Exploring Siem Reap – Up, Close & Personal!

 

…Continued from Part 1

(I covered the entire Siem Reap stay in this one blog post, so it’s a little longer than usual)

The Journey: Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

From Phnom Penh, you can either fly or take a bus/ mini-van/ private cab to Siem Reap. We had reserved seats with Mekong Express for $13 and the bus service picked us at 7:30 a.m from the hotel. There are 2 luxury carriers – Giant Ibis & Mekong Express who has services between these 2 cities.

The bus was a luxury one, air-conditioned and with wi-fi that started at 8:30 AM. We each received a refreshment box of a pork patty, a cupcake and a bottle of water.It took us about 6 hours to reach Siem Reap, with only one stop for lunch (the bus had a toilet so they didn’t stop for toilet breaks). They dropped us off at the bus office in Siem Reap. The road condition was nice and the driver drove within the speed limits and carefully.

Mekong Express bus fare to Siem Reap: $13

Siem Reap:

The hotel provided complimentary airport pick-up, but Mr. Hat was nice enough to accommodate our bus station pick-up. The hotel is situated a little away from the main town, but only 1 km away from Pub Street’s nightlife.

Where To Stay:

Siem Reap has multiple options of accommodation ranging from dorms in hostels (mad Monkey being the most famous one) to mid-range boutique hotels to luxury resorts. We stayed at Residence101 at the Wat Damnak village which was just a 10 mins walk from the Pub Street.

Our Room at Residence 101

Transport:

Mode of transport:

Tuktuks are available everywhere. The Angkor tour can be done by tuktuks. They will charge $20-22 for daily Angkor trips. Trip to Kbal Spean and Banteay Srei can cost between $25-30.

For long distances, avail the local/ luxury buses. Giant Ibis runs buses on both Phnom Penh and Bangkok routes, while Mekong Express only plies between SR and PP. Nattakan Transport is also popular on the Bangkok route. All these operators run luxury buses with comfortable seats (and wi-fi) and toilets on-board (though they might not function on most days). The Bangkok buses do not have wi-fi but they provide refreshments and lunch. There are mini-vans also plying on the routes. They are smaller and faster but not the safest option around. Private cars and taxis can also be hired, but they are more expensive.

Nightlife:

Siem Reap has an amazing nightlife. Pub Street liveliest part of the town. It’s a walking street with rows of restaurants and pubs on either side of the 2 blocks. Few of the noteworthy ones are–Red Piano (favourite with Angelina Jolie during the Tomb Raider days), Banana Leaf, Easy Speaking ( degustation menu with crocodile, frog legs, ostrich meat are served), Khmer Grill (for authentic Khmer cuisine), and Picasso. We tried the local delicacies like Fish Amok and the chicken loklak. Both were rich in flavours and very tasty.

Liquor is inexpensive. Draft beer at $0.75, cocktails for $3-5 and liquor for $3-4 are available. The mobile bars are even cheaper. Head to Angkor What?(quite famous with the tourists), Temple Club (played great tracks) and Miss Wong’s.

Shopping:

Bargain shopping at the Night market and the Psar Chhas (old market) for clothes, souvenirs, sculptures, rice paper paintings (available outside almost every Angkor temples) and more. Scented soaps and organic cosmetics are popular buys here.

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Scenes at the Pub Street

Things to See:

Angkor Archaeological Park:

The Angkor Archaeological Park is split into 4 sections:

1) Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom

2) Temples of the Little Circuit

3) Roulos group

4) Temples of the Greater Circuit

5) Outlying Temples

Entry Fee:

The tickets for Angkor are avilable for 1 day ($37), 3 days ($62) or 7 days ($72) from the APSARA office (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the region of Siem Reap)

(There is a detailed guide on the Angkor Archaeological Park)

Day 1:

We reached the APSARA ticket office and purchased the 3-day pass for $62 (the passes will have your picture on it, bring it everywhere and do not lose it). This pass was our gateway to the enormous Angkor Archaelogical Park spread across 400 sq. km. The Angkor Wat is located at a distance of 30-45 minutes from Siem Reap’s main town.

Angkor Wat & A. Thom:

Angkor Wat (“Temple City”) was constructed by King Suryavarman II in the mid 12th century. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to God Vishnu.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Angkor Thom:

Angkor Thom was the Khmer Empire’s last capital town, established by King Jayavarman VII, on the banks of the Siem Reap River in the early 12th century.

It includes

  1. Bayon,
  2. Baphuon,
  3. Terrace of the Elephants, and
  4. Terrace of the Lepper King
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The South gate of Angkor Thom
Smiling faces at the Bayon temple
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Baphuon temple

Little Circuit:

The little circuit includes temples like:

  1. Ta Keo
  2. Ta Prohm
  3. Banteay Kdei
  4. Sras Srang
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Trees growing out of Ta Prohm ruins

Tuktuk fare for Day 1: $16-18

Day 2:

We toured the Roluos Group and the Big Circuit temples on Day 2.

Roluos Group:

  1. Preah Ko
  2. Bakong
  3. Lolei
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Preah Ko
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Causeway to Bakong

After finishing the Rulous group of temples, we rode the tuktuk back into the Angkor Archeological Park to visit the Big Circuit temples.

Big Circuit:

  1. West Mebon
  2. Ta Som
  3. Neak Pean
  4. Preah Khan
  5. Pre Rup
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Apsara carvings on the wall at Ta Som
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One of the smaller ponds at Neak Pean
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Trees growing out of Preah Khan ruins
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One of the towers at sunset
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Sunset from Pre Rup

Tuktuk fare for Day 2: $20-22

Day 3:

On Day 3, we covered the Outlying temple of Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean waterfall.

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Shiva linga and carvings on the riverbed
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Thousand lingas and yoni at Kbal Spean
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Outer complex of Banteay Srei

Tuktuk fare for Day 3: $25-28

Apart from the Angkor temples, you can also visit any of the floating villages where the houses are made on stilts. While visiting these villages, do not miss the crocodile farms. 

Floating Villages: The most notable ones being Chong Kneas, Kampong Phluk and Kampong Kleang

Floating village (Source: Google image)

This journey was a memorable experience as we traveled back in time at Siem Reap and condemned the Khmer Rouge at Phnom Penh. We had scaled the world’s largest temple, walked miles every day, and even hiked through jungles. Very few places leave a lasting impact on me and Cambodia was certainly one!

Angkor wat – ✔️

Safety & Precaution:

Siem Reap is comparatively safer. We did not receive any words of caution or warnings about bag snatching. Nevertheless it doesn’t hurt to be cautious. Just follow the basic rules of safety as you would in any other places.

Things To Carry:

1) Clothes that would cover your knees and shoulders (but light and breezy clothing)

2) Sunscreen with the highest SPF

3) Medicines

4) Toiletries

5) A good pair of hiking shoes/ comfortable slippers

6) Sunglasses

7) Hats/ Caps

8) Mosquito repellant

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