Ever just gone out on a whim and booked flights to see places you had only dreamed about visiting?
Most people don’t, but this year I wanted to do something spontaneous and decided to book flights to two places I had always wanted to visit: Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Brunei Darussalam.
Cambodia has always been a popular tourist destination for backpackers, but many head to Siem Reap, the gateway to the ruins of Angkor Wat, instead of the capital, Phnom Penh. My main reason for wanting to visit Phnom Penh stems from wanting to learn more about the Khmer Rouge regime, which was responsible for the worst mass killings of the 20th century that ultimately claimed up to two million lives.
During my time in Phnom Penh, I was able to learn more about Cambodia’s recent history, and I met a lot of very friendly locals who helped me on my way. Some tips I picked up in Phnom Penh include:
- Take fresh, crisp American dollars in smaller donations as some places can’t break larger notes or won’t accept them
- Get ready to negotiate with tuk tuk drivers. Ask more than one driver to compare prices. They will definitely charge more since you are a tourist
- Take a bus tour to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center (Killing Fields) since it is further away from the city, and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
- Hire a tuk tuk for the day to travel around the central part of the city
- Check out the night markets, and surprisingly Aeon Mall is a very popular place to hang out for locals
- Make friends with a local, and get them to show you around the city on their motorbike
My next destination was Brunei Darussalam, a very rich oil nation where everyone pretty much has a car, and petrol is dirt cheap! One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Brunei Darussalam other than explore the city centre was to travel to Kota Kinabalu by bus (a tiring 10 hours!) so I could collect almost 8 stamps in my passport. Bruneians are very welcoming, and will go out of their way to help. Some tips I picked up in Brunei Darussalam include:
- You can use Singaporean dollars in Brunei Darussalam as it is dollar for dollar
- The best part of my trip was hiring a boat and visiting the Kampong Ayer or the Water Village where more than 39000 people live
- You can walk around most of the tourist sites in the central part of the city. A highlight was Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
- Accommodation can be expensive for backpackers but there are cheap hostels in the central part of the city
My trips to Cambodia and Brunei Darussalam have made me want to travel to a few more countries around Asia. Thankfully the ICC has a number of travel guides that you can use to plan your trip too! If you would like to broaden your horizons by taking a spontaneous trip abroad, come and check out these guidebooks and start planning!
K. U. (Student Staff Leader)