Welcome to “Hi! I’m J!” I’ve had a couple of blogs before but I’ve later on decided to keep them private. Some I’ve even deleted. Hopefully, this is something I get to keep for the long haul.
I’m starting off this blog with a travel post – Siem Reap, Cambodia. It’s also my first time to travel a group of friends (we were 10!), along with P, the boyps (hehe!).
We managed to book our tickets around October and our trip was scheduled in February. We later found out that February was a good time to visit Siem Reap since the weather was still relatively cooler compared to the summer season.
While Siem Reap is starting to become a more popular destination, thanks to Cebu Pacific, I have only managed to ask a few of my friends on travel tips. Hopefully, you may find this post helpful. 🙂
Here are some of my Siem Reap FAQs:
What do I have to bring?
- Clothes – The weather is Siem Reap is close to what we have in the Philippines. It can get very hot at certain hours of the day. Most of the temples allow tourists to come in shorts and sleeveless tops except for Angkor Wat. So to be on the safe side, I would recommend that you bring shorts that fall below the knees or capri pants. Shirts should also be sleeved.
- Footwear – The steps in temples are uneven and the paths you will be encountering are not cemented. If you’re the type who hates getting dirt under your feet by wearing flip flops, I would suggest that you wear sneakers or rubber shoes. Otherwise, hiking sandals are your best friends 🙂
- Mosquito Repellent – Some parts of Cambodia have malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Though Siem Reap is not one of them, it would best to protect yourself. The mosquitoes are quite large compared to the ones we have here in the Philippines.
- Headband, hairpins or hair ties
Where should we stay?
Always find a location that is close to Pub Street, Old Market or Night Market. These three are the hubs of activities whenever you’re in town. It was helpful to search through Agoda but we booked directly with the hotel so that we didn’t have to make a down payment.
In terms of “stars” or ratings, I’ll leave it up to you but my friends and I were clear from the get go that we just wanted a place which had a good location, hot & cold shower, air conditioning, WiFi, free breakfast, airport pick-ups and a nice bathroom (girls will be girls). That’s when we decided to book King Angkor Villa. As shocking as it may seem, we each just paid $20 or roughly around Php800 for all 3 nights.The stay was comfortable, yes, but there were some amenities which weren’t available when we arrived – hot shower and cable TV. Luckily we survived because it was warm in Siem Reap and were didn’t stay much in the hotel.
The breakfast was nothing spectacular but it’s worth trying. They serve this bread that looks like a baguette. It’s sold on the streets and is probably the counterpart of pandesal. 🙂
Also, I would recommend booking a hotel that has a pool. We were all itching to jump into a pool after temple hopping. There are a lot of hotels offering this and you’ll just need to shell out a few more bucks for that.
What should we do there? What are the sights to see?
- See the Temples – Since there were 10 of us set to explore Siem Reap, we decided to book a tour for two and a half days. The group paid $220 for everything – tour guide, van, airport drop off, unlimited supply of water and wet towels. Just note that entrance fees to temples and other sights are not included. 🙂 Here’s a summary of the places we saw:
Day 1: Arrival with Tuktuk Pick-up
Day 2: Sunrise at Angkor Wat , Angkor Thom (Bayon, Dead gate, Elephants terrace), Ta Nei, Ta Promh.
Day 3: Prah Khan, Neak Poan, Ta Som, East Mebon, Banteay Srei,
Banteay Samre, Sunset at Phnom Bakheng with sunset view
Day 4: Floating village on Tonle Sap lake at Kampong Pluk village with flooded Mangrove forest
My friends and I booked that through Angkor Guide Services. And I STRONGLY recommend that you book them as well. I’ve asked quotations from other guides and they are one of the cheapest. Our tour guide, Chhay, was one of the reasons why we loved our trip so much. He was pleasant, accommodating, engaging and FUNNY!
- Shopping – If you’re planning on buying unique pieces, you’re sure to find that in the Old & Night Markets. Branded items are scarce in Siem Reap. Remember to haggle very well and don’t buy immediately. Go around first and canvass if you have time. I made a mistake of buying almost all my souvenirs from one store and ended up paying more than my friends did. Also, store attendants can sense if you’re buying an item or not – even if you pretend you don’t want to. So just try and hone your acting skills while you’re there. If in case you end up paying more, don’t feel too bad! Charge it to experience – like I did! 🙂
- Get a massage – Where can you find a deal better than a $3 foot massage for 30 minutes? That’s not all, you can enjoy free WiFi and beer!
- Ride a bike and a tuktuk – Our hotel was so close to the market that we just walked to et there. We were lucky enough to try the tuktuk on our way to the hotel. As for the bike, you just need to pay $1.50 to rent it for an entire day. 🙂
- Go around Pub Street – The place comes alive at night. You’ll come across popular bars such as Angkor What? and Temple Club.
- Try Street Food – There’s nothing more authentic than a country’s street food. So try the pancakes ($1), spicy pork sandwich ($0.75), noodles or porridge (congee/goto).
What’s the food like? Any restaurants you can recommend?
The Khmer cuisine is similar, in my humble opinion, to Thai or Vietnamese food. I just noticed that they rarely add salt to their food. I’ve seen other tourists request for salt shortly after trying their orders 🙂 Their food is not super spicy but there’s a bearable zing.
As for the restaurants, we’ve tried eating a pre-selected or booked ones. That’s because our tour guide did not want to bring us to restaurants that just set up on streets. I don’t blame him as we were under his watch 🙂
How much should I bring?
This was my biggest dilemma before leaving. To be safe, I spent about Php12,000 for the tours, food, pasalubong/souvenirs and hotel (excludes airfare). So depending on the things you’re planning on spending, the Php 12,000 should be a good benchmark.
The temple pass is $40. Also, if you will be heading to Tonle Sap Lake, prepare to shell out $18. You’ll be spending an average of $5 to $6 per meal should you decide to eat at the more popular restaurants or tou-booked restaurants.
Did you tip?
Yes, we did. I’ll be honest though. I’m not so sure what the standard tipping rate is. It’s not like here in Manila that is should be around 30% of the value of the service. In our case, we tipped our tour guide $35 and the driver $15. Whenever we ate out, we tipped waiters/waitresses $1. Hopefully anyone who has been there can shed light on this. 🙂
What attraction should we skip?
We tried the $12 buffet with cultural dance. We were able to get fantastic seats thanks to our Chhay but getting around the buffet was stressful. Also, the food wasn’t that good. It reminded me of the quantity vs. quality buffets we have here in Manila. What’s also important to note is that the drinks were more expensive than usual. If you’d like to catch a cultural dance, you can always try Temple Club. They have free Aspara shows down there.
That’s it! Hopefully this helps you on your Siem Reap adventure. If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I’ll to answer them 🙂
Have a happy trip!