Pen On Pen // Phnom Penh

Roadtrips have a strange beauty to them..

It is very rare that travelers who venture to South East Asia get to experience the open roads within each country let alone the ones that connect to their neighbours. Admittedly, I understood why. Vietnam-Cambodia buses are by no means the quickest mode of transport. The routes are however, habitually traveled by locals, and having an insight by the lovely Kim from Ho Chi Minh City really helped. Although we did not reach Cambodia by any faster means, we did however, travel in pure luxury with both Vietnamese and Cambodian nationals. It took a good few hours with multiple stops, strange roadside treats and an explicitly confusing border which left us without our passports for majority of the journey; but I would not have traded a single kilometer on the road for a mile in the sky.

Roadtrips have a strange beauty in that the landscapes change with each kilometer traveled, this journey in particular revealed the vast social, economic and political differences that separate Cambodia from Vietnam, apart from the obvious border crossing – its very unique journey to experience.

“There are far, far better things that lie ahead, than any we leave behind.”

C.S. Lewis

I had this illusion of Cambodia being an almost carbon copy of Vietnam, but these two countries have no comparison. I’ve seen some pretty busy cities along my travels and although Phnom Penh is not the most populated place, it feels populated because there is just so much happening within each square meter of this unpronounceable capital city. Its a wonderful sort of busy, the kind that makes walking around 5km and up countless stairs in rain and humidity with 39°C and a heavy backpack within the first hour of arriving, worth it.


Our couple days in Phnom Penh were spent with endlessly special tales of Cambodian history and its citizens through their beautiful people and memorial sites. Choeung Ek, just outside of Phnom Penh is a bittersweet place to start. It is completely depressing, there is no way around it but it gives you a good understanding of exactly how much the Cambodian people have overcome in recent history  and why they are such a beautiful nation that has grown from the worst of the worst to somehow still smile and be so unbelievably respectful to fellow humans. This quality was seen in each Cambodian I had the pleasure of speaking with over delicious food and along long walks in the city – and its a quality that paved the way for my inevitable love for this beautiful country and its people.

Phnom Penh is dotted with some seriously gorgeous architecture and national monuments. Within a small radius near the lake you are able to spot all the notable buildings often seen attached to Phnom Penh. Being the people Sharzy and I are however, we obviously went off of the notable list and ventured into the unknown. Local markets left us slightly less hungry and Buddhist monasteries left us amazed yet, bizarrely confused (if you find yourself in Phnom Penh and able to find the door beneath the Sanskrit pictured below – you will understand why I look as though I’m walking away from one of the strangest yet best experiences of my life).

Pen On Pen//Phnom Penh, you were a beautiful chaotic city of life and history.

Next stop, Siem Reap.


From Cambodia to Vietnam

Re-united after 4 years. Here begins the the tale of how Sharzy and Karina backpacked two South East Asian countries with zero plans other than flight tickets to Ho Chi Minh and another from Angkor to Hanoi. . .

Like any tale worthy of being told, you need a good place to start and looking back, Vietnam was a little over-qualified for the job.

I’m not sure which story made this trip turn out to be one of my favourite backpacking trips of all time but it could be,

  1. How we accidentally broke a world record in Angkor Wat;
  2. The fates which led us to meeting some of the most incredible humans;
  3. Ways in which you can order the most descriptive thing on the menu to avoid disappointment but yet still somehow manage to gag a little and perhaps cry.
  4. How a simple Sanskrit sentence led us to the finding of one actual Buddha eyebrow hair;
  5. But definitely maybe (for certain) the tale of how two girls broke every single cardinal rule of travelling in Vietnam.

I can say that I have never found a more bizarre place to travel. Bizarre in the sense I had absolutely no expectation but somehow everything still managed to exceed the idea of expectation.

Our tales are numerous and I have no choice but to share some of our day to day adventures, because quite frankly its another part of the world that managed to steal a part of my heart.