January 2013 travel (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

Siem Reap is a Cambodian town that attracts tourists from all over the world  due to its close proximity to the famous ancient temples archeological complex, of which the most famous is the Angkor Wat.  The Air Asia from KL flies directly to this town regularly. The flight took 2 hours.

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■ We boarded the Air Asia from KL airport just before 7am and arrived in Siem Reap airport in about 2 hours, where local time was 8am. Before that I had little sleep as I had to travel the KL airport from my parent home in Tampin at 3 am. Hence we slept till noon on our first day there.

■ The hired car service from airport to our hotel cost US$7. The driver offered his car service for whole day for $25 (initially $30). I did not promise him anything other than that I would contact him if his service is required. The US dollar is used extensively, though anything less than $1 will have to be in local currency.

■ We stayed in a guest house, called the Angkor Villa which cost about $25 per night . There was no problem with early morning check-in. The guest house that I have booked from Air Asia website is not far from the bar street. The room with king size bed is large but somewhat bare. Most important is that the room and hotel seemed clean. However, the street outside is unpaved. There is a number of guest house or small hotels along the street, as well as tut-tut waiting outside.

■ We used the on-line visa application for entry into Cambodia, and thus the airport checkpoint formalities was a breeze for us.

■ The elegant and magnificent Angkor Wat temple is just few kilometers away from Siem Reap town centre. The condition of the sandstone structure that was built in the 12th century is still quite good, though in many places they have been reconstructed since it was ‘rediscovered’ by the French in early 20th century.

■ Another equally impressive ancient temple complex is the Angkor Thom. The complex consists of a series of temples, which  was also the capital of ancient Khmer kingdom.

■ The temples are astounding works of arts and human ingenuity, and I’m still intrigued by the super human efforts required to built them.

■ A one day pass to visit the temples is US$20, while 3 days pass will cost US$60. The ticket office for the pass was very crowded even at 5 PM. We bought the one day pass for next day which also allowed us to watch the sunset scene over the Angkor on the day the pass was bought.

■ The Cambodia that I have dealt with are rather gentle and polite, with good manners. The hotel staffs and most of people involved in tourism industry could speak English. However, one have to be careful with the Tut-tut drivers. Make sure that the fares are agreed in advance before taking the Tut-tut.  The cost of hiring a Tut-tut for whole day should be $15 for 2 person. Some Tut-tuts could take 4 person, though the driver may demand higher fares. For longer distance travel to the lake and outlying temples, I would recommend hiring a car.

■ Western tourists, especially the backpackers type,  are highly visible in this town,  walking, drinking, eating and cycling.  The Asian tourists are not highly visible in the town during the day, though they turn out in great force during the night.  But in the main temples, the Asian tourists were in the majority.

  • There is a pub street in the town that is bustling with activities when the sun went down. We had good time dining and drinking at the restaurants and bars. Food is relatively cheap and drinks are even cheaper. In some places, a glass of cold beer just cost 50 cents. The night life scene along the bar street is still predominantly Western. I guess the Chinese, Korean and the Japanese are more comfortable with their own food and restaurants that cater to their taste. But things are changing fast, as more and more Asian tourists are also travelling independently and heading towards such bar streets. I had a drink at a joint with live Filipino band, and the band was belting popular Korean songs along with Western hits, much to the enjoyment of the numerous Koreans there.

■ Most of the restaurants serve Khmer food, besides Western food, even in Western styled restaurant. A typical Khmer food, is usually a combination of Chinese and Thai food. The Viva restaurant which serves nice Mexican food was my favourite dining place. The Shadow of Angkor is another restaurant I would recommend for lovely dining experience.

■ We also visited a fishing village called Kampong Thom near the Tonle Sap Lake. We drove for nearly an hour before taking the boat ride. The boat ride is rather expensive, at about $15 per person. It is not a very interesting ride, as the river is rather unspectacular. There is nothing much to see in the fishing village too. I have heard stories of scams from people who visited the fishing villages, and thus we were extra careful. Just be careful of people who tell you that they are organising charity works to buy books for children etc.

  • The museum is not a bad place to visit if you have the time. There are lots of exihibits and information of the ancient kings and temples. The entrance ticket at $12 is rather pricey though.
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About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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