Whilst Siem Reap is known mainly for its close proximity to the world famous Angkor Wat temple ruins, which I’ll be writing about in my next post, this town is worth visiting for plenty of other things besides incredible 11th century history lessons.
Catch a Giant Ibis bus from Phnom Penh for $15 (including onboard wifi and power sockets) or save money and get a Capitol Bus for $6 – no wifi or power sockets, but you’ll still get air conditioning and an assortment of random films playing on a small screen at the front. Jackie Chan’s greatest hits, anyone? The drive takes around 6-7 hours, depending on traffic, and you should get a couple of food and loo stops along the way.
|Cambodian roads are definitely less terrifying than Vietnamese ones.
Coming here after the madness of the sprawling city that is Phnom Penh is a welcome change of pace, because only a few minutes walk from the western bars and restaurants of Pub Street are plenty of quiet roads where you can find an affordable guesthouse for a decent night’s sleep. I’m currently staying at Blossoming Romduol Lodge, where $10 a night gets you a clean, comfortable, airconditioned sleeping spot- with free breakfasts and wifi. They’re actually building a pool at the moment but alas, I will be long gone by the time it’s done.
Whilst food and drink prices here are not dissimilar to those of the capital city, those of you looking to get pampered or splash out on a shopping spree would do well to wait until you arrive in Siem Reap. A full body massage can cost as little as $1, with most beauty treatments ranging between $1-$6 if you look away from the main street. Clothes, as always, are going to vary in price depending on how good your haggling skills are- but with tops, skirts, dresses and trousers generally selling for $1.50-$5 you won’t have to feel too guilty about coming home with bags and bags of stuff.
Just remember the weight allowance on your next flight when you’re hitting the night market after a few $1.50 margaritas!
|So. Many. Pretty. Things.
Siem Reap’s Angkor Night Market runs every day from 4pm until midnight and has over 200 stalls to browse, from trinket stands to beauty parlours, and features a variety of local food as well as a frozen yoghurt cafe.
By day, you can hire a bike or a tuktuk (with driver) to explore the town and its surroundings, with prices starting at $1 for a bike or $10 for a tuktuk (for the whole day!). Helmets are a little harder to come by, but some rental shops do have them so if you’re worried about safety, or about voiding your travel insurance, ask around and you should be able to source one- even if it takes a little while!
If you’re not keen on exploring unaided, there are plenty of cheap cycle tours locally that your guesthouse or hostel can help you book. Tours cover the famous temple sites only 7km away, or can take you to Tonle Sap lake, local markets and smaller Buddhist pagodas.
|Sweaty sweaty cycling.
Once you’ve taken in the scenery and bought plenty of things you don’t really need, head to Pub Street for seemingly endless happy hour deals at Temple Bar, Angkor What? and Cheers, or take it a little easier with after dinner drinks at Le Tigre De Papier or Red Piano. You can get food from just about any country in Siem Reap city centre, so whether you’re after a great local Amok curry or you fancy a massive mexican burrito, you won’t have to search for long.
Other bits of fun and tomfoolery include the Phare circus (all human, no animals involved!) for $18 a ticket or day trips out of town to Phnom Kulen national park, where you can see waterfalls and wildlife, as well as ancient fertility carvings…
Now, bear with me while I piece together a brief guide to Angkor Wat, and nearby ruins the Bayon temple and Ta Prohm! Our next logical blog-stop in the area awaits.