Must Do’s in Siam Reap
My all girls trip to Siam Reap September last year was a big big winner. You will know why I say so as we travel along my Siam Reap photojourney in the next few minutes. Firstly, it was my first trip with a new group of girls who I have come to love dearly in the past two years or so that I’ve known them. Big shout out & hugs to the lovely ladies, Cami, Bu, Bav & Nisha. Another dear friend, Sherry, could not join us but we know a bigger & better outing is waiting for all of us again! 🙂
Secondly, we made the trip memorable by achieving what we were so focused about from day one of planning the trip. You would think “Ah yes, the Angkor Wat!”, but let me say this, you will be suprised because there is more to Siam Reap than just Angkor Wat & that is exactly what makes Siam Reap a fun and mesmerising place to be in.
For those thinking twice on what else could you possibly do beside being awed by the grandiose of the Angkor Wat, here is my own personal list of Must Dos in Siam Reap. *Not that Angkor Wat alone will not leave you mindblown, but why just leave with that when this lovely place can bring you much more?
The beautiful villa where we stayed. We had the whole villa to ourselves & we pretty much made sure that it didn’t go to waste!
1) Take a Whole day Tour to Angkor Wat & the Surrounding Temples
We could not do a whole day but believe me, just a few hours will definitely do no justice to your trip to the majestic Angkor Wat. There are more than 1000 temples! Imagine standing in front of these architectural treasures built between the 9th and 13th centuries by the Khmer Kings & his people with the help of nothing but their own creativity, sweat and blood! Imagine standing there while picturing the reign of the King & and the daily life of his people in his kingdom, which could possibly be the biggest civilized city in the world at that time. Imagine how high & special their Gods would have been for the King and his people alike to stay in wooden houses so that the Gods can ‘live’ in magnificent stone ‘houses’!
I took hundreds of pictures in Angkor Wat & the surrounding temples itself but I choose only a few favorites to share here. Treat it as a preview to what you will see there. An ‘invitation’ by the Kings & their empire to you, maybe? 🙂
(I will be blogging on the Angkor Wat & other temples in another post – just too significant to share all here in one post 🙂 )
A lady tourist enjoying the view from inside what was used to be the Library. She wasn’t posing for me btw 🙂
Some Tips for Angkor Wat: Get there early with your own rented transport, if possible. Those travelling in groups can enjoy good rates for vans, just ask your resort/hotel to arrange it for you.
The weather in Siam Reap when we were there was not kind. Even for Asians who are used to scorching hot weather will most probably find the Sun to be extremely powerful at this part of the world 🙂 so just go prepared for the hot weather.
You will have to do some extensive walking to really enjoy the magnificent sight that awaits you there, so be prepared to sweat it out. Wear a comfortable sneakers, don’t carry too many heavy stuff with you but water bottles are a must, wear sunscreen & if possible, rest well the day before to maintain a good stamina. I know this well because I was still having a major hangover when I stepped into Angkor Wat & cant help but think I could have walked more and seen more if not because of the state I was in! Also, please wear decently as its a temple you are visiting. You can get some scarf or sarong at the entrance if the temple staff thinks your shorts are too short or if they feel your clothes are not decent enough. I don’t think I saw anyone being stopped from entering the main temple in Angkor Wat because of the way they were dressed but just be mindful of this when you visit the temples.
Cute little kids selling souvenirs around the temples especially Angkor Wat is a common sight there. I was really sad to see them under the hot sun working so hard trying to sell stuff to go by with their lives when all they should be doing is enjoying their childhood and be in school. I’m not sure if its a syndicate that is responsible for these kids but whatever it is they are really cute & you will be surprised at how good their English is. Please do me a favour and don’t haggle with them. Even if the money doesn’t go to them, at least we know the kids will be happy.
2) Take a Boat Ride in Lake Tonle Sap
Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia & is a must visit when in Siam Reap. The vastness & what you see around the lake will be an eye-opener. The freshwater breeze, the floating village, the little kids playing without fear on their self-made little ‘boats’, mothers with her kids travelling at ease on the water & just being there is an experience on its own.
The floating village is home to many ethnic Vietnamese and numerous Cham communities. You will see floating houses, school (which we were led to think is a orphanage), temples, shops and even Siamese crocodile breeding area (which we thought was more than just that).
Turns out this is a school! We were told its a orphanage & all the kids we see inside are orphans. Something to be careful of when you are here. (Will share my experience on this at the end under the Tips section)
The guide assigned to us from the ticket counter.
The shop were we spent USD 50 to buy rice for the ‘orphans’.
A truly painful & sad sight. She started asking for money from us when our boat stopped near the ‘orphanage home’ / school.
