Located between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia is one of the countries in Southeast Asia that are very popular tourist destinations, especially for the westerns. Rich in culture and history, the country is not only famous for ancient religious monuments, but also for Cambodians being sincere devotees of Buddhism.
My interest in this simple country started in my Social Studies class in highschool. I could still remember how my teacher pronounced the word “Kampuchea” (Former name of Cambodia which means Kingdom of Cambodia). So then, I had always wanted to visit the place
From Vietnam, we rode a pre-booked bus going to Phnom Penh (18$), and arrived there at about 10PM. We waited for the van to bring us to another bus station going to Siem Reap ( The ticket included the ride on two buses and the van). Unfortunately, I had a high fever on our way to Phnom Penh. I asked the lady at the terminal if they sell medicine, but she could not understand me. I then went outside to see if there was a drugstore nearby. Luckily, there was one drugstore that was about to close. I had a hard time explaining myself since the guy could not undestand English. I had to do some sign language to express myself.
We reached Siem Reap at 5:30AM. We rode a Tuk Tuk that brought us to our hostel. We were surprised when the driver asked for 2$ considering the short distance. Upon reaching the hostel, we immediately fix our things to get ready for the tour.
We took a breakfast first; we chose not to eat in the hostel to try street food or eatery nearby.
After taking our breakfast, we hired another Tuk Tuk for a whole-day tour (Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple). Normal rental price is 16$ (at the time of writing), but we haggled over the price until we lowered it down to 13$. On our way, we tried to savor every moment observing the locals and the place itself.
Siem Reap is a nice place. It’s tranquil and preserved. Because it is a province of Cambodia, I didn’t see tall buildings nor sophisticated shopping centers.
We were so thrilled to meet the mejestic ancient temples of Cambodia. Angkor Wat is 15Km from our hostel, but we had to stop first to the Angkor Enterpise to buy our passes. One-day pass cost 20$.
We had to travel a few kilometers to reach the Angkor Wat itself.
I was extremely awed when I finally saw the ancient Angkor Temple. One of the UNESCO World archeological sites, the temple is dubbed as the world’s largest religious monument (with the measure of 208 hectares) which was built in 12th century. (I could not grasp how early Khmer were able to build this huge sanctuary) It’s masonry, in addition, is amazing.
I was so glad to be in the place where some scenes of a famous movie (Tomb Raider) were filmed. It also reminded me of the Filipino film, “I love you, Thank you”.
We also had a chance to take a photo with Cambodian Monks. One local guy warned my cousin not to touch the monks for they are not allowed to touch any woman for a period of time.
We also passed by some souvenirs shops in Angkor. Well, merchandise there were kind of expensive. They prefer US Dollars. One soda in can cost 1$, and a fresh buko juice cost 2$. I bought an Apsara (figurine) for 4$. I thought my Peso (Philippine money) had no value, but vendors in Angkor Wat accepted Philippine peso. I bought a coke in can for Php 50.00. Locals were open to haggling. Some locals could speak a bit of Filipino. We were shocked when a little Khmer tried to sell fridge magnets while speaking in Filipino. She learned it from Filipino tourists, she said. Cambodians are good in English, though.
After touring around the temple (We hadn’t completed the whole Angkor for it is so big for our limited time), we went straight to Angkor Thom which is less than 1 kilometer from Angkor Wat.
Angkor Thom is located inside the forest, so we met wild monkeys around the area, but they were not harmful; they just want freedom, I guess. It goes to show that the place is well-preserved for other living creatures.
It’s facade was also overwhelming. We felt like we traveled back in time, and it brought us back to the ancient world of Khmer. Here, you could feel the peacefulness and intimacy of Khmer faith.
The temples somehow represent the Cambodian’s excellent work of arts.
After that, we had a quick tour to Bayon temple, which was also near the Angkor Thom.
At about 1PM, we went back to our hostel take our lunch. We gave our driver a tip of 2$ for his lunch.
Witnessing the astonishing sunset in Angkor Wat (A must-try) was part of the tour, so we asked our driver to bring us back to Angkor Wat at 4PM. After our lunch, we took a rest and had a nap in our hostel to regain energy.
While we were waiting for the Tuk Tuk, we bought a bus ticket for Thailand at the nearest travel agency (Travel agency and money changers were everywhere). Tickets were offered for 13$ each, but we tried to bargain until we got them for 10$ each.
The Tuk Tuk driver came back to our hostel at 4PM to bring us back to Angkor Wat for sunset viewing.
We patiently waited for the picturesque sunset view, however, unfortunately, it was too cloudy that time. Nevertheless, the view was indeed satisfying.
We left Angkor Wat at about 6:30PM.
Our last destination in Siem Reap was the Pub Street. Pub Street is the most popular street in Cambodia. It’s basically a night market that has lots of beer houses and souvenir shops.
If you happen to be fond of exotic food like scorpion, spider, crickets, worms and snake, Pub Street is a perfect place for you. In Siem Reap, everything has a price. I proved it when a partucular vendor asked me to pay 2,000 Riel (Cambodian money = .5$) for merely taking a photo of a grilled snake he was selling. Restaurants do not offer service water; you have to pay for it as well.
We came back to our hostel at around 10 in the evening. My cousin with her exhausted body, decided to sleep early while I took a dip in the pool.
It was 7AM when we woke up the next day. We ate our breakfast in our hostel (which cost us 3$ each) The van fetched us from the hostel to bring us and the other western backpackers to the bus station going to Thailand.
Siem Reap is one of the beautiful places I’ve been to. If time will permit, I won’t think twice to revisit this mystical place.
This Cambodia tour is part of my Indochina adventure. See Backpacking Vietnam for Vietnam tour. Will create a separate article for Thailand.
BREAKDOWN OF EXPENSES
- Bus to Siem Reap from Vietnam 18$
- Hostel 15$/2
- Temples 20$
- Tuk Tuk 13$
- Average meal 3$ – 4$
- Souvenirs 10$
- Bus to Thailand 10$
FB: Jethro Salamo