you could explore for hours without seeing the same spot twice.

The beauty and wonder of Angkor Wat – pictures really are worth a thousand words { thank you, thank you Frank Neufeld }

*** TIP: take a 4:40AM tuk-tuk to Angkor Wat for sunset.. you won’t regret it. The sunrise behind Angkor Wat is something that I cannot put words around. It is breathtaking.

Above:  the beautiful faces of Cambodia. I know I’ve said this about each of the three southeast Asian countries I’ve traveled to, but it’s true! They welcome you into their country with so much kindness. The lack of understanding in language is made up with a genuine smile and warm gestures while they help you better understand their culture and the unique surroundings of their home.





  • Pub Street: the main place to go for backpackers in Siem Reap It is one long road of dancing clubs and restaurants. By late night the middle of the road is filled with people who may have had one too many buckets.
    • Temple Bar 
    • Banana Bar  
      • You can transfer your drinks from one bar to the other while enjoying some classic street dancing to Cotton Eye Joe, the Macarena and YMCA until 4 in the morning if you want to
      • The bars are packed with westerners and other tourist. Drinks are a whopping $0.50 for draft beers of you can share the typical 10-person bucket to keep it cheap.
  • Night Market: the market is brightly lit up until late hours of the night. You can find everything from clothing items to paintings to large ‘whiskey’ bottles that contain snakes and scorpions inside. 

Day Activities:

  • The Floating Market:  take a group boat trip in and out of the entire floating village.  The one that we explored had just about everything.. homes,  mini-marts,  restaurants, etc. all just a ride away from each other.
  • Land mine War Museum: you must go to truly grasp the intensity of what these people have been through. There are still many active land mines all over Cambodia, even the surrounding areas right near where we were staying in Siem Reap. Fact – there are 4-6 million active land mines, mostly near the borders.   Three people die per hour. It  cost $500 to deactivate a single land mine …. and only $5 to make one…