Part of the journey to Siem Reap involved driving back over the same road we came in on the previous night in the dark – albeit much less stressful in the light of day, although much easier to draw attention to ourselves and our bright orange landcruiser.

One of the challenges of this trip happens to be hunting down an eatery outside of the main tourist traps, we went for the lucky dip approach and pulled in where a bunch of ladies were sat around a large wooden table sorting their herbs out.

I sat down whilst Joe went to the loo, and an older Khmer lady came over and leaned across the table so her face was about 10cm away from mine, chattering away while I smiled stupidly. A few others and a little girl joined, sitting down at our table, and when Joe returned I was surrounded. The little girl scuttled off to finish her homework and came back with a shred of paper which she handed to me ‘what food do you like?’

Her job was done – she grabbed her books and her corn cob and bounded off to school.

The universal fried rice and coca cola was ordered and the first lady stayed seated with us to ensure we ate the cob of corn she’d just handed us…it's the little stops like these that make the trip memorable!

We drive on for the rest of the day until we reach Siem Reap (which literally means Siam Defeated, tactful guys!).

What a cool little town. Its major drawcard is the kilometres of meandering temples at Angkor Wat and around, but its nightlife is pumping and it’s a stones throw from Tonle Sap too - Asia’s biggest freshwater lake which has swelled to maximum proportions thanks to the rainy season. There’s water everywhere here right now – I imagine a birds eye view would look like a giant puddle.

We tried to do everything here. We dedicated a whole day to Angkor Wat, the ambience of which was undermined by the massive barney we had about cycling vs tuk tuk (I dug my heels in on heat vs. distance vs. laziness).

By temple four we were feeling a little templed-out, and couldn’t face another small child circling and chirping ‘bracelet, bracelet, postcard, two dollar, ten for two dollar, ok, ok, for you 10 for one dollar.’ (It’s hard to keep your patience with them, but I know they’re not doing it for fun). You could spend days exploring these temples and surrounding parklands - they're amazing, and every site is different.

We also booked in for a Khmer cooking course at Le Tigere de Papiere the next day so Joe could expand his 3 dish repertoire to include Khmer yellow curry and spring rolls (I made a Tom Yam, but my main dish of Khmer woodfired eggplant and chicken was all over the Mediterranean!) We even tried to squeeze in a cruise on Tonle Sap, but were blighted by timings, and hit the road instead to make it to Kompong Cham, arriving once more in the dark.

We woke up yesterday to two things of beauty - the mighty Mekong river bustling past at a speed of knots– and a clean car (someone had washed Bob down for the handsome sum of 5000 riel!)

We hired bikes with the aim of cycling along the banks of the Mekong and over to a massive island. We eventually found a ferry (two canoes held together with a flat bamboo platform, tethered to a tree on the riverbank) and an old lady with a basket sat on a chair, waiting. We must have got the timetable right because just as we rocked up so did the other 10 people required to make the journey viable. We piled on and across the circling currents to the island, and cycled around its dirt tracks between rice paddies and tobacco plantations, before finding another ‘ferry’ back to Kompong Cham. A schoolgirl practised her English on Joe, and looked a little pertubed that I was there!

Another afternoon of driving brought us north on the new elevated roads up the Mekong towards Laos, to a town called Kratie, where we sat by the riverside with a few beers and watched the sunset over the Mekong. It was spectacular - Joe promises to put the photos on facebook soon...

It's hard to explain why Cambodia is shaping up to be my favourite country so far but I’d say it’s got a lot to do with the ego-stroking charm of every face which has smiled back at me in the last five days, not to mention those who’ve yelled 'Helllloooo I love youuuu!!!' as we’ve driven past their house. I feel so safe and welcome here. I love driving through the villages and seeing everyone in the thick of their day to day - and even those snoozing in a hammock by the roadside at noon.

I think it’s also because it’s just so dead easy to enjoy being here. Perhaps I imagined Cambodia’s horrific (and not so distant) past and its poverty would make it a confronting place to visit; and to be fair it is – it’s a very poor country that’s been to hell and back, and has the amputees and one of the youngest populations to prove it. The whole country must be riddled with stories of tradgedy, and yet, they’re the most stoicley happy bunch I’ve ever met. Although we don’t have time on this trip, I’d love to come back here with the right visa and spend some time working with the people – and exploring more of the nooks and crannies of this amazing little country.