I’ll be posting details of every place we went to, but figured since I already gave a little update from Siem Reap, Cambodia, while we were still traveling might as well put the recap and the trip details here along with more pictures (which I’ll sprinkle throughout this post).
No flight costs on these reviews, since we had booked everything together: Manila> Bangkok> Chiang Mai> Siem Reap> Ho Chi Minh> Manila
Money: DO NOT CHANGE YOUR DOLLARS TO THE LOCAL CURRENCY! Everything there was dealt in dollars: the tuk-tuk rides, markets, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, etc, so if you’re off to Siem Reap, make sure to bring dollars! Places also barely accept credit cards, so bring enough cash with you.
Siem Reap, is still a fairly small town, and though it’s full (FULL!) of expats, it’s super-cheap.
The only time we ever touched the Cambodian Riel was when getting change – there were no US coins, so anytime change was less than a dollar we would get a bunch of Riels (which we kept a few, because they’re pretty, and sadly not worth more than a few cents).
Hotel: I used agoda.com again to book our rooms. We stayed at the Mekong Angkor Palace Hotel, after reading a ton of positive reviews. For about $30 a night, with AC, hot shower, pool, free breakfast and wifi, it was a great deal. The hotel was no luxury, but it was nice enough for us, and the location was unbeatable: we were only a 5-10 minute walk to the markets and pub street (where most of the restaurants are), but in a quiet enough location that we could actually get some sleep (and we were also right next to a little supermarket, which was super-convenient!). They also offered a free airport pick up by tuk-tuk (you just have to email them your flight details).
I didn’t take any pictures of the hotel room (I seem to mess them up before I think of taking pictures!) but I did take pictures of the hotel pool area, which was VERY nice:
Getting Around: I really really really recommend that you stay on or near the end of Sivatha Rd, making sure you’re walking distance to the Old Market area. If you’re there, you can pretty much walk anywhere you need to go (except to see the temples, but regardless of where you stay, you won’t be walking distance to them, so it’s best to make your location convenient to everything else).
There are a TON of brand new swanky hotels along Airport Road, but those are NOT walking distance to anything and you will need to negotiate with tuk-tuks every time you step out of your hotel, which can get tiring.
As for getting to the ruins, we got a tour guide to show us around, and I recommend getting one too. For $70 flat we got a van with AC and a tour guide. It is definitely a lot cheaper taking a tuk-tuk, but on super hot days (a.k.a. everyday) it will feel really nice getting a short break from the heat, because it was brutal (I’m Brazilian and live in Manila, so you can trust me when I say the heat was brutal – when I’m not running, it takes a lot of heat to bother me).
Food: You can eat dinner for $3/person, or if you want something fancy, you’ll drop about $6/person. It was definitely the cheapest place we visited. There are many restaurants in and around pub street, and we had really great food every day. You can even find Mexican food, if Khmer food is not your thing. Here it was also easier finding food that was not spicy, unlike Thailand when even the non-spicy stuff is spicy.
Keep in mind also that in the middle of the open-air night markets, there would be outdoor restaurants and bars. Some of them had great atmosphere (definitely not what you expect in the middle of a market!), so explore a little bit before committing to a place to eat.
Shopping: Markets galore! There were a bunch of different night markets, day markets and the whatnot. A lot of things were very similar to what we saw in Thailand, but there was still a few things that were new to us. I got a couple of paintings and t-shirts to bring back home. Like every other market in Asia, make sure to bargain. Just keep in mind Cambodian people are nice. Soooooo nice. So it makes it harder to bargain with them!
Sightseeing: I’m mentioning this last, but we all know you (or I!) didn’t go to Siem Reap to go shopping! Of course, if you’re in Siem Reap, you’re here to visit Angkor Wat. There are a ton of places to go to, which can get overwhelming, but definitely see Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm.
It’s another reason why a tour guide can be useful – not only is he telling you the background story of all the temples, but he’s also finding the best route to get you there, and what is worth seeing, what is worth skipping based on the time that you have (and no, he won’t make you skip any of the four major ones I mentioned above).
When figuring out your budget for Siem Reap, make sure to budget money for the entrance fees as well. The day passes are not cheap, we spent about $20 per person (if I remember it correctly), and they will ask for your pass before going in to each of these sights, so don’t think you can skip in paying (not that you should, as the money obviously goes towards conservation of the temples and the grounds). You can also buy multiple-day or weekly passes if you don’t want to see everything in one day.
Honestly, you can get everything done in one day, which is what we did. It is tiring as hell, and towards the end you just don’t want to climb another set of stairs… but I’m glad we knocked it all in one day and had the next day to explore the town of Siem Reap, and relax a bit more.
If you look at the pictures, you’ll see sometimes my shoulders are covered, others they’re bare. It was hot as _____ (fill it in with whatever your favorite expletive is), but you do need to cover your shoulders for some of the temples. I brought a shrug which worked perfectly for that.
When you go sightseeing, make sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. I forgot the sunglasses at the hotel because it was cloudy when we left (but not so much an hour later), but don’t make the same mistake I did.
Ah, and don’t forget that for $15 you can also get a 20 minute ride on an elephant. We didn’t take that, since we were still spoiled after spending a day with them.
Siem Reap is definitely a “must go” place in Southeast Asia. It’s completely different than anything you’ve seen.
And the ride back to the airport should cost you only $5 per tuk-tuk.