Lessons from Siem Reap (Part 2)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

So, are you done laughing with me about stuff I should have listened to? Haha

Things I Did Listen To Plus Some Tips
1. The temples are amazing
You’ve seen the travel features and read the articles and they’ve all raved about the temples – I’m no different. The stories are true! It is worth it to wake up early because the temples will take your breath away.That's the kind of beauty you get from a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Make sure to catch the temples during sunrise and sunset for a different perspective. I have to say, the sunrise we witnessed in Siem Reap was amazing. It was a bit gloomy during our visit so it wasn’t perfect but it was unlike anything I’ve seen. It was so glorious to witness a sunrise slowly unfold before us. I patiently waited as the perfect red circle transformed into orange and eventually turn yellow.

2. Get a guide
I highly recommend getting a guide. Our group was lucky our guide Yan was tremendously fun to be with. I learned so much about the Khmer culture, history and people. Yan also helped us navigate through the temples to pick places that weren’t extremely crowded at certain times of the day. I didn’t have to do extensive research on the temples and be OC about what specific ones to visit. Our group would tell Yan what we wanted to see and he would pick the sites for us.

3. Gauge your temple intake
Temple passes are for 1 day ($20), 3 days ($40) and 7 days ($60). We got the 3 day temple pass but only used 2 days because we got templed out.

4. Cambodians have a profound respect for their culture
You can see the Khmer culture everywhere. During our tour, Yan said that buildings in the country cannot be made higher than the Angkor Wat – how’s that for honoring thy culture?

5. Be prepared for dusty roads
Besides wearing rubber shoes, I strongly suggest bringing a mask with you. I made the most out of my Headware. Not only did it protect my neck from the sun (as a neck scarf), I used it a lot as a mask as well.

6. Watch the Apsara Show at Koulen II Restaurant
I enjoy watching cultural shows like the Water Puppet Show in Ho Chi Minh and the Siam Niramit in Bangkok. There are a lot of restaurants that offer the Apsara Show with a buffet dinner for $10-12.

We were advised to book through our hotel so we did. I’ve seen photos of Apsara shows done in medium sized restaurants (think the size of Jamba Juice in the Fort) with a dozen or so food choices in the buffet. We were tremendously surprised when we arrived at Koulen II Restaurant because it was massive! 

For the price we paid for, the buffet alone was worth it. With their extensive menu, I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. The buffet starts at 6 PM while the show begins at 7:30 PM. It is best to make reservations and come early in order to leisurely enjoy dinner and the show.

7. If you want to go to the sites with water, go during the wet season.
Since we went in February, we weren’t able to check out the waterfalls or floating village because it was dry.

8. Have a meal at Blue Pumpkin
In almost all of the articles I read, Blue Pumpkin was recommended. They have a lot of branches all over Siem Reap and serve predominantly western food with a bit of Khmer food. 

Make sure to try the Amok Fish Ravioli ($4.50 approximately P198), their fruit shakes ($2.50 approximately P110) and their ice cream!!! The Old Market branch also had a bakery but we were too stuffed to get anything.

9. Shake It Up
We ended up drinking fruit shakes whenever possible. I am a mango girl and my faves came from the Blue Pumpkin and at the Shake stand outside Max Mart for $1 (approximately P44).

10. Go Night Market Shopping
There are more than a dozen night markets in Siem Reap. Kim and Mj gave me the heads up to buy at the Noon Night Market because it was cheaper there. I ended up buying at the Noon Night Market and the Old Market. We shopped at the Noon Night Market first.  On our last full day, we went to the Old Market which was walking distance from our hostel. We actually got to haggle more at the Old Market because we already knew the price from the Noon Night Market. 

Go for dresses (starts at $4, approximately P176, for tube dresses that are above the knee) and those comfy Cambodian MC Hammer-like pants ($6 approximately P264). Berenice wore one of the dresses we got on our bike trip around Siem Reap. I noticed that some of the items I bought in Bangkok and Vietnam could also be found in the markets like my fave bicycle.

When I tried on the Cambodian pants (which can also be used as a jumpsuit) in the market, it didn’t look that fabulous on me - it just looked okay. When I got back to Manila and saw it in my own home, it was fabulous! I was so pissed! I desperately wished that I bought more. The black version I got was longer than the printed one so even when I use it as a jumper, it covers my ankles.

11. It is a very affordable place
Like its neighbor Vietnam, your money will go a long way in Siem Reap. Your $40 hotel in Siem Reap will be more comfortable by leaps and bounds versus the same amount in Hong Kong. It is very easy to give into the temptation of luxury when in this city because of its affordability. A 1.5 liter mineral water will sell for $0.50 (approximately P22) which is even cheaper than bottled water here in the Philippines.

Reading through the good, the bad and the funny, I hope my lessons will help you on your next vacation to Siem Reap.

* Additional photos from Nix Sionosa, Berenice Ong and Danix Labudahon.  

The rest of my Siem Reap posts are here: 
Part 1: Things I Stubbornly Didn’t Listen to (but should have)
Part 3: Artisans d'Angkor
Part 4: The Siem Reap Hostel
Part 5: Design Overload at Reflections Siem Reap
Part 6: The People of Siem Reap

Part 7: Siem Reap Post Script

Discover other Siem Reap hotels.  

Past Photo Walks:

January - Manila Ocean Park
February - Sablayan and San Jose, Mindoro 

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