The cute kids who are sadly dragged into being part of the scam. Just a look at them you will know they are not orphans. They were well behaved and posed for pictures with me 🙂
We weren’t very happy to see this part of the lake. Siamese crocodiles
A mobile snacks ‘shop’
A boy with his self-made float 😛
For USD1, you can pose with the brave boy & his pet 🙂 Just remember to tell your guide politely to say no to the offer if you are not keen, otherwise be prepared to ‘travel’ alongside a python
The temple for the village folks
We waited & waited for the sunset but wasn’t lucky enough to get a clear one but I still returned happy & content!
Tips: This is a general precautionary step wherever you go travelling but particularly, if you tend to visit this lake please don’t forget to inform your hotel/resort where you are heading to & at what time they should expect you back. Always go with your guide or driver as this would be really helpful in saving you from the scam that I am about to share.
I am not sure if this is an ongoing scam there but just be careful if along your ride your assigned lake tour guide stops the boat and show you the ‘orphanage’ which is in actuality a school and tells you how the orphans there are suffering with no food. The guide will then bring you to a nearby shop to buy ‘food’ for the kids once you say yes. At the shop, when you ask how much is a kilo of rice the shop keeper will say USD1-5 (I cant remember exactly how much now) but when you ask for 5kg or 10kg he will say they only carry rice in big volume hence ‘forcing’ you to buy more than you intended. So that’s when I had my suspicion and insisted I don’t want to buy that much and after some explanation and insisting that we didn’t carry that much cash with us, I ended up buying a small sack of rice. Then the boat will be used by your lake tour guide to bring the sack of rice to the orphanage. Once there, I went in the ‘orphanage’ to see the conditions of the kids and it was clear to me that the kids are not orphans but we didn’t kick any fuss at it as we didn’t want to spoil our trip. Later, at one of the stops during the lake ride, a local tour guide of another group were telling his tourist group how all these people are involved in a scam to rip off tourists. Basically, the lake tour guide, the boat driver, the shopkeeper and the staff of the school are all working together on this to rip tourist off their monies because I don’t think the kids actually will be fed with the rice or whatever else you buy for them as the same sack of rice that we bought will be brought back to the shop to be sold again to the next unsuspecting generous tourist. We weren’t ripped off because we had our suspicion from the beginning but played along to avoid any awkward situation while on the lake. I think we paid about USD50 which all 5 of us shared. Just be careful on how you deal with this scam if you find yourself in it. Be firm with your replies but don’t be rude and the best way will be to say no to even stop at the shop by saying you didn’t carry cash with you. Other than this small incidence, the experience of being at the Lake and seeing what it has to offer is truly a beautiful experience.
3) Visit Angkor Night Market & Pub Street
Guaranteed great shopping bargains, delicious food & cheap booze here. Just be careful with your belongings and know where you are heading & the whereabouts of your guide or driver if you plan for late hours. Your art of haggling will help you with your shopping here, just like in most south east asian countries.
Tips: Try not to haggle too long at a particular stall/shop and then end up saying no I don’t want to buy it. The shopkeepers are not fierce or intimidating but why create unpleasant moment there & spoil your trip.
4) Pamper Yourself with some TLC – Spa & Massage
Cambodia is well known for its amazing massage. Even a 15 minutes foot massage is heavenly! After your long walk at the temples & at the night market, its a bliss to get some really good massage. We also got some good deals at the resort that we stayed in for some really good packages at some really cheap price. Warning: Will make you keep going back for more treatments! 🙂
My first fish spa/massage. An amazing experience. Lasted till the end 🙂
Tips: Just be sure to ask how much each treatment or massage is before agreeing and be sure to know what exactly you are in for. Believe me I make it a point to get a good massage everywhere I go and some experience was definitely not pleasant perhaps because I couldn’t appreciate the massage well – was just not my type. But not to worry, that didn’t happen to me here 🙂
4) Treat Yourself to the Delish Local Cuisines
5) Go to a Cultural Show
It was a pleasant ‘ending’ to our night there. I was totally blown away by how rich the Cambodian culture is & proud to see a heavy Indian influence in their culture be it in their traditional costumes or their folklores. Just ask for your hotel people for the nearest place where they perform and treat yourself to some great local cuisines while enjoying the performance.
6) Eat Happy Pizza & Be Happy
I saved the best for last.You don’t always get to eat happy pizza where you go but in Siam Reap you can 🙂
Always wanted to try this and had some on our trip. You just have to know where to get it. Your tour guide or driver will definitely know where to get some. If all else fails, just scroll up and look carefully at my pics and you will get some clues on where to get it. As usual, just be careful about it – don’t overdo! Have a happy pizza and be happy folks.
What’s an adventure if you are too careful or too worried? Just let loose & enjoy yourself. Siam Reap is a beautiful place that offers a variety of fun activities to do and magnificent places to see. How many days I took for all the above? Just three nights and two days. Perhaps 5 days & 4 nights will give you more time for the temples & visit some other places which I didn’t get the chance to visit. Travel safe & have fun!