Cambodia is an extraordinary country, where any budget, low, big or small can grant you to a fantastic journey. It is up to you to choose the type of comfort you want to have.
You can easily survive on less than $ 10 per day by being thrifty and adventurous. A traveller who prefers comfort and enjoys a little more refined pleasure can find a high quality accommodation for less than $ 50 per day. Just like everywhere else you can play the role of a millionaire and stay in a royal palace for more than $ 200 a night. Hostels start as low as $ 2. By adding a few dollars you add extra comfort such as air conditioning, cable TV, fridge and hot water for example. Feel free to negotiate for a discount especially if you visit Cambodia in the low season.
Cambodian cuisine is not as well-known as that of its neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam, but it can easily compete with the best foods of Asia. The street food begins at 25 cents or a real buffet for only a few dollars. There are several world-class restaurants in Siem Reap; a meal with wine is around 20 USD. The food is good and prices are cheap. Many tourists come here to relish the luxury life at a discount. We got out from our guesthouse imposed on us the day before, nothing to say, good or bad, for this hotel. We walk a little on the streets to discover the city. It is a beautiful and welcoming small green town.
There are beautiful bridges and parks all along the Siem Reap River that runs through all its length. Its architecture is a nice blend of his Khmer past, Chinese architecture and the French colonialism. Compact, you can easily discover its six major areas where the services and tourist attractions are concentrated. The Old Market area, the Wat Bo, the old French Quarter, the village Taphul, the road to Angkor and the road from the airport are easily accessible on foot or by tuk tuk. Several unnamed alleys hide some treasures of shops, restaurants and monuments. Visit leisurely without planning and you will have nice surprises.
We took a tuk tuk and went to the European guesthouse (www.european-guesthouse.com). The small and friendly hotel run by my friend Siri Aasheim ,a Norwegian, who was the subject of a previous article on this site. It was $ 2 for the ride. In fact everything is « one dollar » or « two dollars », you will see soon enough. A coke is a dollar, a dollar for a taxi, an ice cream for $ 1. Siem Reap is a gigantic $ 1 store.
Unfortunately my friend Siri went to Norway during the off season. Regardless, they offered us a room at a discount because the staffs were informed of our arrival. We were welcomed by a nice clean room furnished with air conditioned and TV for about $ 15 a night. I had a surprise while opening the balcony door. Our neighbours have a crocodile farm with hundreds of carnivores. It was not a good time to fall down when drunk. Cambodians like crocodile meat and make a variety of goods with their skin.
In the garden of the guesthouse, there is a small bar with comfortable couches where you can enrich yourself with the literature on tourism in Cambodia and the rest of Asia while sipping a cocktail or a beer. The staffs are available to help you choose from the dozens of activities posted on the walls. We reserved a driver to visit the Angkor temples the next morning for $ 15, there are several other possible activities, the floating village, visit an orphanage, waterfall, temple, farm silk and plenty more. Inquire at the counter of the hotel and they will take care of everything for an affordable price.
12:00 noon: we began on foot to explore the city. The city has markets with tons of interesting crafts, paintings, backpacks, vests, shoes and branded jeans. I am a big fan of shopping but I was tempted. However we took the time to bargain even though we knew that at the end we would still pay the ‘tourist price’, but still that’s « super savings ». We bought a “Northface vision 60” backpack that seems very fair for $ 12, three frames of a laminated picture of an elephant in front of the Angkor temple for 30 USD, branded cargo shorts for $ 15, etc. ..We came back with the backpack filled to its capacity of our purchases.
One thing that was a bit annoying, but endurable was the solicitation: the tuk tuk drivers emerged champions … every 2 minutes you will hear « tuk tuk sir, lady buy silk, Massage, one dollar. » We need to understand that this city is sustained by 80% of the tourism industry.
The Italian couple Simon and Frederica came to visit us to drink beer and chat. They finally spent the night at the same guesthouse as us and they subsequently went to the guesthouse where they already had reservations. They rented bikes and rode to the temple of Angkor. They forgot the sunscreen and they’re red like lobsters. From their comments I could tell it’s pretty strenuous to visit the temples this way.
9:30am: we were ready to board the carriage attached to Mr. Buntha’s motorbike. Mr. Buntha is a friendly driver-guide who decided to cancel his existing customers so that he could take us to the temple of Angkor. This really convenient ride consists of a little trailer hooked up to a motorcycle to provide a passenger cart. This allows the guide to serve both as a driver and guide while not worrying about transportation.
Visitors to the temple of Angkor, the vast majority of people who visit Cambodia, have to pay admission fees. The rates are at $ 20 for a one day admission, $ 40 for a 3 -day pass and $ 60 for a full week pass. Do not forget the cost of transportation to go near the ruins. There are many choices available: $ 2 to rent a bicycle, $6-$8 for a motorcycle with a driver, or as we did $ 10-15 $ for a trailer pulled by a motorcycle or a car for $ 25-30.
A 4 km ride from the city leads us to the great Angkor historical park. Along the way we saw: a children’s hospital financed by foreign organizations, some museums and several luxurious hotels. The government made efforts to revitalize and preserve the natural environment along the roads leading to its famous temple.
Mr. Buntan gave us a little « briefing » on the history of the temple and its great moments. We were sorry but our level of concentration under the sun was very limited. He had enriched us with minute details, many of which we would not have noticed.
Angkor temple siem Reap Cambodia a little theory:
Angkor Wat (Khmer) is a temple at Angkor in Cambodia, it was built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century to be the centre of the capital. It is the temple and the religious site best preserved of all and the largest religious building in the world. It was initially associated with the Hindu religion and his god Vishnu and then with Buddhism. This marvel of Khmer architecture has become a symbol of Cambodia, its main attraction that appears elsewhere even on its national flag. The site is administered by the private group Sokimex since 1990, which is leased by the Cambodian government. It’s a shame, because only 20% of revenue is redistributed to the association that takes care of the site (by UNESCO).
