I’ve been wanting to see Cambodia since I came to China, so I was super excited when we planned on staying in Siem Reap during our Chinese New Year holiday. Compared to Thailand where we had 12 days devoted to beaching and relaxing, Cambodia was fast-paced and jam-packed and I loved it.
A Few Things About Cambodia:
- They use their own currency, Cambodian Riel, but they also use American Dollars
- 1 USD = 4,000 Cambodia Riel (KHR)
- You’ll pay $30 for an on arrival Visa, plus $2 if you don’t have an extra passport photo with you
We chose to spend our five days only in Siem Reap, where we stayed at a hostel called Tipsy Turtles. It’s a 15 minute walk away from the city center and off the beaten track, but it was a great hostel for $4 a night (!!!) It’s owned by two German guys who have traveled a lot and wanted to open their own hostel somewhere – they also have a restaurant at the hostel where we met other cool travelers.
We only had five days to fit as much of Cambodia in as we could. Some of my favorite things we did while in Siem Reap:
This is where all the travelers come to eat and shop and see the night life. There are so many street vendors, souvenirs stalls, and international restaurants here (once again, after living in China for 6 months it was exciting to eat Italian and Mexican food!)
We also went out for local Khmer cuisine with hostel friends from China, Germany, and Italy – Cambodia has this great dish called Beef Lok Lak that was around $2 and so good.
We rented bicycles for $2 and had a blast riding around Siem Reap. It was a great way to see the city and do some exploring on our own.
Some people will even rent bikes and ride them all the way to Angkor Wat, ride them around the temples, then ride back!
Angkor Wat and other Temples
The main attraction of Siem Reap is of course Angkor Wat and the other temples. The site is actually huge and a little ways outside the city. We rented a driver for the day to drive us to the different sites and wait for us.
You can buy a 1 day, 3 day, or 7 day admission ticket – we bought a 1 Day ticket for $37. Tourism has recently spiked in Siem Reap and they changed the admission prices for 2017; if we had traveled here last year it would have only been $20! It’s 100% still worth the cost though.
We bought tickets on Saturday, Feburary 4 to see Angkor on Sunday, February 5. The site closes at 5pm everyday so we actually could go to the site after 5pm on Saturday to watch the sunset at Angkor Wat.
On Sunday we went to 4 temples – The Bayon, The Baphuon, Ta Prohm, and Ta Keo.
These temples are extraordinary, made up of giant mazes and elaborate carvings that words can’t do justice. One day isn’t enough time, and I think even 3 days, 7 days, one month, one year, would not be enough time. There’s just so much history and beauty here. It’s also a good leg workout because there are so many steep stairs at many of the temples!
***Also don’t forget to cover your shoulders and knees when you visit the temples***
Many people recommend seeing a floating village when visiting Cambodia. I’ve never seen one before – it was a cool experience to take a tuk tuk an hour outside of Siem Reap to the Kompong Phluk floating village. It’s amazing to see how the people here live on the water – this lake is their livelihood, and the water that they bathe in and wash their clothes in is the same water they drink.
Other Thoughts on Cambodia
When we weren’t seeing temples and floating villages, we were walking around the city, riding tuk tuks, climbing small mountains, chasing little goats, drinking iced coffee every morning from a lady with a coffee stand near our hostel, and marveling at the strange and beautiful moments we had the opportunity to experience.
Siem Reap is lovely and strange, a mix of tourists and local people, Western influence and Khmer history and culture. It’s easy to navigate because so many Cambodian people know English and the city is catered towards travelers.
It was weird to be using American dollars again in a country other than America, especially since I haven’t been home in 6 months. It was even a little confusing at times because they don’t use American coins – just the dollars – so you might get dollars and Cambodian Riel back in change when you buy something.
Things are cheap in Cambodia depending on what you buy, but you will have spend more to see the famous sites and go outside the city. They sell many of the same souvenirs, elephant pants, shirts, bags, etc., that Thailand offers.
- $32 Tourist Visa
- $7 Taxi to hostel
- $37 One Day Angkor Wat Ticket
- $16 for 4 nights at the hostel
- $3-6 eating out each meal
- $0.20 local beer (WHAT)
- $15 boat ride to floating village
- $10 per person for an all day driver at Angkor Wat (You can negotiate a cheaper price)
- SIM card for $5 to have 5GB of data for one week (Meredith and I split the cost and shared)
Five days in Cambodia wasn’t enough. I wish I had more time to explore – more of the temples, more of Siem Reap, more of Cambodia. I sincerely hope I have the chance to come back again one day.
Until next time, Siem Reap.