For the past few months, I took you to my previous trips in Ho Chi Minh City, Taipei (flying there again tomorrow!), El Nido (twice) & Koh Lipe, Thailand. I’ve been to relatively a lot of places already but I am a bit struggling with the details so I am doing it one at a time.
This Thursday, I’ll take you to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap is not the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia (Phnom Penh is) but it is definitely the most famous tourist destination in the country. It is the gateway to Angkor, the seat of the Khmer Kingdom during the 9th-15th centuries. This place caters to all kinds of travelers all year-round – from the backpackers to the luxury vacation goers. The city is more than just ruins & temples, it also boasts super nice & accommodating locals & very rich history & culture.
With Majo, my Siem Reap buddy, in Bakong Temple (1 hr drive from the center)
Last 16-22 February 2015, Majo & I were fortunate to visit this beautiful place for 5 days & 5 nights. We got our round-trip tickets for ₱4,469.50 in one of Cebu Pacific Air‘s low fare sale. We’ve been to a lot (when I say a lot, I mean, that’s about 15 of them) of temples during the trip. I will give more details about the trip below.
Majo & I treated this trip as sort of a relaxing one so we chose a decent & well-reviewed accommodation. We stayed in The Siem Reap Hostel. It is located about 10 minutes walk from the Pub Street. It is located a few meters walk from Hard Rock Cafe Siem Reap. The hostel has both dormitory & private en suite rooms.
Our room for 5 nights in Siem Reap!
We got the private room for 2/3 people. It features 2 spacious beds, private balcony, shower & toilet & a cable television. We paid $30 per night. The rate also includes free airport pick-up, free Wi-Fi access & buffet breakfast for 2. Buffet choices include bread, jam, coffee, tea, milk & fresh fruits. Breakfast is not included for guests staying in dormitory rooms. The guest can pay only $2 to avail the buffet.
The hostel has an on-site restaurant with delicious & reasonably-priced food. They have one of the best chicken rice, pad thai & lok lak I’ve tasted in my whole trip. It also has a bar where they have the 50-cents draft beer during happy hour. It has a spacious common area & a swimming pool on the ground floor, billiards area & cinema room on the 2nd floor & the yoga area on the 3rd floor. Guests are also allowed to use the computers on the ground floor for research & booking tickets / accommodations for upcoming trips.
Hostel’s bar & restaurant beside the swimming pool
The hostel also has a tour desk where guests can inquire about day trips they can take. If you are looking for friends to share tuktuk for the temple tours, you can just write your name & room number on the board & meet them in the lobby the following day for your tour.
What I really like about this hostel is they give back part of the proceeds to the local Khmer community. They help a group of tuktuk drivers by offering fixed-rate temple tours with these drivers readily available outside the hostel. Note that they give the tour fee drivers & they don’t get anything from it. They also help a local Khmer village by giving them livelihood. One staff told me that the hostel pays for their school & their English classes.
With Quentin, a French solo traveler we met in the waterfall tour. He joined us the following day for the Angkor Wat Sunrise / Small Circuit Tour.
I would highly recommend everyone to stay in The Siem Reap Hostel. It’s not just a hostel, it’s a hostel that helps the local Khmers. For updated room rates, check out this link.
US Dollars ($) are widely accepted all over Siem Reap, or shall I say all over Cambodia. The conversion rate at the time of writing is $1 = KHR 4,075.64. Make sure your US Dollars are new & crispy; some locals do not accept dilapidated notes. Locals normally use their local currency for small changes like 50 cents.
Each tourist is required to purchase a temple pass for your to gain access to each temple. During our visit, a day pass costs $20, a 3-day pass costs $40 & a 7-day access costs $60. As of 1 February 2017, the government decided to raise the rates of these temple passes. The new rates as are as follows: $37 for 1 day, $62 for 3 days & $72 for 7 days. Expensive, eh?
Our 3-day temple pass worth $40 that time~
Note that these temple passes are non-transferable because it has your photo in it. You don’t need to use the pass for 3 or 7 consecutive days. The pass is valid for 30 days after your first use. Since we were there for 5 full days, Majo & I decided to get the 3-day temple pass worth $40.
Temple Tours & Places To Visit
As mentioned earlier, The Siem Reap Hostel offered temple tours through the group of tuktuk drivers they help. The rates & temples included in every tour are posted on the board at the ground floor at the back of the restaurant / bar area. Majo & I decided to take the following day tours
Note: These temple tours do not include meals. You can either bring your own food or ask the driver to stop by a restaurant along the way. Make sure to bring a big bottle of water, a cap / umbrella & a towel because it can be really hot during the day.
Grand / Big Circuit ($15)
Small Circuit / Angkor Wat Sunrise ($15)
Angkor Wat was the seat of the Khmer Empire. It is considered as the world’s largest religious complex & is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bayon Temple is the central temple of Angkor Thom. It is also known as the temple with smiling Buddha.
Ta Prohm is the famous location used in the movie Tomb Raider.
Banteay Srei, Banteay Samre & Rolous Group ($20)
Banteay Srei & Banteay Samre | Banteay Srei is a temple dedicated to Shiva; a temple made of red sandstone.
Lolei was under renovation when visited the temple grounds.
Phnom Kulen Waterfall Tour ($32)
Visited the reclining Buddha on top of a hill.
The place where the Buddha is located.
Phnom Kulen Waterfall with the tour group turned good friends. The waterfall is located 2 hours & a few minutes hike from the Siem Reap center.
Another photo of the waterfall – this time without the people 😂
We also went to The River of a Thousand Lingas (no photo). It is a series of sand stone carvings in river beds & banks. It is located in the slopes of Phnom Kulen.
Pub Street & Siem Reap Night Market
Pub Street with the gang! Crazy fun night 🍺
If you are into restaurants & bars, then Pub Street in Siem Reap downtown is the place to be. The place is characterized by affordable to a-bit expensive restaurants (for dinner) & bars (for drinks). This is also where you’ll find most of the backpackers & tourists who are up for some fun night life. Majo & I (plus our new-found friends) went here for a few nights to have dinner & drinks (plus some crazy partying). The parties in the bars extend up to the streets at late night. Good times!
On our last night, Majo & I went to Siem Reap’s night market to buy some goodies for our families & friends here. The night market is a few blocks from the Pub Street. The prices of items were somewhat expensive – touristy I guess.
Majo & I were unable to go to most of the places in downtown (museums, halls, etc) because we concentrated on exploring the temples in Angkor & the nearby towns. It believe it was alright, the temples were really beautiful. Siem Reap is a place one should not miss! 🇰🇭
Pre Rup sunset 😍
Have you been to Siem Reap in the past? What was your favorite temple? Anything or place I missed that you want to suggest to the other readers? Feel free to comment below or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.
Thank you for reading & have a great day ahead. 😎
PS. All photos above were shot using my HTC One M8 & HTC Re.