One of our annual August adventures took us to Cambodia, where we went temple hopping, pool lounging, and market haggling. Here’s a rundown of our adventure.
SIGHTS TO SEE:
The Angkor Archeological Park is the highlight of Siem Reap. Really, the town exists because of tourism to the Angkor region. It is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Our favorite temples:
Angkor Wat, because it is the largest religious monument in the world. As the leading attraction in Cambodia, Angkor Wat is on the country’s flag. The temple was originally created as a Hindu place of worship and was later converted to a Buddhist temple. These pictures really don’t do it justice.
Bayon for its picture perfect facade with stone faces
Ta Prohm for the tree growing inside (and the site of Tomb Raider filming)Phnom Bakheng for the sunset view. Go early enough to reach the roof for the best view.
WHAT TO DO:
All the markets! You can score a great deal on anything from a new suitcase to Buddhas to bamboo salad tongs. I still regret not getting a new roller bag for $15. However, we are set with a growing collection of Buddhas from our Asia travels. One of my favorite finds in Siem Reap is a bright-colored painting of Angkor Wat hanging in our bedroom. I love decorating our house with travel mementos and artwork. It serves as a daily reminder of these amazing experiences (and to remind me why we work so hard every day, so we can go on these trips!).
Soak in the sights and sounds. It is not often you can pull over your bike to watch a troop of monkeys snacking out of discarded zip lock snack bags…or move aside for elephants crossing the road. Slow down and watch how the people of Siem Reap live.
WHERE TO EAT:
To note: We somehow did NOT get sick, despite the lack of hygiene seen in restaurants. As always, don’t drink the water and stick to hot foods that were just cooked. And probably avoid the guy making smoothies on the corner who just picked his nose and then cut up fruit. Gag.
I have to say…slim pickings for really good food. We did stumble into Cafe Central off of Pub Street one day and it was just what we needed! A little a/c, cold drinks, and no mystery meat.There are plenty of street side food stands around Angkor Wat, if you’re more adventurous. I think packing snacks brought from home is a safer bet, but to each their own.
Pub Street is full of restaurants, if that’s your scene. It was a short tuk-tuk ride from our hotel, but loaded with tourists.Had we planned it out better, we would have made reservations at a teaching kitchen. The restaurant allows students to learn hospitality and cooking. It sounds like a great way to support the local community, but these spots book up in advance. Make a reservation!
WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed at the Sofitel, which is located very close to the Angkor Archeological Park. The service was top-notch, probably the best I’ve ever experienced! You can certainly get hotels at bargain prices, but since your money goes further here, why not have some comfortable accommodations? Room rates were close to a standard hotel in the U.S. It also helped that we traveled during wet season, which is far less popular. Turns out they were in a drought, so we only saw rain for a total of 15 minutes during our trip. Breakfast was included, which made the hotel worth it alone. Usually I think buffets are pretty germy, but this spread was fresh. Good thing we trekked around during the day to burn off the massive breakfast!There was more to the hotel than the pool, but apparently I liked it so much, that’s all I took photos of.
To get to the hotel, we used a van service. It was somewhat overpriced, but still cheap by U.S. standards. We ended up taking a tuk-tuk back to the airport, which was very reasonable and allowed for some more scenic back road travel. I would not recommend this option if you have a lot of luggage since there’s no place to put it.I do NOT recommend renting a bicycle to see the temples. Intense heat and humidity, dust, and wearing clothing to cover shoulders and knees made for a sweaty mess on day one. Lesson learned. Renting a tuk-tuk is about the same price, and you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Day two was much more pleasant.
Get your vaccinations and malaria pills before traveling. While we lucked out with mosquitoes, we still came prepared with 98% DEET bug spray, recommended by the travel doctor.You’ll need a pass to enter the Angkor Archeological Park, which at last check was $20 for 1 day, or $40 for any 3 days in a week. This must be purchased at the ticket office, which you’ll pass on your way into Angkor. You can’t miss it! Trust me: 3 days should leave you just about templed out. Temple fatigue is real!
US dollars are widely accepted. Be sure your bills are crisp and clean with no tears.
Bring smaller bills. We needed something small, and breaking a $20 was a challenge for the knock off 7-Eleven.It gets HOT! We found the best plan of action was to fuel up on the massive breakfast buffet, check out temples, then come back in early afternoon when the sun got to be unbearable. That was a perfect time to hit the pool, drink out of a coconut, and rest before checking out the night markets and seeking identifiable meat for dinner.
And there you have it! A week in Siem Reap. It’s hard to capture the grandiosity of these temples in picture form, but here’s a whole bunch more photos to try and convey it.