This isn’t a ordinary article.
This is a quick guide that I decided to share with you, in case you are thinking about traveling to Siem Reap.
This is the guide I wish I’d read before heading to Cambodia.
I went to Siem Reap straight from Malaysia, without discovering other cities in Cambodia. This is something I regret: only a few days in Siem Reap was enough to find out how amazing this country is, and how much I was missing out by staying here so little time and in only one city (#bojio). Hopefully, next time I’m back in Asia I’ll save more time to explore this fantastic destination. Now, to the guide:
Where to Stay
Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, we chose a very nice boutique hotel in the Salar Kanseng Village, a little far from the touristic downtown of the city. The area was quiet and very quaint, and the tuk-tuk ride to downtown was only U$D 2.
But, if I were to return again (and I hope I am!) I would choose to stay near the night market and Pub Street, where the action is.
Hostels, bars, French bakeries, and cafés. Downtown Siem Reap has a little of everything and keeps the flame going even very late at night. It was a great feeling to see young people going out and celebrating again, and joining them for a beer or a drink felt even better. We even found this great pub hiding in the middle of Downtown: Picasso. Served by their owners, they offer a lot of delicious cocktails and tapas. Maxi ordered their olived two days in a row, and I fell in love with their “Jamaica Me Crazy” (Of course I chose it because of that name!)
As you can see in this image, there are two circuits. The Small, and the Large one. Of course, many temples and monuments are left out of this tour. But if you only have a few days (like we did), exploring these two circuits give you the chance to dig deep in the Khmer legacy in a short period of time.
The small circuit was the first one we did. We left the hotel at 4:30 am in order to go buy our tickets (see image below). They cost U$D 40 for three days of use within a week. After that time, they expire. Even if it was pitch black outside, the ticket center was very crowded: a lot of people wanted to see the sunrise at the Angkor. We collected ours, bought an iced coffee and jumped on the tuk-tuk ready to start the adventure.
On the first day, we saw the biggest two temples: Angkor Wat and Bayon. There’s no point in me describing how beautiful these were, I’ll add some pictures but I really encourage you to see them yourself! We also saw some smaller temples, walked over 20 thousand steps, and finished our tour in Ta Prohm (famous because of the Tomb Raider movies.)
On day two, we started a little more relaxed. The temples we saw were incredibly beautiful as well, especially Preah Khan. With its crazy structures and trees growing inside, it remains an unforgettable postcard of a legendary time that I will treasure forever.
You can choose between a wide array of options: cars, tuk tuks, renting a motorbike, even renting a bike and get your legs to work. But there are several factors to keep in mind, and ultimately, this can determine how your experience turns out to be. The price really varies between one alternative and the other. Renting a car can cost up to U$D 40/day. The tuk tuk tour was U$D 18, including the service of the driver who waited for us outside of each temple (sleeping in a hammock that they improvise inside the vehicle, something enviable!). Finally, bikes cost between U$D 4-8 a day. This is definitely the cheapest alternative, but I only recommend it if you’re very fit/in shape – since you’ll be biking 12-20 km a day in very humid and hot weather.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
- Try to avoid the monsoon season. We didn’t and ended up riding our tuk-tuk under heavy rain, missing on sunsets and sunrises, and more. Plan ahead!
- If you can, stay more days than us. We just did 3 days, and while it was enough to see the temples and explore downtown, I think that a week could be perfect to really explore this small city.
- Alcohol here is very cheap. Don’t buy ahead (in Duty-Free, for example) like you would do in a Muslim country like Malaysia.
- Don’t be afraid to try local Khmer delicacies. The fish amok is one of the tastiest things I’ve ever had! We also tried Cambodian BBQ, which included alligator and shark. Yum!
This is my first guide on a South East Asia city and I’ve been here for almost two months – What a shame! I promise to write more often if you promise to read these when I push them out. Okay? Okay.