Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Siem Reap, Cambodia--affordable yet awesome place to visit

Siem Reap is simply charming. It is easy to fall in love with the place--very tourist-friendly (almost everything is affordable and everyone is approachable) and has interesting history and architecture. We stayed there for five days--a bit tight if you want to explore all the temples and ruins, but just enough to see all the main attractions. 

Our trip was scheduled first week of July. It was really hot then. I suggest loose- fitting tops and bottoms. Note that you can't wear shorts, tank tops and slippers in some temples, so just be prepared and bring cover ups, closed shoes and long pants. 

For airfare, we only paid P6,091.40 for one round trip ticket. Cebu Pacific Air has good airfare deals every now and then--always keep an eye out for those. 

For accommodation, I used Booking.com to research and reserve the best hotel given our budget. I opted for Somadevi Angkor Hotel & Spa since based on the reviews--and we actually experienced these--it had a good location (near the night market), international breakfast buffet, free wifi, nice swimming pool and friendly and helpful staff. Rate per night for a double deluxe room was $50 and that already included two daily breakfast buffets and airport transfers. We really enjoyed our stay in Somadevi Angkor Hotel & Spa--highly recommended!

Below were our activities in Siem Reap. Given the length of our stay, I think we spent our time wisely and were able to visit all the must-see places. 

Visited temples 

Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bantaey Srei, Chau Say Tevoda, Phnom Bakheng, Phnom Krom, Pre Rup, Preah Khan, Ta Prohm

We hired a tour guide for our first day of temple exploration. It was a good idea since it served as our introduction and briefing about the many temples in Siem Reap. Hiring a guide is easy because there are lots of them-- the hotel people have a list and travel agencies are all over the place.

Our first stop was Angkor Wat. It is really big-- enough to get you templed out in 30 minutes. 

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
A corridor inside Angkor Wat temple
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
More photos from our guided tour. 

Continuous restoration of the temples

The majestic tree  in Ta Prohm
The person in front of me is Khemra, our tour guide.

We also went up Phnom Bakheng to watch the sunset. The sunset we saw was not great, unfortunately. 
Tourists waiting for the sunset at Phnom Bakheng
Sunset from Phnom Bakheng

Visited Cambodia Landmine Museum

We hired a tuktuk for half a day to go see the museum and some more temples. I definitely recommend tourists to go to the Cambodia Landmind Museum. It is very educational and featured the landmine situation in Cambodia. 

Pre Rup-- one of my favorites--is not as crowded as the other temples. 
Pre Rup

Banteay Srei--love the details of this one

Inside Banteay Srei
Rode the bike

On our third to fifth day, we already felt like we really belong in Siem Reap. We rented bikes to visit even more temples. It was more fun to go around Siem Reap on the bike because we managed our own time--it was more leisurely. Plus, biking is cheap-- a dollar or two to rent a bike for the whole day. 

That is Angkor Wat behind us.
To the temples!
Discovered more temples that are not usually visited by tourists

We also biked to the floating village, but decided not to go see the actual village.  Tourists we met on the way there said it is no good. 
On the way to the floating village
Waiting while my husband put air in his bike tires

Dined, shopped, and hung out in the pub street and night market

Pub Street at night
Walked around the Pub Street alleys
Tried the popular Cambodia pizza
Yummy pizza
Chicken Rice--simple yet very delish and filling

Here is the summary of our daily activities:

Day 0: 
Arrival to Siem Reap, night time

Day 1: 
Rested for half a day
Booked tour guide 
Explored pub street and night market

Day 2: 
Whole day temple tour c/o a tour guide, with sunset viewing

Day 3: 
Hired a tuktuk to visit more temples and the Cambodia Landmine Museum
Biked around Siem Reap 

Day 4: 
Biked around Siem Reap and to the floating market
Visited more temples
Swam in the hotel pool

Day 5: 
Biked to explore more temples 
Went back to the Philippines, night time

I suggest visiting 2 to 4 temples (depending on size) in a day. Or else, there is a higher chance of failing to appreciate the history and details of the temples. During our last days, when we explored on our bikes, we were lucky enough to feel the calming energy from some of the temples. 

I hope everyone will enjoy Siem Reap as much as my husband and I did. Before we even left the place, we know already that we will be going back soon.

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