Cambodia is not one of the first countries that come to mind when I think of my next vacation. However, I'm glad this trip happened – Siem Reap is now one of the cities where I left with a new perspective and a full heart. Seeing toddlers entertaining themselves by playing with dirt on the streets, locals struggling to make a living and the conditions of how some of these people lived, these sights no doubt made me felt more grateful for what I already have.
Cambodia crossed my mind once many years ago, when I was still in arts school and they had a volunteer program to help the children there. I did not go in the end. Fast forward five years later, I found myself in Siem Reap.
The 40 degree weather was no joke, I won't be surprised if anyone would have a heatstroke. Although, there is nothing like an icy mocha slush to save the day while out in the dust and sun, exploring Angkor Wat and discovering its history.
I found myself falling in love. Cambodia was so raw and historic, and very much filled with character. And how can you not fall in love, with the friendliness and warmth of Cambodians, the affordable food and the beautiful, heavily ornamented temples. I think I might have liked Angkor Wat more than the Bamboo Forest I visited back in Kyoto. All about that history, baby.
Fun Fact: Siem Reap was named so as an act of victory after Khmers defeated Siamese over the plot of land. Siem Reap literally means "Siam Defeated". History!
The time we spent indoors vs outdoors was 50/50. We're not super adventurous, you will not find us spending three days temple hopping like the majority of the tourists. Can't deny we were trying to avoid the heat as much as possible! It was a busy period when we visited Cambodia; roads were blocked and we could not reach the other temples by the car we rented, hence we only managed to explore Angkor Wat. Shame, as Bayon temple was on my list! BF insisted: “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen all."
Other activities we did in Siem Reap includes incredibly ordinary things like watching Jungle Playbook in the smallest mall I have come across, and some more unordinary, like getting powdered in Pub Street and eating happy pizza. On the third day, through TripAdvisor we discovered zip lining and booked a trip to Flight of The Gibbon for the next day. I have never zip line before, so it was an experience! Our zip lining adventure ended with us witnessing a family of gibbons and our guide shared with us we were quite lucky to be able to see them. Quite a trip, I’d say!
Staying in Cambodia:
I love this place! The interior was ace, the staff were so friendly and helpful. I have never felt more at home. Lotus Blanc is only a convenient 15 minutes drive from the airport, so there is no need to rush to catch my flight back. The pool was also really nice and refreshing, especially in the scorching weather.
- Angkor Wat
Rent a car or a tuktuk for the day – utilise it to travel to Angkor Wat, then around to other smaller temples. This way, you get to maximise your time with lesser walking. A car for a day cost about US$40, but if you want to experience travel the Cambodia way, get a tuktuk for half the price! These modes of transportation comes with a chauffeur.
- Pub Street
- Zip Lining – Flight of The Gibbon
Malis – Authentic Cambodian food, the only place I felt worth recommending. The rest were pretty mediocre, also we just ate a lot of street food most of the time. Apparently the hotel we stayed had a restaurant that was ranked first on TripAdvisor, but we never got a chance to have dinner there.
I hope these have been helpful!