Welcome to Cambodia a beautiful country filled with incredible people, amazing sights, hustlers, more prostitutes than I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been to Thailand), corrupt government workers, and good food.
Coming straight from Bangkok (a great hub for traveling in Southeast Asia btw) I hopped on a flight to Siem Reap for the main reason of seeing Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. I landed in Siem Reap airport got my VISA on arrival and slipped the officer an extra $2 on top of $30 for not having my photo attached. If I gave him an extra $20 he probably would’ve given me a unlimited entry VISA, but my passport expires in a few years so no point. Once I got outside the airport I picked up a SMART SIM card for $10 with 5GB of data and $5 worth of talking time. *Announcer voice* What a deal!
Now I know Angkor Wat is overhyped, but it was still pretty dam cool to see. I woke up at 4:40AM hopped on the back of a local’s motorcycle with tires as thin as bicycle tires (that’s not an exaggeration, they’re thin as hell…), who just happened to be driving past me the night before asking if I wanted a tour of Angkor Wat tomorrow and that he’d do it for me. All around Siem Reap you’ll have drivers come up to you asking if you need a driver, if you want drugs, or a prostitute. Not needing any of those things I usually just walk away. However, it’s funny when they say they have drugs because they whisper it like a cop is around, the cops don’t give a shit as long as you bribe them.
Anyways I woke up early thinking the sunrise over Angkor Wat would be amazing and less crowded. Holy shit the line just to get tickets, which are $20 for 1 day, was crowded. There were already hundreds of people there. Everyone wanted to see the dam sunrise too. However, it’s worth it. It’s pretty stunning and quite the sight IF you got a good spot.
Now besides the main Angkor Wat temple that everyone comes to see there are countless more temples. I honestly can’t remember the number of temples I saw that day. There were sooooo many. Also there were so many dam Koreans…but I’ll get to that later.
One thing I did notice that most of the temple had contributions from different countries sponsoring the restoration and upkeep. Which was great considering how poor the country is.
That brings me to another point…Cambodia has a lot of poverty, I mean there are families living under bridges and unfinished construction sites. I haven’t seen that amount of poverty in any country so far. In that aspect Cambodia is quite the eye opener for those uninitiated to the rest of the world, and living in their own bubble.
However, with the little amount of things they have here people are still very happy. It’s a common thing for people to say that you don’t need material things to make you happy. That holds very true for many of the Cambodian people I’ve met. They are quite content with their lives here.
As for the town of Siem Reap itself, it’s quite fun. It really comes alive in the evening in this area called Pub Street. It sounds crazy, but it’s really just an intersection with a lot of street vendors, restaurants, and bars. It’s quite tame actually and nothing like the craziness of Khaosan Road in Bangkok.
About an hour and a half drive north of Siem Reap is a mountain with a beautiful temple and waterfall. The best waterfall I’ve seen since the incredible 7 Waterfalls Trek in Bali. Thanks Ingela.
Another $20 ticket to get into the Phnom Kullen park and your on your way! Really now $20? Despite being one of the world’s poorest countries they have no problem with charging what is the most expensive entry ticket to any sight I’ve been to in Southeast Asia
In Cambodia they use the US Dollar along with their funny money called the Real, they that as change. So if something costs $0.75 you’ll give you 3000 Real. They don’t accept US coins only the bills funny enough. This inherently makes the cost of things more than say Thailand or other Southeast Asian countries for that matter. Example a large 1.5L of bottled water in Thailand costs roughly 24-40Baht ($0.67-$1.12) and in Cambodia it was $0.75 the cheapest and $1.50 at the most. It’s pennies in difference, but when you’re traveling long-term relative costs matter.
Going back to Phnom Kullen in the waterfall are these little fish that eat your dead skin and old scabs. You’ll see a lot of people stick their feet in the water and let the fish have at ‘em. Better than paying $6 at those pseudo massage parlors that have the tanks of those fish filled with dirty water.
The Preah Ang Thom Monastery at the top of Phnom Kulen is home to the largest laying Buddha statue in all of Cambodia. That is impressive and all...however it's not really much in comparison to Wat Pho in Bangkok.
Basically all in all Siem Reap is a pretty cool place. It’s got plenty to see and do. Also I’ve never seen more Korean tourists in any place I’ve visited yet than Siem Reap. There are billboards in Korean, signs everywhere in Korean, entire tour buses filled with Koreans, and more Korean restaurants than any other foreign restaurant.
In fact every bus that I rode in Cambodia was an old decommissioned bus from Korea. It even still had the Korean street route maps stickered onto the windows. Also every single passenger coach bus I saw was Korean. Which leads me to wonder about what kind of economic/political relationship Korea has with Cambodia.
Just a couple hour bus ride from Siem Reap is the small city of Battambang. Known mostly for having a beautiful countryside and the few scenic tours that surround the city. I was there only for 3 days and took a fun Tuk Tuk ride with a local named Nicky. If you ever go to Battambong I highly recommend linking up with him.
If you're not in the mood to chill then this place really isn't for you. There's little to no nightlife here and little to do besides hanging out with some locals and chilling by the river in the city.
I went Phnom Sampeu where the Killing Caves are located, Wat Banan, the Bamboo Railroad, and bat watching. Nicky really took his time in explaining the places to me in surprisingly really good English. Telling me the history of the places and little stories that only locals know.
Honestly the Bamboo Railroad was pretty boring and at the end of the tracks there's just a bunch of vendors there like exit through the gift shop. So you ride along old tracks laid by the French, which will soon be torn up, and go about 30 minutes down the tracks just like a Disney ride.
The Killing Caves, originally called the Theater cave and dressing cave, were sadly a sight used to execute people during the time of Khmer Rouge. There's a high ledge where they used to push the prisoners off to their eventual deaths...pretty fucked up stuff.
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Till next time. Peace OUT!