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downundergal Siem Reap - A travel report by Kerrie
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Siem Reap,  Cambodia - flag Cambodia -  Phnum Pénh
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downundergal's travel reports

Siem Reap - Gateway to the Temples of Angkor

  23 votes
Page: 1 2 3 4
Siem Reap’s only real claim to fame is its close proximity to the magnificent collection of temples of Angkor Wat.
But it has everything a traveller needs and there are certainly worst places you could find yourself.

Early morning cyclists on their way to work
Early morning cyclists on their way to work
The town is spread out as it has grown due to the number of tourists visiting. It is now divided into the old and new town centres. From what I could see the old town is the superior end for the independent traveller to base themselves although it is further from the ruins it offers the majority of restaurants and cafes. The new town seemed to lack a little atmosphere and catered towards the tour groups and high end traveller. We opted to stay on the other side of the river. It was really quiet but close enough that you could walk in to the main centre of town with a short walk or a $1 moto fare.
Aside from the ruins there are some diversions to pass the time.

AKI RA Mine Action Gallery - It is a sobering reminder of just how much Cambodia and its people have suffered in the past. With graphic photos and stories of individuals I am sure that you will not leave here somewhat moved. Aki also has adopted several kids that have survived landmines and is one of Cambodia’s foremost de-miner. A donation made here is a dollar very well spent. www.akiramineaction.-com

Miniature Replicas of Angkor - Dy Proeung has sculpted complete replicas of Angkor Wat, Bayon and Banteay Srey amongst others. They are falling into disarray but he is such a lovely old man, really sweet and so happy to receive visitors if you have the time pay him a visit. Entry is about $1.50 and you may have to purchase one of his mini sculptures but for a couple of bucks it is worth it.

Continued below

Favourite spots:
Dy Proeng with one of his replicas
Dy Proeng with one of his replicas
Phsar Chas - The old markets are worth a look. They sell all the touristy souvenirs such as t-shirts and the like along with the traditional Khmer scarf called a Krama. One of these is a really good investment as it can be worn as a scarf or head covering to keep the sun off or mop the brow while traipsing over the temples. Don’t be taken in by the gold sellers. No matter how much they swear to you that it is real gold that you are buying be warned it’s not. We had our doubts and on a second opinion they took our purchase back and refunded our money.

The other market at the other end of town is more geared towards the locals with foodstuffs and homewares.

Probably our most unusual purchase while we were here was having our business cards printed. Thanks to our driver who knew where to take us. We had the layout on a disc, picked our paper, made sure it was all OK and the next day they were ready to be picked up at about 1/100th of the cost at home.

What's really great:
Moto driver - actually it wasn;t his, he was just posing.
Moto driver - actually it wasn;t his, he was just posing.
The various temples are the main sights without a doubt and this is covered in my other story on Siem Reap. But I really did like Siem Reap itself. It is a fabulous place to meet other travelers and you can eat and drink really well at a reasonable price. There are internet cafes to keep in touch with home about a $1 an hour, CD burning available for your photos to disc for $1-$2. And enough shops and markets to keep you amused but not overwhelmed.

Temple Bar
Temple Bar
I really feel I have to mention that due to Cambodia’s recent brutal history that the number of landmine victims, amputees and orphaned children is so omnipresent that you will be constantly confronted. Yes there are many beggars but consider that you are in a country where the numbers of these victims is so great and they have no income and no welfare system as a safety net.
I dare even the most cold hearted person not to be moved by some of the victims. One person that really sticks in my mind was that of a young guy who had lost both legs and one arm and whose only means of transport was lying facedown on his stomach on a skateboard – imagine moving through life like that? Think how much your small amount of riel means to him. Many of these people do not want to rely on begging so you will encounter many booksellers and the like. Try to purchase your travel books etc when you arrive and buy from these people. Not only will you save money you will be helping them as well.

Bopha Angkor pool - a lifesaver!
Bopha Angkor pool - a lifesaver!
Because we visited in the start of May which is the hot season and it was 40 degrees every day my main prerequisite was a pool so we chose the Bopha Angkor Hotel. This was a mid range hotel decorated in traditional Khmer style with beautifully carved timber doors and furniture. Located across the river in the quieter part of town but close enough to walk. It offered the luxuries that we needed such as hot water, refrigerator and air-conditioning and a fabulous cooked to order breakfast in their open air restaurant.The pool was a godsend as at the end of the day coming home hot and dusty it was a relief to be able to cool off. This all came at a cost of about $40US a night including breakfast. The normal price was $46US. Airport pickup was $5US each way. And of course any extras such as laundry, mini bar drinks, phone calls etc all came at a mid range to expensive cost as well.

See my second cheaper choice below.

