The bus ride to Siem Reap took approximately six hours and was actually quite comfortable. The bus stopped twice, once for bathroom break and once for lunch in the middle of nowhere, but the food was prepared quickly and was actually quite ok.
Giant Ibis arrives to a bus station in Siem Reap, which seems to be located in the middle of nowhere. They offer a ride within the city for $2 and further away from the city for $3. Our hotel actually had a free pick up included in the hotel price, but because we didn’t know what time we’d be arriving, we chose not to use it. Our bus guide actually said that his main occupation is a tuk tuk driver and the bus company isn’t actually paying him anything. I’m not sure if that is the case, but we ended up taking him up on his offer and he gave us a ride in his tuk tuk to our hotel. As any other tuk tuk driver he offered to take us to the Angkor Wat temples and we agreed on two days for $25 per day main reason being that his English was actually quite good compared to a lot of other drivers. Only after a couple of days I noticed that every tuk tuk driver did the same thing when dropping off tourists at the hotel. Also the first thing our hotel did was explain us what kind of services they offer and that we could book tuk tuk drivers via them as well. So the main idea of a free pick up is to catch the tourists before they make other arrangements and have additional business that way. 🙂
We chose to stay at a Secrets Pavilion hotel, which was really good value and had staff, who were so friendly that it bordered on nosy. Everyone always greeted you and wanted to know where you were going just in case they could help you. 😀
The room was quite nice and they also had a pool, which was a bit warm for the weather though. The breakfast was also somewhat repetitive, but it seems that a lot of places in Cambodia have a fixed breakfast of eggs (your way), fresh fruit, juice/tea/coffee, and toast.
The first day we didn’t have any plans because we arrived already close to the evening. We had a swim in the pool and headed out for dinner. We had booked a street food tour with Siem Reap Food Tours and in addition to the confirmation email, they sent a list of their favorite restaurants in Siem Reap, which was super cool.
For the evening we chose Rohatt Cafe, which was more of a restaurant than a cafe and was located in a cool neighborhood. Siem Reap looked much more lively than Phnom Penh. And now we finally had a chance to experience some really good Khmer food. All the food in Siem Reap turned out to be better than in Phnom Penh and was delicious.
After dinner we walked a bit and trying to see Siem Reap in the night, then took a tuk tuk back to the hotel.
The next morning we were thinking what to do and it seemed that there isn’t that much to see in Siem Reap and that all the sights were in the Angkor Wat temple area. There was the same issue in Siem Reap as in Phnom Penh – that is it was very difficult to walk as there were either no sidewalks or the sidewalks were full of parked motorbikes. In addition it was a crazy hot day. We ended up renting a tuk tuk with a driver from our hotel ($24) and visit two of the temples that were located further away from the most famous ones – Banteay Srey and Banteay Samre. But first we needed to buy the ticket to the Angkor Wat temples. We were leaving around 11 a.m., so we got to the “ticket booth” around 11:30 a.m. To call this massive structure a ticket booth is of course a major understatement as there were at least 20 different windows. You choose for how many days you want your ticket and stand in line for that window. You get an option of 1 day, 3 days, and one week. We chose to buy 3-day tickets and those cost $62 per person. I think that the prices were raised quite recently as our Lonely Planet guidebook from 2016 still quoted this ticket type at $40.
I think that mornings are peak times at ticket booths and as they take a digital photo of you, which appears on the ticket, the lines can be quite long. Luckily at this time there were only a few people and we got our tickets in just a few minutes. After that we continued to Banteay Srey, which was located approx. 40km from the biggest cluster of temples. Because it was such a hot day, the breezy ride in the tuk tuk felt great even though it took closer to an hour. 🙂 The tickets were checked several times during our way there, but also back. Locals can access the area free of charge.
There is a myriad of temples of different sizes in the Angkor Wat area. To see all of them , you would probably need at least a week, but if you’re only interested in the main temples, it is possible to get a pretty good idea in just one day. The upside of visiting these two temples was that they were almost empty in contrast with the most popular temples we would see the next day.
Banteay Srey was built from a pinkish stone and had really nice carvings. It exuded peacefulness and had really fine carvings. The only distraction was the two French women, who showed there in strappy dresses, which were also way above the knees and were told repeatedly to cover their knees and shoulders because this is a holy place. I’m not a big fan of policing peoples’ clothing, but it is clearly stated everywhere that the clothing needs to be respectful and it’s annoying that some people think that this kind of thing doesn’t concern them.
Building of Banteay Srey began in AD 967 and the name means “Citadel of the Women”. It is believed that it must have been built by a woman because the carvings are supposed to be too elaborate and fine to be built by a man.
On the way back we stopped at Banteay Samre, which literally had no other visitors except for us and a couple of guards chatting with each other.
After this we headed back to the hotel to relax by the pool. 🙂 It’s not that sitting in a tuk tuk and walking a bit is exhausting, but rather the heat was merciless. Maybe I was impacted even more because I just came from Finland, where it was still very much winter and I wasn’t used to the heat at all. Not that we really have these kinds of temperatures even here in the south. 😀
In the evening we headed to Mie Cafe, which turned out opened half an hour later than it was stated on their web page. We ended up sitting in the Ashia Hotel next door and having a drink, which were actually quite awful. At that point I was mad at the Mie Cafe for not updating their info correctly, at myself for not calling in advance, and at the stupid hotel for not knowing how to make good cocktails. Luckily we waited as the food at Mie Cafe was absolutely fantastic! It was the closest we got to a fine dining restaurant in Cambodia for a very reasonable price of $35 per person. Considering what you got, we were super happy to pay.