Reflections: Solo Female travel in Cambodia

Angkor Wat Carving

12 days alone in Cambodia

There is a freedom I feel from traveling alone. A sense of independence and curiosity that overcomes me. I step out of my shell and I feel alive.

After 50 beautiful days in Sri Lanka with Larry I just arrived in Phnom Penh alone. We split ways for two weeks so he can find us an apartment in Thailand while I visit Angkor Wat. Since he already spent some time in Cambodia this seemed to make the most sense for us.

I grabbed a tuk-tuk to my hostel and has we drove through the motorbike traffic I immediately felt charmed by Cambodia. The streets of Phnom Penh are quiet and almost silenced compared to the consistent honking and ruckus heard all over Colombo.

The temperature was hot, but it’s not too warm because the breeze cools cools my body inside my tuk-tuk. As we drive, I start silently reflecting on spending the past 50 days in the lovely, noisy, hustle of Sri Lanka.

Immediately I compare the two countries. Cambodia seems almost quite tame compared to Sri Lankan roads. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by driving through Sri Lanka, so the silence of Cambodia is welcomed and feels welcoming.

Tuk Tuk driver
My tuk-tuk from the Phnom Penh airport to my hostel, the Envoy Hostel

My tuk-tuk driver was adorable. At one point he picked up his phone and someone is singing to him on the other end. He tells me his friend always sings to him. It made me like him even more.

As we drive we swim through the motorbike, tuk-tuk, and car traffic. I started feeling excited to experience some quality me time, alone

But you are never really alone…

Bailey is a friend of mine whom I met in Northern Italy a few years ago. She told me the feeling  of being alone is a mentality. You can feel alone in a room full of 100 of your closest friends and family. Or you can feel connected in a bar filled with strangers. 

Little did I know, Bailey was right. Despite landing in Cambodia on my own, I immediately met other travelers and stayed with them for a few days or just for an afternoon.

I intended my time in Cambodia to be spent reflecting by myself, but I just couldn’t help it. I met some amazing people!

Phnom Penh

Image of a survivor of S-21 prison in Cambodia
Aisling on the left, myself on the right, and Chum May – one of the seven survivors of S-21 prison.

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon. I signed up for a tour to learn of Cambodia’s harrowing past and little did I find out, one of the girls in my group is Irish.

Not a big deal, but her cousin lives in Boston… and I know him. Small world, eh?

Read more about my post on the Genocide memorial  and killing fields here.

Phnom Penh was an incredible city with a lot to offer. From world-class markets, to dining experiences both local and with exceptional westernized restaurants, and with a thriving expat community, Phnom Penh has a ton to do and see.

I ended up exploring the city with suggestions from a Phnom Penh local. This local is also a local from my college, Keene State. Turns out, a girl I know years back has spent the past eight months teaching English in Phnom Penh.

She is pretty much a country expert. So, showing me around we jogged slowly around the city, dined out at some of her favorite Cambodian spots and went to an expat DJ night out. It was a good time all around!

From Phnom Penh to Kampot

By a friends suggestion, I took the 6hr and $7 train to Kampot. Since I love trains I knew this would be an adventure. Turns out, myself and one couple were the only people in my entire train cabin!

Phnom Penh Train
Empty train cabin from Phnom Penh to Kampot

Naturally, I chatted up a storm and since they didn’t book a hotel, we shared a taxi to mine, the Bohemiaz Resort and Spa and we traveled together for a few days.

Again, I anticipated spending a few days on my own, but had a great time exploring with Darcy, the Canadian who has been to 54 countries in his 38 years, and Bethany, a nurse on holiday who is spending two months exploring Asia.

Tuk Tuk in Kep

Kampot to Siem Reap

After three days exploring Bokor Mountain, the famed Kampot pepper farms, and a day trip to Koh Tonsay, we went our separate ways. Darcy and Beth headed towards Koh Rong Sanloem and I took a 12hr overnight bus from Siankouville to Siem Reap.

The overnight bus was great, I even had a private bed. Since we arrived at 8am I had a full day to explore Siem Reap. On arrival I hired a tuk-tuk and bought the 3-day pass for $64. Eager to brave the heat for my first 9hr day at the archeological site.

Angkor Wat

Again, I was feeling empowered from being on my own. It’s an exciting thing. You are free to meet anyone, not meet anyone, and spend the day as you please.

Despite planning to wander the ruins by myself, free to take pictures, sit and people/temple watch, I found another Bostonian and had a great time exploring with her.

Renting scooters we woke up for sunrise at Angkor Wat, explore Angkor Thom and visited some markets nearby.

Reflecting on 21 days, alone…

Yet again, despite anticipating being alone I found someone to travel with. We had an absolute blast and hopefully will meet up again in Boston this summer.

When people say they are traveling alone, they are taking a leap of faith by themselves. A leap of faith into the unknown, probably with resistance from family or friends, but they are doing it.

Once you take that leap, you aren’t actually alone, you can be with anyone, everyone, or no one, you have all the choice and freedom in the world. And that is the greatest feeling of being alone.

When you are alone, you don’t have atime-table to be anywhere, you set your own schedule. You don’t have to entertain anyone else. You just have yourself and the world at your fingertips.

I think everyone should take a vacation on their own. Spend two weeks regaining your independence and meeting strangers.

Lotus field
Found a lotus field outside Siem Reap

My adventures and ramblings through Europe, Australia, and now back the United States. I generally write from daily inspirations or from random thoughts.

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