After our epic adventure all over Thailand, our next stop was Siem Reap, Cambodia.
I’m not sure if it was the fact that I had zero expectations or outside influence of what to expect in Cambodia, but I was seriously in awe of this country for so many reasons.
Erik and I flew into, and stayed in Siem Reap and although we didn’t visit Phnom Penh or Koh Rong (next time!) I definitely recommend making the trip to Siem Reap while you're in Southeast Asia.
Here were some of the highlights of our trip to Siem Reap:
Angkor Wat: Of course! Angkor Wat is a must see while in Siem Reap, and it is only about a 20 minute tuk tuk drive out of the main city to get there. Tickets are about 37 USD for a 1 day pass or 64 USD for 3 days. I definitely recommend getting there for sunrise. Also be sure to find the monks inside and get a blessing from them. There are a few of them inside the temple and all you have to do is give them a donation. They will then invite you to sit, give you a blessing, chant, splash water on you, and tie a red bracelet on your wrist. One of the coolest experiences of my life for sure and I highly recommend it.
Ta Prohm: Also known as the "Tomb Raider" or "Angelina Jolie" temple - Ta Prohm was unbeliebly cool and way different than any other temple i've ever been too. It is in the middle of a jungle-area and has trees and roots growing through and all around it.
Bayon: Bayon temple is another amazing temple with faces carved into it. Definitely worth checking out, and you can hit all 3 of these temples in one morning of exploring. Just tell your tuk tuk driver you want to do the "small loop" and he'll know what you mean.
Omg you guys, who knew that Siem Reap, Cambodia would be a mecca for amazing gluten free, paleo, and vegan, and even AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) options. After weeks of street food, I was seriously in heaven with the smoothie bowls, green juices, fresh salads, and buddha bowls available.
Here were my favorite spots:
- Vibe Cafe: try the positive pancakes, alkaline bowl, and avocado toast!
- Sister Srey: try the breakfast salad, juices, and smoothies!
- ARTillery: try EVERYTHING!! Our favorites were the build your own bowl, jackfruit tacos, veggie burger, and spring rolls. You can also get free coffee here if you rate them on TripAdvisor!
The people in Cambodia were so unbelievably kind, generous and welcoming - they truly made our experience unforgettable.
- Our Airbnb hosts invited us over for beers and to go swimming at a local pool with them and a bunch of cambodia kids (BTW cambodian kids are the cutest, and I that’s saying a lot because i’m not a kid person 🤣. Everytime Erik and I saw a cambodian kid they would say hello and wave to us! It was so cute and also must have been super obvious that we were tourists.)
- Our tuk tuk driver went out of his way to make our experience memorable and even took us our of the way to do things like try palm fruit (only found in Cambodia) and take us to special spots we never would have found on Google. (If you’re going to Siem Reap, hire him! Here’s his info: Whatsapp: +855 12 328 397 and his name is Nao Saroeum)
- One day while waiting for a tuk tuk, one of the locals offered us a free ride into town on his motorbike. I was a little scared but he seemed trustworthy so we went for it and it was an awesome experience. Obviously use your discretion and i'm not advising you take free rides from strangers, but this as part of the whole experience and I loved it!
The Floating Village:
There ate 3 different floating villages in Siem Reap; Chong Kneas, Kampong Phluk, and Kampong Khleang. Kampong Khleang was our first choice as it had the best reviews, but we ended up going to Chong Kneas because we were running low on time and it is much closer to Siem Reap (about 30 mins, vs. Kampong Khleang's 2 hour drive).
My thoughts on Chong Kneas are really mixed because on the one hand it was an incredible experience to see the way that the people in this village live, and it also was beautiful at sunset. On the other hand, the people in these communities are living in extreme poverty; and I felt a little...voyeuristic? as a tourist, riding around in a boat and just watching them. It's a hard thing to put into words, and I got the feeling that living in this village was not a conscious choice by the people living there, but more of a product of their circumstance. Our boat driver even mentioned that he wanted to move away, but couldn't because he didn't make enough money and had to support his elderly parents.
All in all, i'm thankful for the experience, but I struggle with recommending it because I don't think the money we paid for the boat ride (20 USD a person) went to the people of the village - the boat driver said it went to the larger corporations that own the boats. So we tipped well to try and compensate :)
We got our visas online before arriving to Siem Reap, but you can also get one on arrival. Either way it costs about 30 USD and is easy to do. Customs actually didn't even look at our visas when we arrived (but you should still get one, of course)
Important things to note about Cambodia:
- Cambodia is a very conservative country, so besides making sure your shoulders and knees are covered at all of the temples, you may also want to dress more conservatively when walking around the town. Having said that, it was HOT AF in Siem Reap and I didn’t care to cover myself up (other than at the temples) and I didn’t feel judged at all. I’m sure I just stuck out like a sore thumb as a tourist.
- Get A.C!!!!!! Enough said.
- Tuk tuks are available pretty much everywhere, and generally only cost about 2-4$ to get anywhere in the city of Siem Reap
- Cambodia uses a combination of the US dollar and Cambodian Riel. Just bring USD and you'll be fine. (Also most places only take cash so keep that in mind)
- If you’re planning to hit all of the temples, I recommend going to Angkor Wat for sunrise and hitting the rest of the temples afterward, before it gets too hot out
- Find a tuk tuk driver you like and see if you can use them during your whole stay. We used ours every day and just contacted him whenever we needed a ride because he was so great. Also you can usually hire them for an entire day for only about 20 USD.
- The Angkor Wat ticket office opens at 5am and the temple closes at 5:30PM
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