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“Seeing Siem Reap in a small group”
Review of Siem Reap

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Level 5 Contributor
28 reviews
77 helpful votes
“Seeing Siem Reap in a small group”
Reviewed 1 August 2009

We ( 4 women ) just got back from a wonderful time in Siem Reap. Although it was our first time there we didn't want the package offered by agents as we preferred some flexiblity. Instead we contacted an English speaking guide (Phalla) who had brought a friend of ours around during his visit.

In case anyone is wondering, the E-Visa that we applied for online worked well and we cleared immigration smoothly in spite of all we read online about evisa's being rejected.

Phalla met us at the hotel lobby upon check in and briefed us about our itinerary which we had planned with him online before our trip.

During our 4 days there, we of course visited the main temples, viewed sunrise and sunsets from temples and hills, took a short trip on Tonle Sap to visit Chong kneas, scrambled over slippery rocks to get to the waterfall at Kulen hill after a short trek, visited more outlying beautiful temples, walked thro lotus ponds, took a ride in the hot air balloon near Angkor Wat, visited a village (guide's home village actually), watched rice planting and had a chance to grind some rice flour by millstone, visited a village primary school where the children sang and did a little skit for us in Khmer, had a durian picnic by the West Baray, visited the Old Market, their local Puok market famous for their barbequed Puok chicken, had a traditional massage, war museum, watched apsaras dance, silk factory and their artisans, and their National Museum.

Some tips:
-wear easy to dry rubber sandals, not shoes cos the roads get slushy with all the rain that comes inevitably everyday. Also good for walking along in the river at Kulen hill waterfall.
-have a disposable rain coat or 2, those allowed us to continue clambering up steep temple steps unhindered and not have to stop when it rained. We used them countless times elsewhere too
-sunscreen, hand sanitizer, insect repellant also needed
-have a small clean towel for your face if you feel icky about putting your face on the pillow at the massage place cos they are not about to change the pillow case just for you (sorry, that's the antiseptic me speaking) although they provided us fresh clean clothes to change into.

We found :
- ticket to Kulen hills was still US$20 per person even at City Angkor hotel, we had read in guide books that it would be $12 if bought there instead of at the hill. Reclining Buddha up there was..., well.., a reclining Buddha.
- food, plenty of variety near the old market and reasonably priced (yum...I still dream about that!)
- balloon ride was pleasant enough. Quiet and nice views of Angkor Wat, SR town, padi fields and farmers at work, Phnom Bakheng etc
- surprisingly, toilets easily available (either that or Phalla was good at pointing us that way!!) but bring your own sanitizer
- US$ was no issue at all, readily accepted and change given
- don't leave your spot even when you think the sun has set, the sky turns really beautiful just before it turns dark.
- apsara dance was quite charming which is a good thing cos food was just so-so, insects buzzing under the table (Kulen restaurant)
-apart from market & pub area, most Cambodians spoke mainly Khmer so we couldn't communicate with them in English
-people so friendly, cheeky and ready with a smile and a laugh

We like :
- sunrise at Angkor Wat - just magical
- having the freedom to plan our day / itinerary. Phalla was on hand to fill us in on all the facts about the temple complexes,
yet gave us our space when we wanted to do our own thing. We paid US$20 a day and liked him lots cos he never hurried us, spoke clearly without an American accent (oops!) and filled us in on aspects life in Cambodia. Friendly young guy.
- having the van to ourselves was very comfortable. We brought all we needed (lots of water etc) for the day and yet didn't have to lug anything from place to place. Cost was US$25 a day with driver.
- cycling to Angkor Wat , Angkor Thom and surrounding area a good and very pleasant option.Traffic is light and you need not be fantastically fit. Some baskets come with lids so you needn't worry about snatch thieves.Otherwise, just bring a little $ in your pocket and use basket for water bottle. There are designated bicycle parking spots at the temples ( small fee payable in riel ) Give yourself at least a whole day.
- lots of fun if you can get someone to pillion you to visit places around town ( foreigners are not allowed to rent motorbikes) which our guide did after 2 of our friends left for home. Cambodian law allows 3 on a bike.

Next visit:
- kbal spean cos we had spent too much time at walking around at Kulen hills and the waterfalls
- Prek Toal bird sanctuary cos would love to check out the wildlife
- kompong phluk
- & who knows what else this country has in store....

Should you need, Phalla is at snphalla@yahoo.com
Tel: [--]

10 Thank justemily
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Melb, Australia
Level 3 Contributor
6 reviews
8 helpful votes
“An extraordinary other world”
Reviewed 7 July 2009

I can honestly say that spending two and a half short days in Siem Reap and the Ancient Angkor temples has changed my life. The ancient history is fascinating and the recent history horrifying yet, the people are beautiful. I will definitely be returning.

Our trip on Tonle Sap Lake with a private boat was affordable and our guide was a wealth of information. Even the boat driver, despite his lack of English, picked up on our enthusiasm and started pointing out things we would like to take photos of.

