We keep discovering wonders of South Asia with a trip to Cambodia! We land in Siem Reap after a quick stopover in Singapore with Air Asia. Of course this destination is very well-known for the famous Angkor temples, build during many centuries by different kings. Very touristic, these temples are suffering from an overwhelming number of visitors according to us, which results in removing a little bit of magic to these mythical places…However it is always possible to get off beaten tracks to discover “lost temples” and believe you are in Indiana Jones movies.
Siem Reap, arrived in Cambodia
Arriving in Cambodia, starting with Angkor region and the town of Siem Reap. Then we will reach the capital Phnom Penh un bus. The kingdom if Cambodia is still now ruled by an authoritatian government, managed by Hun Sen. This country has a particular history, with glorious periods when the Angkor temples have been built but also the worst with the Red Khmers tragedy, killing millions of people. We are going to cover this sinister period in our next article about the capital Phnom Penh as the scars of this horrible period are much more present than in the rural region of Amgkor.
Siem Reap, very high touristic hub, is quite nice and fun. A small city which focuses only on tourism and Angkor temples near by. It is easy to discover new cheap and excellent restaurants, and friendly bars around “Pub Street” where the nightlife is. You can taste excellent amoks, the traditional dish of the country made from fish.
It is also worth underlining that in Cambodia tourists have to pay (almost) everything in US dollars even if the national currency is the riel. As a result, we found out the cost of travelling was not that cheap. When you pay
A tuk-tuk driver is going to drive us all around for the next 2 days as Angkor is really big and spread so it is almost impossible to take bikes and go wherever you want. Plus, it is not so close to Siem Reap. So if you are there, you will have plenty of choices to choose your tuk-tuk as tourism is the main revenue of the region. It seems it is not possible to rent motorbikes, likely to make the tuk-tuk business grow! And as said previously, it is difficult with bikes, the Angkor temples are not next to the city. The main feeling you have when you arrive at Angkor is you are overwhelmed by all big buses of Chinese tourists respectfully listening their guide’s advice and lessons. Fortunately, Angor is so big all tourists will go a bit everywhere so you won’t need to deal with all tourists at all time. But keep in mind the most popular ones (Angkor Wat, the Bayon, the Baphuon, Ta Phrom…), close to each other, will always attract lot of tourists, especially at specific times (like the sunrise at Angkor Wat…). But if these big temples cannot be missed, it is also worth spending some time discovering the smaller ones a bit further away. They are quieter and with a magic atmosphere as well! Just ask your driver, who may be reluctant at the beginning (further away so he is likely to spend more petrol to get there…) and tell him to go to the temples you selected first studying your book guide before/during your trip!
Lake Tonle Sap
The following days, we decide to rent bikes in order to go and explore Cambodian countryside and be more in contact with locals, the ones not working in the tourism industry. The fact is the suburbs of Siem Reap are really poors and it is not unusual seeing young children swimming in polluted waters and rivers coming from the town’s sewers. But as we go deeper in the countryside, the atmosphere is fresher and everyday life hasn’t changed for years in this rural region.
Lake Tonle Sap is inhabited by fishermen and we can see lot of houses on stilts built on the waters of the lake. It is enjoyable going around the lake, talk with some locals which will genuinely show you how they live and rest near the quiet waters of the lakes. You are not far from Angkor but so far from other tourists! We have a quick lunch at small restaurants in the areas and we realize, once again, how important it is to go off the beaten tracks and be independent (in that case, rent bikes). Warm and humid weathers as well as mosquitoes, but that’s fine and it does not prevent us from enjoying our day out! Nevertheless, we are happy to finish our day by swimming in the pool of the hotel and having some comfort. So our advice would be to take some time for yourself and not only visit very crowded temples if you are in Cambodia!
And it is time to head off. We take a bus to go to Phnom Penh, a good way to discover more the country.
Where did we sleep?
- We stayed at the hotel Golden Banana, Siem Reap. A nice and friendly hotel, cheap and comfortable which is ideal to relax after a long day walking all around the temples. Big pool to refresh after sweating the day in Angkor! Breakfasts are good as well and the hotel is not far from the city center, close to all amenities, but is also located at a sufficient distance so that you can enjoy quiet nights. Several available rooms. Gay-friendly (as you could have guessed it with its name :))