Behind the Scenes in Cambodia With a Baby
I’m in Siem Reap, Cambodia as I write this. It’s sweaty work, travelling with a baby, but it’s also been amazing fun. Having him with us has opened up so many doors for us!
The perfect example, we were cycling along, the little dude in a baby seat behind him. People were totally polite, ‘hello, hello..’ then they’d see the kidlet and the excitement levels were off the hook! They were speaking Khmer but I’m pretty sure the gist was
‘OHMIBUDDAH there’s a baby on there! HELLO HELLO Good luck to yooouuu!!!!
You may have already seen some of these photos on Instagram (and if you haven’t, hop on over there, there’s more! I love Instagram!).
But I’ll be real here people and confirm that there are some downsides to travelling with a baby in a developing country. My summary of it is that it’s been much easier than I feared it may, but also slower than I had hoped.
(It’s possible that Instagram doesn’t tell the whole story).
Here are my top tips for Cambodia with a baby.
1. Slow right down
When I sent our proposed itinerary to an acquaintance who lives in Phnom Penh, he said ‘if you want loads of time to just chill then it should be fine.
‘Just chilling’ isn’t really how the hub and I do travel (in our year of travel in 2008 I think the longest we stayed in one place was a week). But we decided to take it slowly. And then discovered that we can do about half as much as kid-free travellers (on a good day).
So we’ve just embraced that, and spent more time than every before sitting by a pool drinking Angkor beers (not such a bad development, it turns out!).
2. Stay where you won’t feel stuck.
The boring reality of travelling with children is that they need to nap. The heat (and the noise, and the smells… and the monks with iPads sticking said iPads under the hood of the pram to take photos – true story) means that it’s difficult for the little dude to sleep that much when we’re out and about. And he (like me) needs his sleep.
So we’re trying to make sure that he gets some air conditioning for at least one sleep each day, and are therefore spending a fair bit of time in the hotel while he snoozes.
To compenate, I booked places where we won’t feel trapped while he’s sleeping. No more dorm rooms for this couple! Although maybe that’s not such a bad thing? Right now I’m writing this on the balcony next to the pool, little dude snoozing away in the room behind me.
3. Take a sling or carrier
I have a chip on my shoulder about the phrase ‘baby wearing’ as it makes me think of judgemental attachment parents. But then, I have a sling. So I guess I wear my baby. And now I’m suggesting you do the same! Ahh the irony. I promise, no judge-y attachment parenting here.
Travelling over here, the sling has been perfect for roads that aren’t pram friendly, and strapping him to me in tuk tuks (there aren’t any car seats in those things). Don’t find yourself stuck on an unpaved road with traffic all around and a pram that won’t move. Bring a sling (or an ergo, or a bjorn, or whatever).
4. Embrace the local love
Cambodians LOVE babies. Even 20-something year old guys are always trying to get a smile and a wave. In restaurants the waitresses take him into the kitchen to show him to the chefette, and generally people love that we’ve brought him with us. I figure, it’s all part of the experience. If he doesn’t like someone or cries when they play with him, then I rescue him, but if he’s happy then I let everyone play.
5. You can never have too many baby wipes. Never.
Seriously, we’ve gone through a lot. After a series of ill-fitting nappies (yep, you know what I’m talking about. We’ve had four ‘number 3’s’ so far!), a number of meals without high chairs (that just means mess on steroids) and a snotty nose, they’ve been the most useful item on the holiday.
In case you want to join me here later, here’s a bit more info on
Where we went, what we did, where we stayed.
Like I said, we travelled slowly, didn’t do too much each day, and stayed in places where it wasn’t a problem to be there while the dude slept.
Went: Phnom Penh
Stayed: The Plantation for the pool. And I liked it!
Ate and drank:
The Riverside night markets – we ate noodles and things on sticks, sitting on bamboo mats on the ground while the little dude crawled around making friends with everyone.
The FCC for drinks on a balcony overlooking the Mekong.
Romdeng, a Tree Alliance restaurant where they train the students, many of whom are former street kids, onsite, and profits continue to support community and youth organisations. We ate tarantulas!
The Plantation Pool-Side Bar while the dude slept.
