Welcome to the Kingdom of Wonders, Cambodia! For our first taste of Cambodian culture, we booked ourselves a flight to Siem Reap to see something unimaginable and yet had stood the test of time.
Siem Reap is located in the north western part of Cambodia. This is also the place where you can find one of the world's wonder, the temples of Angkor Wat and that's what we were looking forward to see.
Anyway, in this article, I am going to share with you the places and activities we managed to fit in during our 3 days 4 nights in this beautiful city. It was an experience we would like to do again and it started with a 3 hour plane journey from Manila to Siem Reap where we arrived at around 10:00 pm local time.
Siem Reap is one hour ahead of the Philippines. Cambodia also has a local currency, the riel, but they much more prefer US Dollars.
Tuk Tuk Fee - USD 2.00 each way.
WiFi is pretty much available everywhere.
Where we stayed: MENS Resort and Spa . An exclusive resort for men. The place was rwas very relaxing and homey. The staff were also very friendly and the food was delicious. I'll make a separate review for this hotel soon. For 4 nights, we paid USD 300.00 for the accommodation which was a good deal.
1. Try an ANGKOR Beer
When we arrived in the hotel, I want to taste something local and nothing is more refreshing than ANGKOR BEER . A refreshing and light beer that you will surely enjoy. A great drink to welcome you to Siem Reap!
2. Get around by TUK-TUK
Tuk-Tuk is a type of vehicle that is widely used in Cambodia. Before arriving at Siem Reap, I had talked to one tuk-tuk driver, LEM LIVE. If you are intending to visit the touristy places, it is advisable that you get one because it is so much convenient. For the price of USD 20.00 for the whole day, Lem will take you to different tourists spots around Siem Reap for the whole day. It is worth it and Lem really took good care of us during our entire trip.
Contact him on Facebook: LEM LIVE
3. Buy a 3 Day Pass Angkor tickets
On our first day, Lem, our tuk-tuk driver picked us up at the hotel and drove us first to the ticket center where we bought a 3 day pass to Angkor Temples. For USD 62.00, you can go tour the Angkor Temples over and over again for 3 days.
A day pass is not enough to explore these places. These temples are so beautiful and it could be overwhelming that is why we didn't want to rush and rather take our time walking around this amazing temples.
Keep this ticket with you always.
4. Explore Angkor Wat
This is the main purpose why we visited Siem Reap because we wanted to see these temples that date back to the 12th century. Made of stones, they built these beautiful temples along the Angkor area which is now considered a UNESCO WORLD Heritage Site. Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat which they believed protected the temple from being invaded by the jungle as has happened to some of the other temples.
Such a beautiful structure and all the time, we were asking ourselves, how the heck were they able to build this so many centuries ago.
It was a humid morning and their were many tourists visiting Angkor Wat. It was also their peak season.
Angkor Wat and the other temples were dominated by the religion Hinduism before but it was later occupied and converted into Buddhist temples.
To get a better view of the Angor Wat, you must try try and walk up this very steep ladder that takes you to the top level where you can walk around and get a 360 view of Angkor Wat.
We wanted to go up and see for ourselves but the queue was so long and it was so busy so we decided to leave it for the next day. Thank goodness for a 3 Day Pass!
Our trip to Angkor Wat was quite overwhelming and we thought that we would like to visit it again very early the next morning for the SUNRISE and before it became too busy. Anyway, on to our next destination of the day.
5. Watch the Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Since we heard that watching the sunrise in Angkor Wat is a spectacular site to see, we woke up at 5:30 am and our tuk-tuk driver drove us straight to Angkor Wat. We were not the only ones wanting to see the sunrise, we all patiently waited and unfortunately it was overcast so we were not able to witness the sunrise. But anyway, it can be unpredictable but it's worth taking the risk sometimes.
6. Climb to the top of Angkor Wat
Since we failed to see the sunrise, we then queued to be the first people to enter the temple which opens at 7:00 am. One reason was, we wanted to climb up the top of Angkor Wat which is normally busy. If you are too late, you could end up waiting for hours just to get up because they only limit the number of people going up. We had made a good choice and the view you from up there again was beyond amazing.
