THE SIEM REAP TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
Got to Siem Reap on the cheap w/ Philippine’s low cost carrier Cebu Pacific. It was a short 3-hour (ish) flight, but the lack of legroom felt like the flight time was double than that.
To my limited knowledge on the history of Cambodia, I knew that it was once colonized by France. The French influence was very evident the moment you enter the airport in Siem Reap, as the signs were all in Khmer and in French.
I arrived fairly late (past midnight), so I couldn’t clearly see my immediate surroundings – but there was a strong impression that I was in a country far less developed. The “taxi” that I took to get to the city center was a motorbike towing a rusty old trailer on pitted dirt roads with limited lighting. I think this played a huge part on my first impressions of Siem Reap.
In many ways, being a tourist in Siem Reap felt very familiar – almost having the same vibe as visiting Bangkok as a first time tourist. You have streets lit up with colorful decorations, peppered with restaurants and bars catered to the non-locals. There are carts serving cheap Cambodian street food with tuk-tuk drivers yelling your name vying for your business. It all felt very familiar. Very South East Asia.
THE FIRST PICTURE TAKEN
Went straight to Pub Street!! For those who don’t know, Pub Street is Siem Reap’s party hub that is littered with restaurants, entertaining street performers, dance clubs, and bars offering $1 beers. If you have ever been to Bangkok, it is very much the Cambodian equivalent of Khao San Road – where you’ll find all of the above and then some.
I’m guilty of not being too familiar with Cambodian cuisine. It is not as mainstream as its counterparts (mostly talking about Thai and Vietnamese, for example), thus it is a little bit challenging to find Cambodian food or restaurants in my hometown in Chicago.
If I were to be honest, there wasn’t a specific Cambodian dish that stood out and left an impression. When you eat out, you will mostly find on the menu are soups, rice dishes, stir-fried, curries, noodles, and vegetables.
Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. And Tomb Raider was filmed here
None. Every time I visit somewhere new, I usually try on learning the local lingo. However, the Khmer language, along with Thai and Vietnamese, have words that are really hard for me to pronounce…and remember!
Not being able to wear yellow around monkeys in Siem Reap.
Besides that, I actually thought I would have a hard time communicating with the locals in Siem Reap. I wasn’t sure upon arrival if English was widely spoken – but to my delight – I got around just find with no problem.
MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE
Walking in a market and seeing a bunch of people getting pedicure while watching a drag performance to Katy Perry’s “Fireworks”. Cuz baby you a faaaaaywok
FAVORITE ACTIVITY IN SIEM REAP
Renting a bike and taking it all the way to Angkor Wat with a new travel buddy I met at the hostel I stayed at in Siem Reap.
Biking just allows you to explore and discover different parts of the city that you probably would never know about. Siem Reap is also fairly small. Even if you get lost, everyone knows where the city center is located.
I will also include the wildly popular fish massage in Siem Reap. For roughly $2 USD, you get to stick your feet in a tank of (dirty, presumably) water. An army of tiny fish goes on attack mode and clobbers your feet to eat off the dry skin, leaving your with baby soft heels.
Perhaps the biggest challenge here is keeping your feet in the tank for more than 5 seconds. This activity is not for the ticklish!
BEST SIGHTS TO SEE IN SIEM REAP
Angkor Wat – for obvious reasons. You can not be in Siem Reap and not visit the national monument. It’s like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower.
If you want to see Angkor Wat in its entirety, you will not be able to do it in one day. They offer a 3-day pass for about $40 USD, or for a single pass for $20 USD. I think four days is quite sufficient for Siem Reap to do all tourist things.