Southeast Asia Trip Report: Siem Reap & The Temples of Angkor
For the past few weeks, we’ve been rehashing our three-week trip through Southeast Asia this spring. We started by talking about Chiang Mai, our slow boat experience to Laos, and Luang Prabang, our favorite city in Southeast Asia. Today we’re moving into Cambodia. Stay tuned for our experiences in Cambodia & Vietnam!
When we were mapping out our three weeks in Southeast Asia, we considered skipping Cambodia altogether. Siem Reap seemed expensive (by Southeast Asia standards) to fly into, and we weren’t sure about how it would feel touring a country with such a recent violent history.
However, when we rolled out of Cambodia after receiving lessons in history, hope, and human kindness, we felt we had been all wrong about this beautiful country.
We focused our attention on visiting two cities in Cambodia: Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Our first stop, after leaving Laos, was the touristy (but so worth it!) Siem Reap.
Most people visit Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. This was our intention also, as well as taking a bit of a respite during the halfway point of our three-week Southeast Asia excursion.
Although we didn’t end up doing much resting, we did get a good feel for the country of Cambodia in our three days in Siem Reap.
Check out our trip details below:
How we got there:
Due to our time shortage, we took a $115 flight from Luang Prabang, Laos to Siem Reap, Cambodia through Vietnam Airlines. The flight was short and comfortable, and the visa process was a breeze (just make sure you have small visa-sized photos with you!) We arrived in Siem Reap and our AirBNB provided a complimentary tuk-tuk ride from the airport to our hotel.
Where we stayed:
Speaking of our AirBNB, this was hands-down the best hotel we found throughout our time in Southeast Asia. It was very comfortable and modern, had an incredible pool, provided free breakfast and $5 laundry service, and was only $17 a night. Like, all-in. With fees and taxes and everything. $17! Plus, the tuk-tuk driver that worked with our hotel was one of the best parts of our time in Siem Reap. For just $25 a day, he would take us just about anywhere in the area, and even stayed with us while we slowly worked our way through the temples of Angkor from sunrise to sunset.
What we did:
Our two full days (plus two half days) in Siem Reap were full. We arrived to our hotel, lounged, ended our day by walking through the night market, and went to bed early for our 4 a.m. wake up. Day two was all Angkor: we paid our tuk-tuk driver $25 for the entire day, and he picked us up in time to arrive at Angkor Wat before sunrise. He gave us general guidelines of how long we should spend in each temple so that we were pacing ourselves, and we ended our day by watching the sunset over Phnom Bekheng. We were exhausted after a long day in the extreme heat, and relished in the fact that we had a pool to come home to. On our third day, we paid the same tuk-tuk driver (he was incredible!) to take us all over the surrounding countryside. I can’t describe how relaxing it was to see the area this way: chugging along in our tuk-tuk, feeling the breeze, and stopping at a few landmarks, like a floating village, a lotus farm, and the War Museum. Our final day was spent relaxing at the Peace Cafe, a tourist favorite, before making our way to the Siem Reap bus station, where we’d take a comfortable 6-hour bus ride to our next destination, Phnom Penh (but you’ll have to come back next week to hear about that!)
What we spent:
$115/each for flights from Laos, $17/night for 3 nights in a 3-star hotel via AirBNB, $30/each for our Cambodia visas, $37/each for a one-day pass to the temples of Angkor, $24/each for a tour of the floating village, $25/day for tuk-tuk transportation, $2-$5 for meals. For three days of flights, visas, lodging, activities, food, and miscellaneous expenses, we spent a total of $601.75.
What we wore:
We don’t usually talk clothing on here, but it’s important to note that there are special considerations to make when visiting religious monuments. It was extremely hot when we visited Angkor Wat, so we wore what we felt was minimum: Cole wore shorts and a short-sleeved t-shirt, and I wore a long skirt and a short-sleeved t-shirt. We sweated through them immediately. In hindsight, I would have opted for a flowy white dri-fit button shirt (with a lightweight tank underneath) that I could take off when appropriate. There was one area of Angkor Wat that was restricted to tourists who were dressed conservatively (shoulders and knees covered)