Cambodia, you have my heart.
I spent 5 wonderful days in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I was NOT prepared for its amazingness, especially when I visited Angkor Wat. So much beauty, nature and history in such a small country.
We stayed at Golden Temple Villa upon recommendation from my mother, who visited in 2009. I booked a triple room, which included 3 beds, air conditioner, a fan, a mini fridge, and an ensuite. It was rather comfortable, and we loved it. The reception & staff there were absolutely wonderful – their service was MINT. We were welcomed with some ice cold lemon tea when we arrived, and by George, it was delicious – we even asked for more during the course of our stay.
Golden Temple Villa also has a restaurant – we ate there for the majority of our time in Siem Reap. I was gobsmacked at how cheap their meals were – you could get a plate of banana pancake (it’s large, mind you!) and a nice cold banana milkshake for a total of approximately $US 5! All of their meals are made and cooked straight away, and they do take pride in their cooking. Their Khmer meals were rather delicious – probably my newest favourite Asian cuisine to date!
Siem Reap is quiet during day time, however you can explore the Old Markets and haggle for bargains. The town comes to life at night time, which was a whole new experience for us, as there was more people around, more shops & markets open and its infamous Pub Street was filled to the brim with hawker stalls, restaurants, pubs and the like.
At night time, when you have had a meal at one of pubs or restaurants on Pub Street, you can have a wander at their Night Markets, where you can also haggle for a bargain…although, there are a couple of stalls where they will just be firm with their prices. I’ve found market shopping to be a tad more expensive in Cambodia than in other Southeast Asian countries – more of that to come in next post. Maybe it’s because they use American currency…
Speaking of American currency, it is advisable that you have some on you for your time in Cambodia, as their Khmer currency is pretty much worthless. Make sure you take enough out to last you for at least 5 days because their ATMs charge you $US 5 for every withdrawal. Ouch.
We got up at an ungodly hour of 4am, so we could witness the sunrise at Angkor Wat. It was well worth the experience because it was not like any other sunrises I’ve seen before. Angkor Wat is a gorgeous temple. So old yet so beautiful. When we were there, I had never seen SO many tourists in one place trying to get a good photo of the sunrise. Unbelievable.
Our tuktuk driver took us to the Bayon Temple, which was yet another gorgeous temple. It’s my favourite so far…although there’s heaps more temples I’m yet to explore.
We discovered later on that we could have had a tuktuk driver for much less…the one we had, he charged us US$ 30…yep, we got ripped off. Could have had a tuktuk driver for less than US$ 15. Oh well…a lesson learnt.
I loved the tuktuk experience in Siem Reap. I’d do it all over again.
A friend suggested for us to check out Phare, the Cambodian Circus. We grabbed seats for $US 15 each. We loved it sick! The circus was very visual, and they had songs translated to Cambodian, English and French on their screens which was very accessible. A sign language interpreter was not necessary – we could understand the circus act. We got to see Eclipse, which is about a disabled man who wishes to join the circus but is discriminated. Such a moving story with some humour. Everyone in the circus are unbelievably talented – I was constantly gobsmacked. I would suggest for those who are visiting Siem Reap to go and see one of their circus shows one night – you cannot miss it! An unique experience too.
We decided to check out the Cambodian War Museum. $5 entry fee, but worth visiting. I’m sure you’ve all heard/read of Cambodian war and the hardships the country has suffered for so long. The war museum is quite profound, especially with photos of survivors, etc. There are some firearms which you can hold.
Next up, Thailand!