Siem Reap is my first destination in Cambodia, home of an ancient temple complex the size of London, once the biggest city in the world and victim to many wars. I enter Cambodia knowing little about the countries rich history, I have enjoyed learning about it but also horrified by how recent some of it is.
The Cambodian currency is the Riel but due to its instability dollars are more commonly used and given out in cash machines. It is cheap by Western standards but felt expensive on a travelling budget, I think it is because I can relate to dollars. As always you can live cheaply but it depends how much you want to indulge.
The cambodian people are the friendliest I have encountered, very happy and good natured. I have admittedly followed the tourist trail through the country and realise there is a lot more to see. Usually in tourist trodden places the locals get fed up and are less warming, this generally wasn’t the case here.
Siem Reap has a small town centre which is tourist’ised but rather relaxed at the same time. I stayed here for 4 enjoyable nights but boredom through lack of activities moved me on.
Most people drop by here as a gateway to the Angkor temples, you can buy 1 day($20), 3 day ($40) and 7 days (?) passes. I opted for the one dayer which was more than enough for me. Matt and I set off at 5am by bicycle ($1/day) to make sunrise at Angkor Wat, the cycle is only 7 km and its even possible to tow on passing tuktuks. Sunrise didn’t happen due to a cloudy morning, the sun only appeared an hour after timed sunrise. I left the crowd waiting for a non-existent sunrise to get into the temple before the rush.
We did the mini loop which is 17km and covers Angkor wat, Bayon, Ta Keo and Ta Prohm Angkor wat is the place to see the sunrise. Bayon has interesting masonry with faces in the wall. Ta Keo was appealing as you can climb to the top of it up ridiculously steep steps bringing a sweat to your brow .
Lastly Ta Prohm which is also known as the Tomb Raider temple; where it was filmed. It has been overgrown by vegetation and has trees growing on and over the temple, it was enchanting.
I though the temples bettered each other, by 11′o’clock the place full full with tourists, buses, groups the lot. Even though I am one myself this made the place lose charm. If you visit its best to go early, firstly for sunrise, second because its cooler and lastly as its quiet. By 1400 we were done, we pulled over to have our sandwiches, pre-mixed tuna and fresh baguettes from the bakery next door (which sounds great but not when you’re woken at 5am by them singing away to the radio at full blast). We cycled back to town and had a much needed shower. I enjoyed the temples and thought the one day pass was sufficient for me.
The town is littered with tuk tuk drivers, always being pro active asking if you need a ride. I appreciated it’s their means of making money but why ask when I’ve just got of my bicycle! That did start to get annoying, my favourite one being the drivers outside of my destination asking, so I say Yes, their eyes light up then I mention the name (which is 10m away) and the other tuk tuk drivers give a laugh.
One quick mention is the Blue Pumpkin bakery, they do amazing pastries and half price after 8pm! The passion fruit pineapple danish is highly recommended.
I stayed at Bun Kao guesthouse, it was a 15min walk into town but we rented bikes for the duration of our stay. I don’t mind as you get to see the surrounds of the city and have access to generally cheaper food. The staff were great, very friendly and helpful, the owner was always working, I’m not sure if her ever slept. As said above the bakery woke us early so he moved us to a different room. There was also a crocodile farm at the back which was cool to see and a swimming pool ($3) across the road; a great place to relax.