Shabu Shabu hot pot, my new favourite restaurant of all time. It was like sushi train, but instead of sushi going around they had uncooked meat, dumplings, vegetables, and plenty of random things I didn’t recognise. In the middle of the table is a giant soup bowl on a stove top, so you pick from the train and cook it in the soup. So much fun.
The Killing Fields – really moving, wonderful, informative audio tour, finishing at a Stupa filled with victims’ skulls. You can’t help but feel the enormity of what happened.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – again, really moving, riveting photography and exhibitions, and touching, sad, brutal stories .
Central Market – my shoes broke and I tried to buy new flips flops. I was not able, as my feet seem to be man-sized in this country.
Yoga – where I learned a few things about myself (check out this picture on Instagram for more details).
Sunrise boat trip on the Mekong – a beautiful way to start the day. Tea and croissants on the river!
The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda – beautiful, but I feel a confusing array of emotions in places like that. A corrupt regime has an opulent palace covered in gold and silver, with high walls keeping out the disenfranchised local population in the surrounding area. And apparently we were lucky not to have been mugged on the way in or out.
Went: Siem Reap
Stayed: Navutu Dreams Resort. My number one criteria for accommodation was pools. I nailed it with this place. Three pools, a yoga studio (what??) and beautiful grounds. A bit out of town but they included a tuk tuk in the price which meant it was easy to get in, out and around.
Ate and drank:
Marum restaurant – sister to Romdeng in Phnom Penh, another one that benefits at-risk children.
FCC – totally ridunkulous. This place was way too colonial for me, but we met friends from the UK here, what are the chances we were all in Siem Reap (thanks Facebook for keeping us in touch).
Miss Wong – this place serves damn good cocktails!
Haven – where helping tastes good!
Angkor Wat, of course, daytime and sunrise. There are lots of temples in the area though, I absolutely loved Ta Prohm. Spend some time exploring if you can.
Angkor Wat Putt Putt! They have putt putt here! This was actually really fun, a very hard course, and we chatted to Tee, the owner, afterwards about how he went about coming up with the idea and building it from scratch. Inspirational, and such a nice guy.
This looks like we barely did anything while we were here, but that’s because we spent most of the time exploring
We got a taxi there for $40. I was braced for much worse! Much easier than taking the little dude on a 5ish hour bus trip.
Stayed: Battambang Resort – the friendliest owners!
Ate and Drank:
Jann Bai – I kept going back here because it was just so good! Plus it’s run by the Cambodia Childrens Trust, so another one where they’re putting money, jobs and support back into the community. Me and the little dude had a date while the big dude was bedridden with a dodgy tummy.
Bat Caves – at sunset millions (like, for real, millions) of bats fly out of this cave to go and eat for the night (is that what bats do at night?). It was a pretty phenomenal sight.
Wat Banan Temple – at the top of a big hill, this was a solid climb up but beautiful at the top. Watch out for monkeys!
PharePS Circus – Amazing. In an I’m-amazed-that-no-one-got-injured kind of way. Bad miming, absolutely amazing acrobats that left me wincing in my chair and some fire jump rope where they set the floor on fire. Incredible. This picture is a guy doing push ups over the flaming rope (you can see the spot where the floor’s on fire in the bottom pic). Look how high he was pushing up! Again: incredible.
Bamboo Train – this was cray cray. A flimsy bamboo mat, balanced on the ‘wheels’ that flew along at pretty high speed! It’s one track wide, so when you want to pass someone coming the opposite direction one of the ‘trains’ has to be dismantled.
Countryside bike ride through fishing villages and over the hanging bridge. This is the bike ride I mentioned where the little dude was hidden until people were next to him, when they got Very Excited! A really fun day out cruising through the fields and villages.
Went: Siem Reap take 2!
Yep, we’re back in Siem Reap for a few days before we fly to Thailand.
Stayed: Shinta Mani – nailed it again, this place is amazing. Highly recommend it.
Where we ate and what we did will follow in a later post, but I can tell you that it will include attending the national annual boat race to celebrate the king! We’ve found out team to support and I can’t wait to go hoarse from a supportive frenzy.
I hope that helps, and I’d love to hear your own travel tips!
Like this post? Get your FREE Cheat Sheet
50 Things To Do Right Now When You’re Bored!
… and receive regular updates as well 🙂