To learn more about the history and architecture of the Angkor Temple visit the official wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_Wat
The visit of the site was breath-taking; thousands of carved stone murals tell the story of the Khmer civilization and represent battle scenes, and celebration party. Take your time, there is no need to rush through every single artefacts to enjoy this wonder of the world. Walking through the temples of Angkor is a sport. There were steep ascents with each step as high as 40 cm. You have to experience it because the pictures do not speak. But the courageous climbers have beautiful landscapes to photograph. There are many temples to visit so it is your choice to plan according to your taste for adventure and thirst for history. I do not like to overload my visits with group guides that take away the spontaneity and unpredictability.
Ta Prohm is my favourite! Invaded by the jungle, big trees did a lot of damage on the stone walls. Many of these walls have cranes surrounding them as they are being restored. Nonetheless it was a wonderful visit and everyone should see it once in his lifetime, but for me an intense day in the temples was enough. I have been in South East Asia long enough and have seen enough temples.
Angkor temple Tips and stories:
- Visit during off peak hours, between 10am – 2am, because most of the tour groups would have returned to Siem Reap for lunch after visiting the site since the 5:30 am sunrise.
- The street vendors before entering the sites are a little aggressive in their sales; simply go into the sites immediately to avoid them
- Moving away from the major trails, we can make some great discoveries while avoiding the crowds.
- Keep youself hydrated, get plenty of water and food
- Use sunscreen , cover your head and wear cheap sunglasses
- Keep your valuables safe and your eyes open.
- Take a map to help find your way.
- Beware of scammers. We encountered two men in the temple who placed incense sticks and candles near a statue. They told us to put $ 5 each under a piece of cloth and make a wish with a stick of incense stating that « the money is for monks of the temple”. Everything happened too quickly and we did not even realise that the money probably ended up in their pockets … Real tourists!
- Going by the lake in between visits of the temples, two kids approached us. They were friendly and asked us where we were from. “Aah Singapore! Come and see our store after you are done ok?” When we returned to our motorcycle taxi the kids started to run at us yelling, « You are lying you promised us to see our shop, all the tourists from Singapore are bad tourists”. Really insulting.
- Pay attention to the monkey, they seem harmless, but they attack, one came up to my wife and snatched a can of Pepsi from her hands.
This was the end of the afternoon and it was time to return to the guesthouse.
The tourism circus, the Japanese and the Koreans, their noisy guides, all its wonders and the Sun had exhausted us.
Contact Mr Buntha (855) 92 93 33 64 [email protected]: an effective guide with a smile always curved on his lips.
9:30 am : we sat in Mr. Buntha’s trailer carriage for 45 minutes of « road trip » and travelled 20 km to the floating village on Tonle Sap;tThe largest lake of all the South East Asia. On the road, we saw motorbikes carrying huge pigs and dusty roadside stores out of nowhere. You do not need to drive far from the town of Siem Reap to reach the country side.
When we arrived at the dock we paid for the admission ticket to enter the village at $ 20 each because we would have our private boat. Aboard the boat and it sails on long channel-like mistaking a street campaign. We meet dozens of other boats of villagers, fishermen and tourist boats travelling the same canal. At the floating village, the houses, temples, schools, restaurants and even government buildings are built on bamboo rafts. Over 3000 Khmer people are perched over 6 meters of height. Mostly residents living in the heart of this freshwater passage are farmers and fisherman. Children play in this giant pool during the rainy season. The dry season leaves the houses perched high and motorbikes replace boats. During this time many families build temporary shelters near the lake. All the inhabitants live off fishing and producing fish paste with a strong odour, fermented fish, dried fish, and other product derived from fish.
You can visit the village, meet the students of the English class and visit the temple with its wonderful colourful Buddhist painting. We felt a little bad for not buying pencils sold by a dubious girl, but it’s like this.
The highlight of the day was the boat ride with the locals through the floating forest. For a fee of $ 5, which is shared among the various villagers involve in the program, it was a real wonderful experience. It’s not every day you meet people who live mainly on water and its resources.
We did not visit the underground of Siem Reap but there are probably many interesting places, but we visited the night market, which is a maze of merchandise of all kinds and especially the Khmer crafts at affordable prices. There are two bars where you can cool off, you can easily afford a « full body » oil massage for $ 8, a « fish » spa for $ 4 with a free beer and have small fishes eating the dead skin off your feet. It’s hard to endure, but the experience was fun.
You can have a good meal in a French restaurant (excellent beef tartare) or a Cambodian hotpot for less than $ 20 with a glass of red wine. Siem Reap has given a warm welcome; with friendly people, magnificent temples and great shopping at the best prices. Siem Reap, Cambodia we will be back soon, I hope.
http://pgcambodia.com/ – nice little guide that contains all relevant information and things to see in Cambodia, you will find it everywhere in shops and hotels.
There was a little scared on our way back home. We booked a one-way flight to Singapore on Jet Star carrier for the sum of $ 100 USD. We took off from the small airport in Siem Reap at 4:45 p.m. An hour later, while our plane was near Phnom Phen, a strange burning smell filled the plane. The plane shook as though it was in a perpetual turbulence. People started screaming as if the plane was in trouble. The pilot announced that they were not ready to land and they would have to turn around to go back to Siem Reap airport. The captain made an announcement: « because of a bad storm over Phnom Penh we will return to Siem Reap and return when the storm has ended.” We ended up arriving safely in Singapore even though we were delayed for 3 hours. I am sure that there was something wrong with the plane. This is really the first time in my life that I am scared by a plane ride … Jet Star sometimes gives some surprises.