12/02/2018 – 14/02/2018
In February I had some time off work for Tết holiday so travelled to bordering Cambodia, which you can read more about in my last post. My first stop was the most well-known city in Cambodia, Siem Reap, followed by Phnom Penh, Koh Rong, and Koh Rong Samloem.
After a long day in Hanoi, with a sketchy time on gold street getting dollars (I’d been scared into thinking the ATMs and exchange places would be closed because of Tet), a dicey time at the salon (getting a bikini wax is scary when you don’t speak the same language) and generally getting lost being back in a big and busy city, I finally flew into went to get my flight into Siem Reap that evening. One good thing though, I found a shuttle service to Hanoi airport for super cheap.
The flight was fine apart from I sat next to the two whitest people ever (I think I can say that now). Like seriously – they were listening to music through their headphones doing air guitar, and not ironically. But anyway, I arrived and after getting through immigration I made my way to my hostel. It was hot again! At this point northern Vietnam had been so cold I was beginning to forget what being warm was like. I checked into my hostel, Siem Reap Pub Hostel. It was surprisingly OK to say that I found it by using the cheapest first function on Hostelworld. The bed was definitely comfier than my own, but Vietnamese mattresses are something else so that’s not saying much.
I got there late and needed to get up early for a tour I had booked for the next day. So, I just had a quick walk to get some dinner at Angkor night market which was just around the corner from where I stayed. I had one of the infamous fruit shakes, and yes it was great. The food I had was not so great but was cheap. There was actually some pretty good stuff in the market. But, I hate bartering and I asked how much something was and the lady said a ridiculous price and I was like no, I’m out.
My alarm went off painfully early at 3.30 am for the obligatory Angkor Wat sunrise tour. We saw the sunrise from a quieter spot instead of in front of the actual temple. I know it’s not the same but I think I enjoyed it more. I love a peaceful sunrise, not one where there are hoards of people fighting for a picture. After the sun had risen we then moved on to see Angkor Wat itself and some of the other temples.
The Angkor temple complex is the largest religious monument in the world. I don’t know why because I’ve never been religious but I actually love religious architecture. It’s a shame I could only get the one day pass because I definitely would have enjoyed going back to visit the other temples. The tickets are just so expensive. The temples were originally Hindu but later changed to Buddhism as the religion of the country changed which is also interesting.
I saw Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm and Banteay Kdei. Honestly they were all stunning and so detailed, and impressively preserved, but it was just so hot and I was tired from waking up so early and there were so so many people and massive tour groups. It was a lot. Regardless, I enjoyed the day and I’m grateful I got to see such a sacred place.
I later had dinner with some people I had met on the tour. We went to this barbecue place on pub street that did twelve kinds of meat. Let’s see if I remember them all – beef, chicken, crocodile, pork, goat, eel, frog, ostrich, kangaroo, chicken, prawns and fish. I’d actually had quite a few of the weird things just being in Vietnam so wasn’t as excited as the others! We continued around pub street, had some great ice cream rolls and cringed at all of the snakes/tarantulas people were eating – and saw a Brit be sick after eating one.
Ok so admittedly I didn’t know what there was to do in Siem Reap apart from the temples so I was unsure about what I was going to do for my second day there. After waking up unintentionally early and went to the pool for the morning to plan my day out.
I decided that I was going to walk everywhere. I just hate getting any form of transport that isn’t metered, and the rip off with tuktuks. Siem Reap is unbelievably pretty, with lanterns and little boutiques everywhere. Due to Cambodia’s past there are a lot of social enterprises trying to help build the place back up and a lot of them are cafes, so I was keen to go to one. I had heard good things about Sister Srey so I went there for breakfast and it was so so good. Then I got some postcards (yes I still do that… I wish people sent me postcards back though!).
Whilst walking to my next destination I spotted a really pretty temple, Wat Preah Prom Rath. There’s a boat in the complex and the story goes that one day a monk was attacked by some sharks whilst travelling in his boat, and the boat broke in two, one part sailed away and one part sailed back to where the temple is now.
This is where the day took a rather expensive turn. I decided to treat myself to a massage; I know massages are cheap in Cambodia and you can get them in markets and stuff but that kind of thing isn’t for me. So I found a spa called Frangipani Spa that had good reviews (remember I learnt the hard way that this was important!) and excitedly walked right in. Little did I know that I’d chosen a really expensive place. Little awkward me felt too awkward to leave so I ended up having a $35 massage. This place was nice though, like really nice. I got given a cup of tea that was blue and turned purple when you squeezed a lime in it… so you know, really worth the $35. In all seriousness, the massage was great though.
Before moving on I went to another training cafe called Bloom that had amazing mini cupcakes to write my postcards. Next I did went to the Angkor National Museum. Again, I should have really researched the price beforehand, it was $12 for the ticket and $5 for the audio! The audio was definitely worth it though and I was there for a few hours. I probably wouldn’t have gone if I’d have known how expensive it was though. I was there longer than expected and had to rush to get to a yoga class that I had been planning to go to all day.
Peace cafe is an amazing place and I really recommend their yoga classes. They are an hour and a half long and some of the poses were way above my level but it was pretty slow paced which made it more manageable. However, I have never been bitten so much in my life, to the point where the yoga instructor had to stop to give me some mosquito repellent (which I had already put on like three times that day might I add!). Coming from the cold season in Vietnam I had forgotten how bad the mosquitoes can be to me.
Then it was time to head back and catch my Giant Ibis sleeper bus to Phnom Penh. It was surprisingly pretty alright! I would book ahead though because half of the beds are double beds which you would have to share with a stranger which I think would be pretty uncomfortable to say the least!
Overall, I loved Siem Reap and wish I wasn’t so short on time. In hindsight I would have stayed an extra day. I spent a lot more than I wanted but that was a general theme of my trip to Cambodia anyway! It’s a very easy place to spend a few days and relax. There is so much more to it than just the Angkor temples – although they are beautiful!
Have you ever been to Siem Reap? What did you think to Angkor Wat?
If you want to see more photos of my travels you can check out my Flickr