After moving around constantly over the past five months, we decided to spend the final week of our trip (kind of!) relaxing and really treating ourselves in Cambodia. We didn’t want to rush, so we decided to spend two nights in Phnom Penh and a further five nights in Siem Reap before starting our journey home.
We took a flight from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh. It was super cheap and almost the same price as getting a bus there, so we decided to save time and fly. When we arrived at the airport, we hopped in a taxi who took us straight to our hotel.
We stayed two nights at The Plantation Resort and Spa in Phnom Penh. It was absolutely spectacular and we loved every minute of it. On arrival we were greeted with a welcome drink and some chocolate pepper ice-cream, before being escorted to our room.
The decor at the hotel was amazing. They had an exhibition called ‘Afloat’ taking place at the time, and so the main entrance was filled with beautiful art.
I think my favourite part of this hotel was the pool area. They had beautiful cabanas for lounging, and the comfiest sun loungers I have ever lay on!
Things To Do
Visit The Killing Fields (S21)
The Killing Fields are a number of regions in Cambodia where more than a million people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979. I highly recommend that you pay this incredibly sad place a visit, and learn about the history of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Be sure to take the audio tour to really understand what is going on.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
This museum serves as a timeline of the Cambodian genocide. It was one of at least 150 execution centres established by the Khmer Rouge, and was where an estimated 17,000 people were imprisoned. At any one time, the prison held between 1,000–1,500 prisoners. They were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates, who were in turn arrested, tortured and killed. Most of the victims were soldiers, government officials, as well as academics, doctors, teachers, students, factory workers, monks, engineers, etc. Again, this place is really hard to walk around and quite upsetting but it is really important to truly understand what the Cambodian people went through during the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
While the hotel and many websites recommended getting a private car from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, we found that this was quite expensive. Most places were quoting between $75-90 for the trip! After a lot of research, we stumbled upon a government-owned transport company called Cambodia Post VIP that provides mini van service between the two cities for just $10. A bargain! The trip was comfortable and took about 5 hours with a short stop about half way.
We did a bit of hotel hopping while in Siem Reap and stayed at three different hotels. Each one had something we really liked about them. The first place we stayed was the Silver Palms Boutique Resort. This one was probably the best located of the three, just 10 minute tuk-tuk from the town. The next was Shintana Saya Residence. This hotel really blew us away. The service was second to none and the hotel itself was so beautiful. Finally we stayed at Sojourn Boutique Villas. I booked this place as a birthday surprise for Andrew and we had a really amazing stay here.
Things To Do
Visit Angkor Wat & Go Temple Hopping
Obviously one of the things that Siem Reap is famous for is Angkor Wat and all of the beautiful temples that surround the Siem Reap area. A tip we learned from one of our drivers, was that if you purchase your temple pass the evening before (after 5pm) you can visit the temples that evening for sunset and still have your full day the following day. So, thats exactly what we did.
We visited the Pre Rup temple for sunset – it was absolutely beautiful. The following morning it was an early start, leaving the hotel at 4.15am to hit the road to catch a glimpse of Angkor Wat for sunrise. We explored the temple before moving on to visit the city of Angkor Thom, the Bayon and Ta Prohm along with a number of lesser well known temples in the area. I think this was one of my favourite things we did on our trip.
Khmer Ceramics Pottery Class
This two hour class teaches you the basics in pottery including how to use the pottery wheel and also how to mould various shapes. For just $25 you make about five different pieces, carve them in traditional Khmer style and can choose one to fire and glaze. It was so much fun but we won’t be giving up our day jobs!
Cooking classes are really common and easily accessible across Siem Reap. Most hotels offer it as an activity on site, however I recommend that you find a menu that you like and go for that one!
Visit The Cambodian Markets
There are so many markets in Siem Reap, however be careful where you shop. Most of the products are not Cambodian and are just important from places like China to sell. I’d recommend visiting the Made In Cambodia Market and Artisan’s Angkor for genuine Cambodian products, rather than stocking up on cheap merchandise in the larger markets.
Check Out Pub Street
Pub Street is as the name describes, one street that is filled with a lot of bars and restaurants. You will find the cheapest drinks along here, and don’t expect to pay more than 50 cents for a beer! During happy hour you will even get a really good cocktail for just $1.50! It’s insane! Day or night, this place is buzzing with street vendors serving handmade ice-cream, Khmer food and fruit shakes and is the perfect place to enjoy an evening stroll and drink.
- Buy your temple pass the day before and get more bang for your buck
- Don’t take ice in your drinks and be careful where you choose to eat
- Be sure to get the audio tour when visiting S21 and the genocide museum
- Don’t get ripped off at markets – haggle, always!
- Be sure to pack a long sleeve top or cardigan to cover your shoulders when visiting temples. Ladies – you will also need to cover your knees and be sure to dress respectfully
- Visit Vibe Cafe, Siem Reap. I recommend the Ritual Bowl and Raw Zucchini Pasta
- Get out of bed for that 4am temple run – it will be worth it. While you’re at it, book a tour guide. It’s 100 times better knowing what is going on than just looking at the pretty monuments
Our one regret was not heading down south to explore the coastal regions of Sihanoukville and Koh Rong Island – but I guess that means we will just have to go back!