April 7, 2014

Siem Reap, Cambodia: Same Same But Different Tips

Last October of 2013, my friends and I scored a promo flight via Cebu Pacific, and decided to fill our inner Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider at the beautiful kingdom of Cambodia.

Siem Reap is known for it's ancient ruins, rich with history, and is perfect for those who want to tick off a box from their bucket list. There are so many temples you can visit, bars that do not sleep, kids who would never get tired on offering you to buy their $1-postcards, and other activities that could literally take your breath away.

When was the last time you had an adventure?
So before I post our memorable experience, let me share to you some tips on how to prepare or what to expect in Siem Reap:

1. Dollars are better than Riels. Have your money exchanged at your local foreign exchange before going there to get the best rates. And as soon as you arrive Siem Reap, take a moment to appreciate the clean, simple, and beautiful Angkor International Airport. :)

2. A Tuktuk costs a dollar per head. You can ask your hotel/hostel receptionist to call their recommended driver for you. You could also rent a bike to roam around the city. Just be careful of the pot holes, and the drivers. I know someone who got a big bruise on her leg for falling off.

Aftermath of Angkor What? Bar caused this blurry photo.
3. If you're traveling on 'Ber' months, prepare for bipolar weather conditions. The roads in Siem Reap get easily flooded, so if you're taking a tuktuk from the airport or other major roads, pray that a car/van you won't get soaked. Or get a driver.

My recommendation: Kriss from aangkorwattour! He speaks good English, provides you free wifi in the van, unlimited bottles of water, and recommends well-trained tour guides (like Mr. Vann Lonh) to give you the ultimate Khmer experience. 

4. There will be a lot of kids who will offer you same same, but different items. In every temple, you will also encounter hordes of sellers who will offer you products that you probably won't need. Unfortunately, they don't cost a dollar.

5. Sunrise or Sunset? Head to the Angkor Wat temple at 5am and see the beautiful Sunrise above the majestic temple. The colors are amazing.

This was just taken from my iPhone4s. Imagine the colors in real life. 
6. Bring lots of water if you're doing the temple hop, and an umbrella too. You're going to need this to fight off the scorching heat and unpredictable drizzles. I bought a disposable coat at Angkor Wat, it wasn't comfortable and I was sweating the whole time. Don't forget to wear sun block. The higher the SPF, the better. Oh! And please wear your most comfortable pair of clothes and foot wear. I saw this lady, all dolled up and wearing heels, thinking how she'll surpass those uneven steps in Beng Mealea. 

Hello Fashion Police!
7. Monkeys are every where! And don't get shocked if they um.. randomly mate in front of you. They have the highest level of PDA. :p

PDA and Voyeurism.
8. If you're thinking of trying their famous Happy Pizza, make sure not to go here. The place was poorly ventilated and was swarming with moths. I almost ate one when it went to my food. Plus, the pizza wasn't that 'happy' at all. Go to Pub Street instead, and enjoy their super cheap drinks.

9. Haggle. Haggle as much as you can at the night market. If you don't like what you see on their calculator, just walk away. If they chase you, give it another shot. But if they don't, there are many other fish in the sea. :p

10. Have fun in every photo op. Channel your inner Indiana Jones/Lara Croft/The Power Rangers/Johnny Quest/whatever character you like. Siem Reap is the perfect backdrop to unleash your inner kid. :)

Here is a copy of our budget and itinerary prepared by my good friend, Kyla. :)

And lastly, don't forget to check out the boards before you enter each temple. You get to see how the world helps in restoring, conserving, and rebuilding these ancient wonders.

So what are you waiting for? With frequent seat sales by Cebu Pacific, fly to Siem Reap and invest on an adventure worth remembering.

More temples and other tales on my next post! :)