I am realllly stretching out these Asia posts. Sorry about that!!
I loved Cambodia so, so much.
The second I got off of the plane from Bangkok I felt a wave of relief. You may remember from my post about it that Bangkok was pretty intense, and the airport experience leaving was such a nightmare. I got off the plane, breathed in the warm evening air and immediately felt so much better. The big reason to visit Siem Reap is to see the temples. We already covered that in this post!
Here is a little video which will give you a feel for Siem Reap + my hotel, and then we will dive into everything you need to know about planning a trip here.
Visiting Cambodia is a little bit more complicated than visiting Thailand so just keep the below things in mind!
What to know before you go!
- You need a Visa! You can buy it at the airport when you land – it costs $30. Before you leave, get a passport photo taken as you will need that. (You can do that at most drugstores – I got mine at CVS.)
- Cambodia operates almost exclusively on the dollar. So take out a lot of cash at home (if you’re American) in advance of the trip.
- Be really careful. I had all very positive experiences but petty crime is common in Cambodia and I have friends who have had bad experiences with theft and having their phones nearly snatched. Keep an eye on your things at all times and be smart. Do not leave your cell phone out on the table while you are eating.
- Don’t drink the water. Like, not even to brush your teeth. It’s safe to brush your teeth with but I personally found that it tasted really bad. Bottled water is cheap – buy a few extra bottles and keep ‘em in the bathroom.
- Don’t eat the street food. I will admit that I had some ice cream from a street vendor and was immediately scolded on social media for it. Oops. I was fine though. But generally, don’t do it. My friend’s husband got e coli – not worth it!
- Take a tuk tuk! They are everywhere (there were several parked outside my hotel) and make getting around super easy. I rarely saw actual taxis, and my hotel coordinated airport pickup + drop off.
- Tip well. This goes without saying but Cambodia is beautiful but very poor. My tuk tuk driver insisted on waiting for me to take me home after dinner… for $5 round trip. I was shocked that he wanted to wait two hours for me while I was at dinner. I gave him $20 and he was so grateful.
Where to stay!
I loved, loved, loved my hotel, Central Suites. It’s in a great part of town and very nice. My room was huge with a big king sized bed and fluffy white bedding (and a gorgeous bathroom with a rain shower) and it was only $70 a night. They also have a really beautiful pool area and bar (where you can order $3 cocktails). I was definitely impressed. They had a great (complimentary) breakfast every morning and also provided free transfers to and from the airport. I was a little nervous about getting around so it was comforting to get picked up and not have to worry about taking a taxi.
It was very inexpensive and they also have a great laundry service. I had a white blouse that was covered in self tanner and sunscreen – they got every single bit of that out. And my pants were a wreck after a day at the temples and getting caught in the rain… they got all the clay out of the bottoms – miraculous!
We also heard really amazing things about Viroth’s + the Sofitel. Viroth’s had been our first choice but it was fully booked.
What to do!
- Take a tour of Angkor Wat, Angkor Tom and the other temples. Refer to my whole blog post about Angkor Wat and Cambodia’s temples. I cannot say enough good things about Poy Pines and his tours… he was amazing: so nice, so knowledgable, and an amazing Instagram husband for the day. 😉
- Get a massage! I heard good things about Lemongrass Spa but I ended up going to Real Spa (it’s right next to Central Suites) as it looked a bit nicer. There are so many good spas and the prices are amazing. I really treated myself – had a four hour spa day… getting a body scrub, body wrap, and massage. It was $65, for everything. Real Spa was incredibly nice, more like a Western spa (you have your own room, etc).
Khmer Angkor Kitchen is a very basic, simple Cambodian restaurant but the food is good. Poy (my tour guide) brought us here for lunch and I loved it. I had fresh spring rolls to start and then he introduced me to something called Amok, which (to my understanding) is the Cambodian equivalent to curry, though it isn’t as spicy as a curry. It was divine. I ordered the Chicken Amok (over rice) and ate a LOT. It probably helped that we got up so early and I was HUNGRY but I really loved it!!!
Red Piano is very famous (and was Angelina Jolie’s favorite place to eat when she was there, filming Tomb Raider). I went for lunch and had a delicious beef dish (I forget what it’s called but it’s one of Cambodia’s signature dishes. YUM. The drinks were just so so (I had a strawberry margarita and it was just meh) but maybe I should have ordered something else. The food though was very very good.
Cuisne Wat Damnat was one of the best meals I had over the entire trip. And the 6 course tasting menu is just $31. It’s French-Cambodian fusion and absolutely delicious. The chef greets you at the entrance, the service + atmosphere is also really good (for Cambodia – we’re not talking white linens etc… it’s rustic and charming). I had a turmeric margarita and the most delicious food – shrimp, this amazing duck soup, a few other delicious things and a black bean crème brulee which sounds like it could be disgusting but is anything but.
What I Wish I did!
There is actually SO much more to Siem Reap/Cambodia than the temples and historical stuff. There’s quite a bit I would have done if we had more time.
- Bars! My hotel was right off of Pub Street – which looked very fun. Every night I would get home around 10 from dinner and just read but if I’d been with friends I would have gone out out. Miss Wong’s and Angkor What are both very famous.
- The Silk Farm sounds incredible!
- Floating Village
- Phare Circus