I'd certainly factor in the cost of a good guide for all visits because it is makes the experience so much more amazing (and they are a great help if you like to chat to the locals).

Ancient Angkor is nothing short of spectacular. Nat, our guide made the experience magic with his history, stories and knowledge of the location. I'll give his details because I know a couple of other tourists hired guides who were useless and cost the same as Nat. - Mr Ngo Yuthnat - English Tour Guide - the site does not permit me to include his phone number but you are welcome to contact me if you would like it.

Another great thing about having a private car with driver and guide was that we could travel to the temples that were much further away and ask them to stop where and when we wanted. They also had contacts to allow us access to areas not usually frequented by tourists.

Mind blowing experience I would recommend to everyone.

Thank PJ_25
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Kuala Lumpur
Level 1 Contributor
2 reviews
16 helpful votes
“Siem Reap in three full days for USD200 (minus flight and accomodation)”
Reviewed 5 July 2009

My friends and I (three of us from Malaysia, and one from New York) recently went to Siem Reap from the 27th to 30th of June, 2009 and had the most amazing time.

We booked a flight + hotel package on the AirAsia website and snagged an excellent deal of around USD120/pax for two double rooms at Angkor Miracle Resort & Spa (4 star hotel) with breakfast for four days and three nights. I'll save the hotel review for later on.

We had decided to have a relaxed holiday, as opposed to rushing to see as many things as possible which proved to be a good choice.

We arrived at 9.30am, and headed straight to the hotel. A couple of us went to the hotel spa to have some relaxing massages that were cheap by American/European standards (USD15 for an hour-long hand, shoulder and head massage) but definitely not the cheapest by Asian standards (head to Bangkok for this!).

We booked the Sunset Tour of Chong Khneas at USD33/pax. Our pick-up came at around 3.30pm with three other tourists and headed straight to the floating village of Chong Khneas on a smaller boat. This is definitely a must-do and a real eye-opener. You will stop at the GECKO Environmental Center, and the crocodile and fish farms and even get to hold a real python!

From here, we headed out to Tonle Sap, the largest fresh water lake in South-East Asia to board the TARA boat for our sunset dinner cruise. I don't think this is for everyone, definitely do not go with high expectations although I have to say that I definitely enjoyed it because of the company I was with, and our tour guide Solid was great fun to be with (he's the one on the www.taraboat.com website too). On the brochure it said that the USD33 included dinner "fit for a king" and unlimited drinks including beer, champagne, wine etc. However, the meals were limited to fried rice and various chicken/beef/pork stir-fry dishes and took quite awhile to get served. When the food came, we discovered little dead ants in our food too. Bleah. But we ate them anyway, the food was tasty..but definitely not fit for a king. The drinks, besides the regular soft drinks and mineral water..was mostly limited to local beer and vodka, and some others. My friend asked for wine, and got less-than-sparkling grape juice. It was definitely a surreal experience, seven foreigners stuck on a boat in the middle of a vast lake with looming thunderstorms ahead! Yeah, since it was the rainy season..we didn't get a good sunset at all. On the way back, we passed through the floating village once more and saw how they lived by night. Fascinating stuff. I have to reiterate that having a good tour guide like Solid definitely made the trip so much more memorable, and if you get him you know you're in good hands!

The next morning we had arranged to do the sunrise temple tour and our pick-up came at 4.20am. We had to hire a van because there were four of us, which was USD30 inclusive of a driver. The tour guide was another USD30, and we had to pay an additional USD5 for the sunrise tour. Our 1-day temple pass was USD20. I definitely recommend getting a tour guide if you can afford it, as there's only so much you can get out of reading a Lonely Planet book..it was certainly worth it hearing our tour guide Seang Hai explain this history and meaning of each temple along with the stories of the carvings. You could see his passion talking about his people, and the rivalry with the Thais who tried to take over Siem Reap. Without a guide, the temples would basically just be a bunch of old ruins.

Anyway, we were brought to Angkor Wat in pitch darkness. It felt as though we were in a dream, walking in the darkness over the moat, the silhouette of the Angkor Wat entrance barely visible, the stars twinkling in the sky of various shades of blue and black with hardly anyone else around us. Simply amazing, was one of the best moments in Siem Reap for me. However once we got to the proper viewing spot, that's where all the people were at and that was quite disappointing, but I guess in this day and age of mass tourism, it's something you have to deal with. The sunrise was nice, but not great because again being the rainy season there were a lot of clouds. Still a good experience though.

We went back to the hotel for our breakfast and by 7.30am we headed to Angkor Thom to see the magnificent Bayon, Baphoun, Elephant Terrace, Terrace of the Leper King and of course Ta Prohm. The temples are all interesting and special in their own special way, so definitely need to see all of them.

