The main purpose of my visit to Cambodia was to see Angkor Wat the ancient capital of Khmer. Many years ago when l first saw a photo of the temples and ruins at Angkor Wat l knew l had to see them. Actually having that dream come true makes me feel so blessed and thankful at the opportunity. First impressions upon arrival in Siem Reap was that it was very dusty and poorer than Thailand the roads were bad and there were more beggars on the streets. It was also very cheap! Cambodia has its own currency the “riel” but all the shops and vendors prefer to use dollars as their own currency cannot be exchanged and is useless outside the country. It almost feels like you are in a dollar store as most things you want to buy is 1 dollar a fruit shake is a dollar a plate of noodles is a dollar and so on.
I stayed at the Siem Reap Hostel which is extremely nice with free cinema screenings several times a day a pool and .50 cent beers! They picked me up free of charge at the airport (the driver will try to get you to hire his services for a temple tour the next day. If you are a group of four I recommend doing this to support him or at least give him a tip. If you are a single traveler then you can sign up at the hostel for a spot on the daily tours and if four people go then it costs 5 dollars each) I arrived in the evening and the first night I briefly checked out the town and then went to bed early as l has signed up for a sunrise tour the next day leaving at 05:00am.
That first morning in the shared tuk tuk ride to Angkor Wat l met two guys that turned out to be my partners for my entire stay. We explored the temples and city, did food tours, watched movies and got drunk together for the rest of my time in Cambodia.
The first night together we wandered down a wrong alley and ended up making the acquaintance of a mismatched motley assortment of characters which under normal circumstances l might never have thought to befriend. But that’s the beauty of travel it pushes you out of your comfort zone and opens you up to new experiences! The evening went by in a whirlwind of Jagermeister, joints, magic tricks and all sorts of other things.
My time in Cambodia flew by and l found myself really wishing l could have slept more time exploring beyond Siem Reap but that just gives me more of a reason to return. Oh that and the fact that they make the best darn baguettes called “Nompang sak chrouk” its marinated pork with pickled papaya, spring onions, cucumber and this crazy secret sauce that will change your life! Seriously best baguette ever, I still have cravings….
Now for the practical stuff
How to get there
You can take a bus from Bangkok or Phnom Penh, but the roads are long and bad and the other travelers I met had some uncomfortable stories. If you have the time then you should do it just for the experience of a Asian land border crossing and all the craziness that might ensue. However you can also do what I did and take a flight with AirAsia they are the low cost airline in South East Asia and you can get some absolute bargains! I paid 80 euros for my return flight from Bangkok.
At the airport you will have no shortage of tuk tuk drivers who will be offering you a ride in their motorcycle tuk tuks. Standard fee is 5 dollars to the city centre. Siem Reap is a relatively small city and has a very nice feel to it, at night there are plenty of bars and street food as well as markets and a few supermarkets. Everything is within walking distance.
Where to stay
I can highly recommend Siem Reap Hostel I got a free airport pick up my dorm was only 8 dollars the common area is perfect for meeting others and they have loads of activities and excursions to join. I loved the movie nights and food tour. The best part though is that they hire locals! It makes a big difference to a community when jobs are provided for the people who live there, Cambodia is a extremely poor country and the hostel makes a special point to not just hire the backpackers that travel through looking for a free bed.
What to do
Image by Sasha
Of course the main attraction is Angkor Wat it is one of the wonders of the world and rightly so. To enter it is 37 dollars for a one day ticket or 62 for three days. Personally I would recommend getting the three day pass, after all you traveled across the world to see this site you might as well enjoy it. I would try to arrive for at least one sunset and sunrise which is another reason I recommend the three day pass. As for getting around I would get a private tuk tuk. when sharing the cost as I did it was only 5 dollars each and we were able to go from place to place quickly and always had our man waiting for us. Do tip them though!
Visit the Market and do a Food tour
Image by Bvi
In the centre of town is a food market which serves all kind of exotic fruits and foods, I signed up with a food tour at the hostel and we were assigned a local guide. This made a huge difference and we were able to learn about and taste so many things we would never have heard of otherwise!
The cost is 7 dollars and departs from the Siem Reap hostel at 2pm (even if you are not staying at the hostel you can still join). Price includes all food and a cold beer! Excellent value. Ask the guide for tips on how much things should cost as well in order to not get ripped off, and of course give him a tip, they really appreciate it!
Floating Forest and Village
Image by Chris
When l was visiting there was a draught and the floating village was no longer floating so I did not go. However if you go through July-January you can even canoe on the tree tops of submerged forests!
COST including tuk tuk and boat:
1 person $38
2 people $21 each
3 people $15 each
4 people $12 each
Visit Pub Street
Image by Tee
Yes its quite aptly called Pub street This is where everything happens at night! From hammocks to bean bags you can lounge around all night drinking cheap beer and listening to tunes or you can check out the clubs and dance the night away! Every cuisine and street food is available here as well.