Room at Golden Temple
Room at Golden Temple
My other choice was the Golden Temple Villa located at the other end of the old town and at the other end of the price scale with rooms from $8 - $30. If it were not the hot season I would have stayed here and would definitely recommend this hotel. The room that we were shown was small but was clean and comfortable and the air-conditioning worked really well. Geared to the traveler it offered loads of free services such as airport pickup, internet facilities, tea, coffee and fruit plus reasonably priced laundry service. Breakfast was not included in the rate but started at $2US.The staff were really helpful although we didn’t stay they were more than happy to show us a room.

In regards to clubs there are many clubs to kick up your heels but for us after tramping all day over the ruins it was early to bed and early to rise.

Blue Pumpkin - 
o' so cool!
Blue Pumpkin - o' so cool!
RESTAURANTS: You are spoilt for choice in this little town. Don't expect your meals & drinks to be served at the same time even if they identical. One comes and then the second comes five minutes later.
Most of the restaurants we tried are listed starting from our favorites:

The Soup Dragon won hands down. Three airy levels & the kids serving are really nice. It has a really large menu of mainly Vietnamese style dishes. My favorite dish was the Mango and Smoked Fish salad; it was shredded finely and finished with a Vietnamese style fish sauce, stupendous. They have a large pizza menu but offered no Hawaiian so by the time we left my partner had them educated and it was on the menu at $6.They also made the best fruit shakes with the coconut one being sublime. Don’t miss the homemade ice creams. Also with 7 cents being donated to the Angkor Hospital it makes everything taste even better. The bill is never over $8 - $9.

Red Piano - can you spot the mini piano on the wall?
Red Piano - can you spot the mini piano on the wall?
In Touch – one of the best meals that we had on our whole trip. Spring rolls &very spicy Kang Panang Chicken and rice. Total food cost $6.50.There is a great balcony area to watch the action below.The lighting arrangement is one of the most original and effective that I have seen.

Temple Bar – this is one of those places that looks better at night than in the day.

Blue Pumpkin – this little café is so very slick. Decorated totally in white except for the wait staff lucky, otherwise you wouldn’t see them. On two levels the upstairs has a couch bar so you can lie back and relax, so very cool.

Bopha Angkor Restaurant – well known for its Khmer cuisine.

Red Piano – made famous by the Tomb Raider crew. Come here for the atmosphere not the food. If you are looking for the Red Piano, its’ there but it’s small and it’s on the wall.

Le Grand Café – Big place that looks nice but not a great atmosphere, the food was alright but I wouldn’t recommend it. It was a little expensive.

Other recommendations:
Mith our guide and his car
Mith our guide and his car
Our driver Mith Sokhun was organized through our hotel and he was great. He knew which time of the day was the best time to visit each of the ruins. On arrival at each ruin he also pointed us in the right direction and explained what to look for. He was very knowledgeable, his car was clean & comfortable. Nothing was too much trouble and he didn’t raise his eyebrows at some of our strange requests like the one to find us a printer or to stop at the gold merchants. Since I have come home he has also replied to my numerous requests as recently as this week for help via email in locating which ruins some of my photos were taken at. He also speaks great English. His details are Cost was $20US per day.
Motos around town are a $1 and to Angkor Wat $4.
We flew in from Phnom Penh with Bangkok Airways as part of an airpass. These are great value if you are covering at least 3 sectors.
We flew out to Laos with Lao Airlines.
See my other story on the temples of Angkor.

Published on Saturday October 22th, 2005

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Mon, Mar 27 2006 - 10:05 AM rating by sajjanka


Sat, Feb 18 2006 - 09:04 PM rating by ehs1193

Makes me want to go there

Sat, Nov 12 2005 - 06:27 PM rating by alfonsovasco

I one is good, the next is still better!

Sun, Nov 06 2005 - 09:35 AM rating by jorgesanchez

So gooooood!!!!

Thu, Oct 27 2005 - 09:23 AM rating by isaacmolina

This is a report very beautiful, exotic place, well written and good info!!! I hope that my next one I will try to write it as well as you do. Thanks for the lesson.
With appretiation from Isaac

Sun, Oct 23 2005 - 12:30 PM rating by mistybleu


Great report reports, I'm hoping to accomplish this next year, I will note down some of your tips.

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 10:05 AM rating by eirekay

Kerrie, Marvelous report, as always! Great to have such a wonderful driver!

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 08:26 AM rating by miguelmarchi

This is also very good report. But I stil prefer your before one about Angkor Wat.

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 05:49 AM rating by bear495

Nice job, Kerrie. I always enjoy your reports.


Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 05:46 AM rating by rangutan

Well written and detailed report with a lot of tips, great stuff!

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 03:48 AM rating by gloriajames

Hiya Kerrie!
A great continuation of your journey! Btw... your reports and pics have helped me alot!

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 01:30 AM rating by toribio

I like a lot!

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 01:18 AM rating by davidx

Great report. Informative and a delight to read. Fine photos. Thanks

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