7. Stop at Angkor Thom - South Gate
Lem, our tuk-tuk driver told us that since it's already lunch time, might as well eat lunch before we explore temples around Angkor Thom. But just before entering, who would not be amazed by these gates. We told our driver to stop because I had to get a photo of this gate. It was unbelievable and I couldn't wait to walk around Angkor Thom.
8. Get a taste of their Local Cuisine (Angkor Thom)
While in Siem Reap, I promised myself that I was going to try as much local food if as possible and when Lem took us to this food place inside Angkor Thom for lunch, I immediately searched for the local menu section.
BEEF LOK-LAK - USD 7.00
I don't know what Lok Lak means but when I looked at the menu I knew it's something local so I tried. And, oh my goodness, it was delicious!
Lok Lak is a glorious hot salad with a bed of crisp whole lettuce leaves, juicy tomatoes, cool cucumbers and sharp raw onions; all of it topped with quickly stir-fried beef and it’s juices. - Refugee Kitchen
VEGETABLE SPRING ROLL - USD 7.00
FRIED SPRING ROLL - USD 7.00
I didn't understand why we bought so many spring rolls for our first lunch. Lol! But they were all delicious and we finished them all and we were ready to explore Angkor Thom!
9. Explore Bayon Temple
After a sumptous lunch, we started exploring another favorite famous destination around the Angkor Archeological Park which is the Bayon Temple. Luckily when we arrived in the afternoon, there were fewer tourists and we were able to enjoy this Buddhist temple almost to ourselves. As always, we were again amazed and overwhelmed as we walked along inside this temple. This is another example of the vibrant culture that the people of Angkor Wat had before other civilizations emerged.
10. Exploring the Baphuon Temple
With only a few meters walk from Bayon Temple, Baphuon Temple is a structure not to be ignored. This temple is also so big and compared to Angkor Wat and Bayon Temple, Baphuon is more pyramid in shape. I also love this narrow walk way that I find so dramatic and picturesque. No wonder this place is a famous location for photoshoots.
Start stretching your legs and make your way to the top of Baphuon Temple. These stairs were pretty steep, so always be careful and hang on the railings.
If you want to see more, you will find a map like this posted along the area of Angkor Thom. So if you still have plenty of time, this map is worth following.
11. Explore PUB STREET at night
If there is one place to spend your evening aside from you hotel, that would be PUB STREET. Located at the city center, this place is ideal for those who want to party or just chill. The street closes at night allowing tourists to walk around and just enjoy the relaxing vibe of the place.
The first place we tried at Pub Street was the Temple Food n Beverage. I was also quite hungry after all the walking.
LOT CHAR - USD 6.50
Stir fry with shrimp or beef fried with Khmer rice noddle, vegetable and egg. This is super delicious and made me love Cambodian food even more.
12. Explore Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider Temple)
Siem Reap became more popular when the movie Tomb Raider by Angelina Jolie was shot here. One location that is very well-known for that is the temple of Ta Prohm. What makes this ruin unique and beautiful are the vast root systems that have embraced this temple for centuries.
The roots are so big and with that you will find some areas being restored and supports around the temple. While in Ta Prohm, we were just in awe of the grandeur of this temple and the roots.
Do not leave Ta Prohm without a photo here because this was featured during the Tomb Raider movie popularized by Angelina Jolie.
13. Have a Breakfast at Sister Srey Cafe
After an interesting tour of the temples, we told Lem, our tuk-tuk driver, to take us to a place for good breakfast in town. So he brought us to Sister Srey Cafe. Looking from the outside it looks so cool and chill. I love the ambiance and how open it is. Anyone could enjoy their meals while watching the street scene go by.
My favorite coffee, Americano! And if you are looking for a strong one, this is it! A must!
