Cambodia

Exploring Siem Reap

I have been slacking a bit when it comes to writing my blogs ever since we finished our motorbike trip. I don’t know if that’s cause most of the things we have done since arriving in Siem Reap, I have already seen and done before. Not to say its less exciting than the first time i was here, i mean you could go see Angkor Wat several times and still be amazed by its design.

We’ve had a lot of fun doing the usual Asia things such as rippin’ around in tuk tuks, exploring different restaurants and markets and enjoying the local food, which sadly, isn’t as good as Vietnam and higher touristy prices. They use American dollars here which makes things much more pricey as the conversion hits us harder than a local currency like VND in Vietnam. We don’t let that slow us down tho. We’ve enjoyed checking out the markets just around the corner from our Airbnb, which is a gorgeous apartment with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large living room and kitchen. The apartment complex also has a pool and it is extremely close to Pub Street and the heart of Siem Reap.

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Sight seeing around the city
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The famous Pub Street

Our first morning we were on the road in our hired tuk tuk at 4am to take us around to all the temples. The first one was Ankor Wat for the sunrise which i actually never did last time i was here. It is quite gorgeous but expect it to be packed with people and make sure you push your way to the front or you wont get a decent picture. I also reccomend wearing sandals so you can get your feet wet to get a better picture of the temple (if you’re that much a die hard with photography). This is also a great way to hit all the temples and avoid the hottest part of day in the afternoon which let me tell you, makes walking around sight seeing quite difficult in 53% humidity. I recommend purchasing the 1 day pass to enter all the main temples as well as the small ones as you can definitely hit all the main ones by noon. Your tuk tuk driver will take you to the office to buy these as you cannot buy them online. It’s 37$usd for 1 day, 3 day pass is 62$usd and a 7 day pass is 72$usd. These were raised substantially in the beginning of 2017 but its still worth the price.temple tours (9 of 76)temple tours (12 of 76)temple tours (21 of 76)temple tours (41 of 76)temple tours (40 of 76)

After walking around Angkor Wat we headed to Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple not to far away. What gorgeous temples these are. You will see elephants walking around that you can ride and i can’t beg you enough to NOT DO THIS. I’m not sure if people truly understand what they do to these poor creatures so they can be exploited in tourism. These animals spend their lives on a 2 foot chain, tied to a post and are broken down emotionally and mentally as well as physically abused. They do not live a good life and all of them have an incredibly sad history and the more of us that choose to say no to that type of thing, the sooner this will die out. I don’t know about you, but i dont want any money of mine going towards animal cruelty.

Angkor Thom has a stunning entrance gate 23 m high with faces carved into the structure and it’s absolutely stunning. The bridge to the entrance is lined with carved structures, all with a different and unique face, most of which have been replaced over the recent years. Inside it is not low on more stunning carved smiling faces making it an amazing spot for photos if you’re anything like me and have a love of photography. On the same site is the Bayon Temple which also has the etched carvings of smiling faces and is another one to see. The only thing that i dont care for about all these temples is how some of its parts have been replaced with replicas and i understand they are trying to give you an idea on when it looked like back before the 12th century but for me it kind of loses it authenticity. It reminds me of going to the hot springs back home and when you show up it looks like a pool but the water is heated naturally, but it still feels like swimming in a pool. Kind of ruins it for me a bit. Don’t get me wrong, it is still incredibly amazing and unbelievable to walk around think how they put this all together without the machinery we have today.

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Main entrance to the temples
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Lining the bridge to the main entrance

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The last temple we checked out is a favorite of mine, Ta Prohm. Now this temple is in its original state and the only reconstruction done is attempts to stabilize the structure. Outside and inside the temple is littered with piles of bricks that have fallen off and never used after it was abandoned. All along the walls are endless tree roots coiling around the structures, growing out of the walls and the tops of the trees acting as a canopy or makeshift roof for the entire temple. It is so very beautiful and once again a great place for amazing photos.temple tours (63 of 76)temple tours (68 of 76)temple tours (65 of 76)temple tours (73 of 76)

I highly recommend spending a day going to the floating village and flooded forest. We got our driver to pick us up at 3pm so we could see the sunset out on the water, it made for a great time as the heat was cooling down at this point. Its a decent drive out of the city, about 30kms. It costs 20$usd per person to take the boat through the village and another 5$usd to go around the flooded forest, but believe me, its worth it. This was a highlight last time i was here and another highlight for me this time too.

Several communities of people living on Tonle Sap Lake in beautiful brightly painted houses on high stilts to avoid the flooding of the lake in the wet season. Locals are ripping around in their shallow long boats, fishing and sitting on their balconies watch us tourists go by. Some houses even have dogs living there and it is common to see them laying around soaking up the sunshine. At the end of the boat tour you end up at the flooded forest. A local will row you around to get an up close view of a small part of the village and the forest. Be prepared to be pressured to buy food or drinks for yourself and your driver as well as pressured for a tip at the end. I passed on the food and gave a 2$ tip when she finished rowing me around. flooded village and forest (1 of 1)flooded village and forest (1 of 1)-2flooded village and forest (1 of 1)-3flooded village and forest (1 of 1)-4flooded village and forest (1 of 1)-5

After the forest tour, please avoid the caged crocodiles which tourists love but will inevitably become dinner and a purse a few months down the road. Turn away from the sad sight of two tiny weasels living on a tin shelf with their tails cut off making it impossible for them to get off the shelf or survive in the wild. These guys are most likely used for their droppings to make incredibly expensive coffee or just for show. Either way my heart broke in half for them. 

I wanted to mention two incredible restaurants that are a must to visit when your in this city. Make sure to check out Sister Srey Cafe for breakfast. Not only do they make amazing westernized food but they also help and support Khmer students who struggle supporting their family and going to school. All their staff have extensive training in English, personal development and financial needs. The team also volunteers to help clean up Siem Reap by going around and picking up garbage on the streets. They have staff helping build wells and toilets for underprivileged families, they volunteer at soup kitchens and are part of a sustainable recycling program and waste management system. So needless to say, not only are you supporting their food but everything else above that goes with it.

Another great place to visit for supper is Marum Restaurant. A very intricate menu of local cuisine and western options. A great fusion of the both. Make sure to try their corn fritters and all of their shakes are delicious and made with clean water and fruit. So no worries about tummy issues. This place also supports students with skills for their future.

These are my top two favorites that we made sure to visit more than once. Make sure to stop by and check them out!

We still have a couple more days left here before we move on to Thailand to meet up with my parents in Bangkok. Plenty of stuff planned until then to keep us busy in Siem Reap. Ill be back soon to chat about those.

As always, thanks for reading…

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Lonely Planets guide to Siem Reap

Click here for Nomadic Matt’s guide to Siem Reap

Airbnb — my first choice for accommodation

Top Hostels in Siem Reap

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