Let me talk about one of the most popular provinces in Cambodia, “Kingdom of Wonder”. This has been one of the places that I have been wanting to go ever since I stepped foot in Cambodia. To see Angkor Wat with my own eyes and to be able to see the beauty of the ancient ruins in person. I have been in Cambodia a countless times. Actually ,way more than I have been back home in the Philippines for the past years. It became a second home for me. Or can I say it as a “second home away from home”. As this was my last Christmas as a student, I decided to go to Siem Reap because I usually go to Phnom Penh. I wanted to see something new and go somewhere I have never been before. And Siem Reap ticks both of that list.
This is also the second time I’m celebrating Christmas in Cambodia. Last year, I was in Phnom Penh for Christmas and New Year. Now, I am in Siem Reap for my Christmas celebration for 2016.
As I myself am a “foodie”, the first thing that I always look forward to my travels is getting to eat the local food. The first food that came up to my mind was Beef Loc Lac and Nhem (which are very delicious spring rolls). I have bugged my girlfriend about this as soon as we came to Cambodia. I have to eat these two things! Luckily, the hotel we were staying at which is owned by my friend’s family has that in their restaurant. Yaaaay!
The famous Loc Lac beef with red rice
First things first, I arrived in Siem Reap on the 23rd by van. From Bangkok to Poipet and Poipet to Siem Reap. The ride lasted 6 hours without counting the lines from the immigration and the walking from Thailand’s side to Cambodia’s side. It was tiring but it was a good experience for me. This is not the first time I’ve taken the vans to Cambodia. I’ve been taking vans to go to Phnom Penh and so far everything has been going smooth. But just have to be really cautious and be careful of the people that can rip you off. Luckily, my girlfriend speaks Khmer so she was basically my tour guide there too.
We arrived in SR around late afternoon. So the only time we were able to get out of the hotel to go sightseeing was around night time. The first place I went to was of course the “Pub Street”. This was the only thing to do at night time in Phnom Penh
Pub Street in broad daylight
We first headed to a Reggae Bar named “Soul Train Reggae Bar” to meet a friend’s friend there. The bar was kind of hidden. You will have to walk to an alley near Pub Street. It was beside a spa which is a rather weird destination for a Reggae Bar. But nevertheless, we arrived at the bar and you are welcomed by the rasta colors and Bob Marley’s face around the bar. You can hear Reggae songs playing in the background. I’m not a big fan of reggae music but the vibes in the bar was freakin’ great. And the good thing about Cambodia are cheap draft beers and cocktails! You can buy a draft beer there for $0.50 and a cocktail ranges from $2.00 to $3.00.
Then we headed to a bar named “Brick” to chill and for my friends to play. Since I cannot play pool to save my life, I was watching them while talking to my friend. I also decided to get a henna tattoo on my finger since I have never had it before. And it turned out good! After being hyped up with all the draft beers, we decided to go to Pub Street to officially start the night and drink in one of those numerous mobile bars. Walking in the street, there were music coming from each mobile bar. Like outrageously loud music that you can make you deaf and they all are playing different music. They even let you play the song you want when you buy cocktails from their mobile bar. We choose one mobile bar and each drank 6 Jagerbombs. Now, were so hyped up and went to a club called “Temple” and danced the night off. We had to use all that energy buzz from the red bull somewhere.
First henna tattoo evaaaar
On the 2nd day, the morning was a blur because of hangover but we had a Christmas dinner at Le Meridien Angkor. It was buffet dinner and we also drank some red wine and champagne for the celebration of Christmas Eve. At the end of the night, we were so full to even go out and thus, headed home after the dinner.
Happy faces before the buffet
On to our 3rd day, my girlfriend and I went to see the famous, “Angkor Wat”. I bought a day pass ticket while my girlfriend got in for free. The fee for a 1 day pass is $20, a 3 days pass for $40 and 1 week pass for $60. As I was originally planning on staying for 4 days and 3 nights, I took the 1 day pass instead. We woke up really early and booked a tuk tuk driver the night before. The tuk tuk driver picked us up and started our day of walking and walking…
We visited a total of 8 temples from 7am to 5 pm and with lunch time as our only break. I would want to tell more about each temple but that would be too long. Hence, I’ll just be listing all the temples I visited. Those temples are as follows; Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ta Phrom (the Tomb Raider temple), Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som and Ta Keo.
One of the many faces in Bayon Temple
Elephants exiting the South Gate of Angkor Thom
Then on our 4th day, this was going to be a chilled day for me. So we had lunch at “Jungle Burger Sports Bar & Bistro”. A friend recommended that we eat here as this restaurant is in the “Top 20 Restaurants in Siem Reap”. The restaurant’s atmosphere was similar to a sports bar with TVs around it and a pool table. They also had a lot of pictures and memorabilia of All Blacks of New Zealand. I honestly didn’t know about them if it wasn’t for my girlfriend who is a fan of them.
Of course, we came for the burgers in the restaurant. I took the “Avocado Burger” as I have never tasted that in my life. We had a choice of getting fries as our side or wedges and I took the wedges. And you can also get a draft beer with that, as I have mentioned before, it’s really cheap in Siem Reap! All in all, it was a satisfying meal indeed. Just a good way to start our day.
Afterwards, we headed to the “Old Market” or the “Psar Chaa” to buy some gifts and we ended up having our hair washed in the mini salons they have there. You can get your hair washed for $2.00. They massage your hair and wash it a couple times leaving your hair feeling soft and smelling oh so fresh. Definitely worth the money for the service. My hair stayed soft and smelling good for 2 to 3 days!
Originally, this was supposed to be our last day but we weren’t able to get a van for that day so we had to stay another day. We booked a trip that will leave the next morning. So we decided to do something instead of just staying in the room and that was going for a cooking class.
The cooking class we went to was at “Le Tigre De Papier” around Pub Street. We joined the dinner session and it cost us $15 each. We got there really early so we decided to go have a drink at a bar and walk around a bit. When we got to the restaurant, they let us pick the food that we wanted to cook. We cooked an appetizer, a main dish and dessert. I picked the Cambodian Shrimp Salad and the Cambodian Beef Curry. And for dessert we all had the Banana and Passionfruit dessert. My girlfriend chose Fresh Spring Rolls and Loc Lac for the main dish.
The class started off with a short market tour while the teacher told us the fruits and veggies that was in the market. After that, we headed back to the restaurant and started chopping up our ingredients. Our teacher was very nice as she helped us from the beginning till the end of class. She answered questions and taught us the proper way of doing things. She even taught us how to make a flower out of carrot. That was hard but I got it after a few frustrating tries.
Chopping up ingredients
After we were done, we all went to the restaurant to sit down and eat the food we all cooked. It was too much for one person! We couldn’t finish our food and had to take some home. And we also had a chance to chat with some of the other students in the class and get to know each other. After dinner, we went back to the hotel and finished the night off.
We left Siem Reap the next morning and arrived Bangkok around night time already. It was a longer ride than when I went to Siem Reap from Bangkok. The ride back home was more complicated than going to SR. So if you do decide to take a van, prepare yourself for those possible mishaps.
Within those 5 days, Siem Reap now holds a special place in my heart as it was my last trip for 2016 and I was able to see “Angkor Wat” which was one of the places I have been dying to see and having seen it finally is very overwhelming.
I would definitely go back there for sure and I still have a lot of things to do in that place! If you want to see another side of Cambodia, I would recommend Siem Reap as you will get to know more about the people and culture of the Cambodians. A bit more expensive compared to Phnom Penh as they focus more on promoting their culture through tourism. Definitely worth a visit!