Nooo, I'm not talking about drugs!!! I'm talking about practical…
While Phnom Penh may be the capital of Cambodia, the true tourist gems are in Siem Reap. If you had a limited time and had to choose Phnom Penh or Siem Reap to visit, choose the latter. Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre for a reason.
In fact, because Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia, you should be able to get even cheaper rates of Tuk Tuk in Siem Reap. Visit Vithei Charles De Gaulle and the road has a lot of nice resorts there.
This post will focus on Siem Reap (Days 2 and 3). For information on Phnom Penh and general tips about Cambodia, please visit: http://ryanzlee.com/2015/06/surviving-the-cambodian-heat-phnom-penh
Tuk Tuk: for day 3, we hired a guy by the name of Savorn for USD 15 to go around Angkor Wat and nearby temples. Very nice guy, I really like him. Looks innocent. In fact I told him he reminded me of Winnie the Pooh. In case you guys want to hire him, you can wechat him (ID: Jame-7777) and tell him I referred you. Or you can call him Pooh… that’s what I nicknamed him anyway.
Giant Ibis Transportation: we took a morning bus from Siem Reap back to Phnom Penh. About a 6 hour ride including stops. The bus back did not include beds like the night buses… you have to be sitting on bus seats. Website: http://www.giantibis.com/
Accommodation: Sarai Resort & Spa. P.O. Box 93193, Wat Damnak VIllage, Sangkat Sala Komreuk, Siem Reap City, Kingdom of Cambodia. Tel: +855 (0)63-962-200. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.sarairesort.com.
A resort that is 10 mins away from the night market, it offers itself close proximity to the tourist center but also far enough to be in the quiet. The first impression is the white exterior of the marvelous resort. You are then greeted by excellent service, a tempting swimming pool, followed by the exquisite Moroccan decor. This place is wonderful. I highly recommend this place. The breakfast is included, and the restaurant there is legit. They can also arrange transportation for you to go to the Giant Ibis center at Siem Reap.
We arrived at Siem Reap Giant Ibis office (from Phnom Penh) at about 6:00 am. Immediately right after we got off the bus, a swarm of tuk tuk drivers began asking us to see if we needed a driver. Originally I refused to accept any of the drivers as I always think the ones near these pick up destinations are a rip off. But seeing no transportation in sight, especially this early in the morning, we negotiated down to USD 20 with the driver to take us to Banteay Srei. He did say it was going to be very far and therefore this price. We did however arranged a driver for the next day to see Angkor Wat and nearby temples for only USD 15 so I thought it was a rip off. Well, turns out Banteay Srei was much further than Angkor Wat so I guess it made up the price difference? I hated the fact that he kept trying to sell us to try to see more temples at an extra cost. It really destroyed my trust in him as I felt all he was trying to do was scheme as much money as he can. An aggressive salesperson, one would say he is.
Our first stop was at a local restaurant for breakfast… well it was kind of local, but not really. It was those kind of restaurants where you felt that their main diners were those tourist groups who come and visit, and you still have a pay a moderate price but the food is below mediocre. And that’s exactly what we got… USD 7 for noodles that weren’t tasty at all. Disappointed.
But no matter. After a long time, we finally arrived at Banteay Srei, one of the oldest temples. Its built in 967 A.D. to dedicate to the Hindu god Shiva. Translated in English, Banteay Srei meant Citadel of Women. Here are the pictures of Banteay Srei:
We visited another temple that was near Banteay Srei since it was along the way.
Tired, sweaty, dirty and exhausted (since I couldn’t get much sleep on the bus), we opted to go back to our hotel and leave our luggage there first. We got to Sarai Resort and Spa by around 12pm. Normally the check in time for Sarai Resort and Spa was 2pm, but luckily for us someone had already checked out and so we were able to move into our room a bit early. Once that was done, a one hour nap was due followed by a quick lunch in their restaurant, Goat Tree. The restaurant is so called named because “goats climbing trees is not a rare sight in Morocco” (Sarai Resort & Spa). Actually, the restaurant turned out to be one of the better places to eat throughout the restaurants we went to. Anyway, we ordered a dish of Salmon Carpaccio.
Feeling more energized and satiated, we took a Tuk Tuk (USD 1, 5 minute ride) to Old Market and Pub Street. Old Market was a treasure for the comfortable pants, tank tops, and cheap clothing. Of course, you have to bargain in Old Market. At Pub Street there were a lot of different places to eat, and also bars as well. Actually, The Red Piano, located on Pub Street, was where Angelina Jolie hung out when she was filming Tomb Raider. We didn’t go there though.
Bargaining and walking around under the hot sun was making us very exhausted, so we decided to go to the very well known Bodia Spa. Actually, the spa was really good. Very professional at a decent price, and the ambience was fitting.
We finished the spa at about 6pm and being the pigs we were, we went to eat… again! This time, we headed over to the touristy recommended The Blue Pumpkin. They had pastries and main meals and desserts and stuff. Upstairs at the cafe, you were sitting on huge sofa/bed like seats, and the tables were like hospital tables and you just put your whole body on the seats. It was super comfortable and relaxing!
Walked around a bit more on Pub Street and night market, and then we walked back to our resort. We wanted to go for a midnight swim and tried setting up an alarm at 11:45pm, but obviously that failed. We were asleep by 10pm already… zzz…
Woke up, got ready, ate breakfast at Goat Tree (unlimited fruit juice!), and met up with our driver at 8:45am. We booked this driver through wechat and agreed on an original price of USD 15 (although we later paid USD 20 since he took us back from Angkor Wat to our hotel then back to watch the sunset near Angkor Wat. This does not include the tip that we gave.) In case you want to hire him, his wechat ID is Jame-7777, and I nicknamed him Pooh (as in Winnie the Pooh).
Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. It is “a temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world” (Wikipedia). Angkor Wat means City of Temples.
The following pictures are from Banteay Kdei:
We stopped by a local restaurant to replenish ourselves. USD 4 for instant noodles and vegetables. Go figure.
Anyway after a short rest, we went to Ta Prohm, where part of Tomb Raider was filmed:
OK we couldn’t stand the heat anymore, so we decided to tell the driver to stop by FCC (Foreign Correspondent’s Club) since we thought it looked nice and ate an afternoon tea there. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel, swam, and ate some stuff.
The driver picked us up at 4pm and we headed to Phnom Bakheng. We had to go early in order to beat the crowd or otherwise we’d be standing in line and we would miss the sunset. However, a little before 5:30pm, the sun was too hot for us, and just as the sun was setting we decided to leave.
Enough with seeing temples, and feeling beaten by the sun, we picked a restaurant called L’Annexe. Superb restaurant. French food. Amazing. I highly recommend you to go.
We tipped our driver quite a bit (about USD 3) and I think he was so happy to get USD 23 for the day. Originally he was supposed to take off after dropping us off at L’Annexe, but he offered to drive us back to the hotel after the meal. He came at about 7:30pm and drove us back to the hotel. We slept early as we had an early bus to catch to the next morning to go back to Siem Reap (bus left at 7:45am).
So that was our two days at Siem Reap! Do the pictures of Angkor Wat and the other temples make you want to go there? Comment below!
Other Things to Do
Silk workshops at Artisans Angkor Silk Farm – Open daily from 8am to 5:30pm
Craft workshops – Siem Reap center, near Old Market. Open daily from 7:30am to 6:30pm
Bugs Cafe – Cambodians say that insects are high in protein and a great alternative to our normal diet. You can go to this restaurant to try it yourself.
Phare, the Cambodian Circus – highly rated performance