Because our time here in Southeast Asia is running out, we only were able to visit two cities on our recent weeklong trip to Cambodia. Last week, I wrote about our time in Phnom Penh where we stayed for 3 nights. We spent a little more time in Siem Reap (4 nights), and we were so glad we did! Most people visit Siem Reap to see neighboring Angkor Wat, but this small city has so much to offer travelers. It has great (cheap!) food, good nightlife, tons of inexpensive hotels, and even a circus!
I’ll be posting next week about Angkor Wat, but Kevin and I both thought Siem Reap deserved its own blog post. So what did we do in Siem Reap, anyway?!
We Enjoyed Getting There from Phnom Penh
I’ve read HORROR STORIES about the highway between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The trip is just 200 miles (320 km) long, but it can take anywhere from 6-8 hours to make the journey! Long stretches of the highway are just dirt roads with no asphault in sight. The dust billowed up around us and settled down on everyone and everything near the road. Even in sections where the road was paved, it was usually riddled with potholes, so cars were swerving wildly left and right all over the road to miss them. Though you’re supposed to drive on the right side of the road here in Cambodia, we were regularly all the way over on the left side!
If you’re willing to rough it and have a high tolerance for dust and heat, the trip can be made for as cheap as five bucks. However, we learned long ago that if you’re willing to fork out just a few extra dollars in Southeast Asia, the extra comfort is worth WAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY more than that extra money you spend. We were very comfortable, and managed to enjoy the trip! How could we NOT enjoy it, with things like this constantly rolling past our window:
We booked seats with a fairly new company called Giant Ibis for $15/ticket. They have a big focus on safety (working seat belts are always a surprise in SE Asia!), and the bus had fantastic air conditioning and free wifi that worked occasionally. But the thing that sealed the deal was the promise of a free Croissant from Blue Pumpkin, a popular bakery chain in Cambodia. I’m such a sucker for a free pastry! Check out these photos of the Giant Ibis bus:
We even stopped at a nice little spot for lunch:
We reserved our seats online way ahead of time, so we had a great view from the first row. Here’s a short video I made of road trip:
We Stayed at a Hotel with a Pool
There’s no denying that the main draw to Siem Reap is Angkor Wat, but there’s not a person on this planet who can explore Angkor Wat’s temples for several days straight in the hot sunny weather without getting a little bit temple fatigued. We recommend spending the mornings touring Angkor Wat (leave by 6am to beat the crowds!) and spending the afternoons at your hotel pool. That means it’s important to splurge just a little bit to stay somewhere nice.
We picked the Villa Um Theara, which was wonderful! At just $31/night (including taxes and fees!), it felt like such a steal, especially for high season! We spent our mornings at the temples, and our afternoons by the small but spotless pool. An added bonus: the breakfast (included in our room rate) was AMAZING, and the coffee was stellar. I don’t think there’s another hotel in the world that could possibly have coffee as good as the Villa Um Theara. If there is, you must tell me.
Plus, who can resist a hotel where the towels are folded up so that it looks like two elephants high fiving:
We Drank a Lot More than Normal
Like I said in my post last week about Phnom Penh, we enjoyed Cambodia’s beer variety… a lot. Like this one – Kingdom Dark. A DARK BEER. IN SOUTHEAST ASIA. We were pumped:
How could we not drink a lot, there’s an area called Pub Street!
We also made a dangerous discovery on our last night in town. Viva Mexican Cafe sells margaritas for just $1.50. A DOLLAR FIFTY! ALL DAY! The margs were delicious and fairly strong, so it’s possible that I only remember the first half of the first one.
We Ate a Lot of Indian Food
For some reason, there is a TON of delicious Indian food in Siem Reap. I don’t know why, and I don’t care, I’m just hopping on the bandwagon. We only went out for eight meals in Siem Reap, and three of them were at Indian food restaurants.
Our top pick? Curry Walla. So good that we went twice. I might even say it was better than anything we found during our food escapades in Singapore’s Little India.
We also enjoyed India Gate, which was cheaper but not quite as tasty:
Here’s a peek at their Thali plate, just $3 for all of this!
We Ate Cupcakes
You caught me. I love cake. I especially love adorable miniature cakes. Whoever invented the cupcake was an absolute genius, and I would like to hug him/her. We stumbled across Blossom Cafe, a bakery that not only serves up tasty cakes, but also serves up a greater purpose. (Pun totally intended.) Their goal is to train Cambodians in baking and barista skills to help them find work.
Walking into their store was like walking into a little slice of heaven – the staff had on Christmas hats, and there was holiday music playing!
This spot has tasty cakes and good service – we were handed cold towels when we sat down and they gave us free drinking water with our cakes. Free drinking water in Southeast Asia is a big deal to me.
We Drank $1 Fruit Shakes
There’s something about the Mango fruit shakes in Cambodia that makes them taste amazing. I have a hunch it has something to do with the syrup and sweetened condensed milk they add, but I’d rather pretend it’s because the gal making them was so friendly. Here’s our favorite shake lady – seek her out if you’re ever in Siem Reap!
We Got Caught in a Huge Rainstorm
A lot of areas over here have inadequate drainage. Check out this rainstorm we got caught in, and how much water flooded the streets!
We Want to Hear From You!
We’re getting tired of the heat and humidity here in Southeast Asia. What’s the weather like right now in your neck of the woods?