By 12pm, our guide took us to a nearby Khmer restaurant near Angkor Thom called Rumduol Angkor. You HAVE to try the chicken Amok here, it's amazing! the best thing I had in Cambodia. Generally you can get a good full meal for about USD4, so setting aside USD10/meal + drinks would be a safe bet.

After lunch, we headed back to Angkor Wat to complete our tour. Angkor Wat is definitely the most impressive in terms of size and just takes your breath away.

We were done by 3pm and relaxed in the hotel. We headed to Pub Street in town by 7pm, just in time to catch the Apsara performance at the Temple Balcony for dinner. Try the Khmer Sour Soup here, it's amazing. Cocktails here at USD4 and you get a second one for free. Below Temple Balcony is the bar which is very roomy and spacious, and upfront they have sofas overlooking the street Parisian-style. Pub Street is an awesome place for pub-crawling, although the street's a little short. However, behind the main Pub Street there are many other little restaurants and art galleries so be sure to explore.

A note of caution though, trying to fend of the children and women selling souvenirs and the men in town with their tuktuks who kept going " hey laydee, one dollaah" got quite overwhelming after awhile so be prepared for this. However, it is quite humorous to hear some of the lines they come up with, like at Pub St when this boy asked me "hey laydee buy a book? happy hour, buy one get one free!" very creative lot! :)

The next day we spent walking around the city, which isn't very big..from the Royal Gardens, down Pokambor Avenue to the French Quarter, to Psar Chaa the Old Market where you can buy all your souvenirs at the cheapest possible price, to Pub Street again for a Cambodian BBQ. We tried Ostrich meat, which was quite nice. They also serve crocodile, snake and kangaroo meat for the more adventurous types and you can find them all over the place.

After dinner, we walked to the Night Market. Basically it's the same touristy souvenir stuff but you can see supposedly "real" full piece crocodile suits hanging from the shops at the end of the street, or go to a communal fish spa among other things.

Last but not least, we had to stop by the infamous Deadfish restaurant. Man, what quirky place! If there was ever an award for the restaurant with the most personality, Deadfish would win hands down. They have a couple of crocs here (they claim to have 26, but we only saw two) and you can feed them for really cheap too.

I have to say that although Cambodia is very much a developing country with a lot of poverty, it surprised me to see how clean it was. Of course they have really bad roads, but at the tourist sites there were no unsightly rubbish or smells. I come from a third world country as well, so seeing this was definitely a pleasant surprise. Siem Reap has definitely left an impact on me in a big way, it is an experience like no other. The people are genuine and warm, and I will definitely be going back to explore the other temples.

Heck, I'm even starting to miss those kids go "Hey laydee...one dollahh" :)

6 Thank audrakay
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Manchester, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
88 reviews
85 helpful votes
“A relaxing town, has expanded recently towards the airport”
Reviewed 5 July 2009

Siem Reap is a nice place to spend a week to soak in the atmosphere of the nearby temples. Lots has already been written about this place then I would just be repeating.

The town felt very safe to walk around at any time of night or day, take the usual precautions though, like don't flash money about or upset the locals by being disrespectful.

Nice internet facilities, very, very hot in April!

2 Thank ItchyRichy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level 4 Contributor
36 reviews
39 helpful votes
“Seeing the monuments”
Reviewed 29 June 2009

Seeing and understanding the monuments can be very hard work because of the amount of walking that you have to do and the number of ruins, engravings on the walls and the bas reliefs that you have to see and to relate them to the achievements of the Khmer Empire.

Absolutely important to get a good guide, especially if you are not a history buff or one who has the patience to figure out the temples, carvings to the description in the guide books. To me, a good guide is one who can keep me engaged and interested and make the very long walks that we had to go through manageable.

When my wife and I were in Siem Reap in June, we were very fortunate to chance upon a very good licensed young English speaking guide to help us navigate the ruins, steps, mysteries and wonders of the Khmer Empire and the temples. Peng Chansarun is a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide who speaks good English. He offered just the right amount of information and highlighted the more significant and important statues, carvings and bas reliefs in the various temples. He made the 8 Km walk that we made on the first day seemed easier than it really was (bear in mind we are in our fifties). We engaged him for 2 days at US$25 a day. Driver and car is extra, between US$20 to US$30 a day, depending on the circuit. 2 full days from 7.30 in the morning to 3 or 4 pm should be sufficient to cover around 11 of the more prominent temples.

We went to Chong Kneas on another day, a water village on Lake Tonle Sap. 2 to 2.5 hours should be more than enough. Thought the boat ride US$20 per person which lasted almost 1.5 to 2 hours a bit exorbitant. Unfortunately, there is no alternative if you want to see the floating village.

Food wise, did not find Cambodian food too exciting. However there were quite a few good eateries serving reasonable Euiropean/Cambodian food. We tried FCC, Abacus, La Malraux and Le Cafe. They were all quite good. We thought La Malraux offering good French good in a very pleasant bistro like environment offered the best value for money and ambience

4 Thank CTTan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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