Our fourth stop on our honeymoon was Siem Reap, Cambodia. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t think we did the absolute best job planning this trip because we were busy buying a house and planning a wedding, but I still think we pulled off a pretty amazing honeymoon. I say this because we only alotted ourselves about 36 hours in Siem Reap, figuring “all there is to see is Angkor Wat, right?”
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Let me tell you: that thought is not correct, and pretty much as soon as we landed in Cambodia, we wished we had a few more days (or weeks) to spend, but alas, we only had so much time for our trip, and I truly think we would have spent more time everywhere if we could have! I’ve outlined how we spent two days in Siem Reap, but if you are headed to Cambodia, make sure you do your research and really understand what you want to see, as well as travel times between all the places!
Entry into Cambodia: Visas, Currency & Transportation
We landed in Siem Reap from Phuket fairly late in the evening, and upon arrival, we had to go through customs, and get a visa. This process is easy, although it can take a bit of time if you aren’t quick to get to the front of the line. I’d like to say here that Jordan and I are experts at deplaning and running to the front of lines, so we can usually get through passport control and customs pretty quickly. Or, Jordan runs and I catch up - he’s the real athlete here.
Now, I can only speak for US citizens, as that is what I am, but we did not need to get a tourist visa to get into Cambodia ahead of time. In fact, getting the visa was part of passport control. If you want to avoid a nominal fee, bring along some extra copies of your passport photo, as they would prefer to include that on your visa. We didn’t have any, and we didn’t want to get any taken, so we paid the fee. They then took our passports for about ten minutes while they pasted the visa into and called our names out at the other end of the desk. Easy.
A quick note here: you do not need to exchange currency if you have US dollar in cash on you, as this is the currency the locals prefer. You can pay in the Cambodian Riel, if you so choose, but you will find that it is often more expensive to pay for things in Riel than in USD. According to others we spoke with, they will not accept other currencies, so if you are dealing with Euro or the like, you will need to exchange that.
The Airbnb where we were staying sent a tuk tuk to collect us at the airport, and because there are rampant scams involving taxis and tuk tuks, they are not allowed to enter the main pick up area. Because of the scams, I highly recommend you to arrange transportation prior to your arrival with your hotel or Airbnb - most of the accommodations I saw offered this as part of the pricing or a very inexpensive option. Once you get the lay of the land, you’ll better understand options for a ride back to the airport, as well as transportation in and around Siem Reap.
Touring the Temples in Siem Reap: Angkor Wat, Ta ProHm & Bayon
There are tons and tons of temples in and around Siem Reap, and I suggest you go see as many as possible. Don’t be discouraged by the ones that are 45 minutes out of the city! Of course, the main attraction is Angkor Wat, and that is a must-see, and as we only had one full day in Siem Reap, we really stuck with the Angkor Wat complex. Jordan and I booked a wonderful sunrise tour of the complex, even though we are not big tour people. We felt this was one where we just didn’t know much about anything (how to get there, how to get in, what it was all about, someone teach us please?!), and so it was well worth taking a tour.
Our tour guide, Tann, was one of the best that we’ve had, and we thoroughly enjoyed the tour. We saw the sunrise over Angkor Wat, and spent the majority of the morning at this temple. We then had lunch (breakfast) at a local restaurant, then went on to see Bayon (located inside of Angkor Tom), and Ta Prohm, most famously known for where Tomb Raider was filmed. The tour guide dropped us back at our Airbnb around 1:00 pm, just in time for a second lunch, foot massages and a nap.
Siem Reap By Night
Street Food Tour
Although Jordan and I aren’t big tour people, the one type of tour we adore is a good food tour. (You might also say we may have converted to tour people, as we spent the majority of our time in Siem Reap on tours.) We basically plan our trips around food these days, so getting to know the local cuisine is very high on our list of priorities when visiting a city. We were lucky to find an amazing street food tour by Urban Adventures. Our guide brought us to the local market to try some amazing tropical fruits, he took us to what he called the “picnic area,” which was more of a night food market, to eat some fried crickets, a scorpion and other bugs, and then to a great restaurant to have some more traditional Cambodian fare. Jordan and I have a personal rule that we will always eat whatever we are presented with when we are traveling, even if it’s crazy, and I have to say, we ate some pretty crazy things that night, but I’ll spare the details for the faint-hearted out there!
Siem Reap’s Night Markets & Pub Street
From what we experienced, South East Asia is chock full of night markets, but we never tired of exploring them. I’m not embarrassed to say that I got a pair of what I endearingly call “elephant pants” (I think they are actually called harem pants?) in every country we went to, and so my hunt for my Cambodian Elephant Pants began! There seemed to be more than just a few night markets to explore, but Jordan and I were exhausted, and knew we also had to explore Pub Street (priorities), so we head over that way.
I honestly don’t know what I was expecting when I heard about Siem Reap’s Pub Street, but it is exactly what it sounds like: a ton of bars overrun by tourists. That being said, it is absolutely something you must experience if you go! Jordan and I actually just walked around Pub Street this night, and really spent more time here the next day while we killed time before heading to the airport, but it’s really fun to see it at night because there are lots of lights and decorations that you cannot see during the daylight.
Exploring Siem Reap’s Cafe’s & Bars
The next morning, we took time to explore the wonderful cafe’s in Siem Reap. Someone on our food tour had recommended that we check out Sister Srey Cafe, so we walked over from our Airbnb (Siem Reap is incredibly walkable), and had a great breakfast. Sister Srey, along with many other cafes in Siem Reap, are founded on the principle of helping the local community and building a sustainable economy. There were many places that had a cafe on the first floor and a shop on the second floor which featured artwork or craftwork of local Cambodians.
We also spent an hour or two at the bars on pub street - there are some fun ones with rooftop bars, and one in particular named Angkor WHAT?!, so we had to give those a try. Word to the wise: if you do go to these bars, I advise you to stick with the bottled beer, even though the pricing of the draft beer is so appealing. I say this because both Jordan and I had draft beer, and after much deliberation, we believe this caused us to get food poisoning. We cannot be sure, and we did each a bunch of weird stuff the night before, but the timing just works out, and there is a bunch of tap water involved in draft beer. Someone also told us at the equivalent Pub Street in Hanoi (who knew there was more than one?) to avoid the bia hoi (draft beer) for this exact reason.
Overall, Siem reap was amazing, and we only wish that we had longer to explore more temples, as well as more of this amazing country. Have you been to Cambodia? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!