The Big Daddy - USD 6.75
After the tour, I was really starving so I ordered for a Big Daddy which combination of basically everything. Eggs, toasts, bacon, mushroom, tomato, hush brown, greens and baked beans. Literally a big breakfast! Yum yum!
AVO ON TOAST - USD 5.00
Smashed avocado on locally made bread with poached egg, cherry tomatoes, feta and beetroot hummus. If you want something very light, you can go for something like this which I found really delicious too.
14. Come for a coffee at The Little Red Fox Espresso
Another nice place to to visit if you are searching for good coffee is the Little Red Fox Espresso. This coffee shop is one of the most visited cafes in Siem Reap. They have a nice variety of coffee and you will definitely enjoy the variety of food they serve in here. Definitely another place worth visiting!
15. Explore War Museum Cambodia - USD 5.00
We all know the sad history that happened in Cambodia back in the 80s. Though it was long ago, the effect of this war still lives on for the many people living in Cambodia. Specially when you see people with one leg, or an arm lost in the war or when they stood on a land mine. To see and learn more about that we went to a war museum not far from from the city center.
It was a sad feeling walking around specially reading and looking at the photos during the war. I am just glad that it's over and may this war serve as a lesson so that the future generations don't experience this kind of war.
We don't know how many land mines there are still out there around Cambodia, but detonation efforts are being made to prevent injury to other people.
16. Try TOMB RAIDER cocktail at The Red Piano
Also located in Pub Street, you must also get a taste of the Tomb Raider cocktail. This drink is also to honor and celebrate Angelina Jolie ( Lara Croft) in the movie that made Siem Reap a popular destination.
Price of each cocktail is USD 3.75 and for every 10th drink, it is considered free. On our next order, we just heard the bell rang and was told one glass was free which was awesome. This cocktail is really a must try. It has a very refreshing taste and one glass is never enough.
17. Explore Angkor National Museum
Located right in the city, you can learn more about the rich cultural heritage of the people of Cambodia. Get to see artifacts found from different temples and places around the country. Visiting this museum will also further explain more about the history of Angkor Wat which we found quite interesting.
18. Come for a meal at BUGS CAFE
When in Siem Reap, I never thought I was going to be this adventurous when it comes to food. When I heard that there is a cafe that serves bugs and other insects like crickets, silk worms, spiders and many more, we decided to give it a try. The restaurant opens around 5:00 am. Can I also say they they serve delicious cocktails and of course gourmet insect tapas.
So after my cocktails, my stir fry chili crickets and silk worms arrived. It looked and smelled delicious and when I had my first bite, I was thinking it's going to taste different but to our surprise, it tasted just like normal food. In fact, it was delicious!
19. Walk around PREAH PROMREATH PAGODA
Driving around the city on a tuk-tuk, it is very difficult not to notice this beautiful temple, so during our last day before buying all the souvenirs that we need to bring home, we walked around this Buddhist Temple. Though this temple is over hundred years old, it is still one of the most colorful temples you will find in the city. And because of its distance basically a few meters away from Pub Street, it is worth going for a walk around this temple.
Enough of sight seeing and culinary tour. Time to bring some souvenirs to friends and family back home and to find the perfect gift for them. You will find them here at the Night and Old markets. They are also just a walking distance from the Pub Street making these markets very accessible. What I also like when buying souvenirs here was they are not that pushy or get agitated when you don't buy from them compared to other countries. Oh, we got good deals at the old market!
Our Siem Reap Itinerary
Arrived at Mens Resort and Spa at 10:00 pm from Manila
(Try Angkor Beer!)
Lunch at Angkor Thom
Walk around Angkor Thom Temples
Drinks and Dinner at Pub Street
Angkor Wat Sunrise and
Climb to the top of Angkor Wat
Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider Temple)
Lunch at Sister Srey Cafe
Siem Reap War Museum
Cocktails and Dinner at BUGS Cafe
Walk along the Night and Old Markets
Visit Siem Reap Museum
Walk to Preah Promreath Pagoda
Purchase gifts at the Old Market
Coffee at Little Red Fox Espresso
Back to the hotel