ជំរាបសួរ! “Chum Reap Suor!” (pronounced as choum-reap-sore)
It means “Hello” in Cambodian.
If you’ve seen Tomb Raider, then you’ll definitely recognize the huge Banyan trees that were entwined with the centuries-old temples of Angkor. The scene that showcased it was only a small depiction of the majestic beauty of the Khmer empire or modern-day Cambodia as we all know today. As an option for travelers on their honeymoon that want to explore the cultural origins of Cambodia which were packed with centuries-old temples as part of an Indochina itinerary, then Siem Reap is the ideal place to be! This is the reason why among other beautiful cities of Cambodia we preferred to have our first stop in the home of a famous UNESCO heritage site – the Angkor Wat.
Reaching Siem Reap can be easily done through various routes. The most common ones were through bus via different cities in the Indochina region, the boat from Phnom Penh or direct flights from major airlines from major cities in the world (Cebu Pacific or Air Asia if coming from Manila). In our case since we’re already in Bangkok and our time was limited, we decided to book a round-trip flight through Bangkok Airways going for Siem Reap Cambodia since our main destination is to see the Angkor Wat and was able to enjoy the use of Bangkok Airways lounge for our return trip even if we just booked economy. The flight only took 1 hour and 10 minutes with in-flight meals and 20 kilos baggage allowance per person. It has to be noted that airfare rates vary from one airline to another depending on the season and route. Discounts and promos are common so it’s not possible to get affordable rates for your trip.
Another good thing to note why we considered adding Cambodia to our Indochina trip is the free visa option for Philippine passport holders like us. As an ASEAN member state, Philippine passport holders can enjoy 21 days visa-free!
Upon arrival at the Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport last JUNE 2018, we were then immediately directed to the non-visa lane of the immigration counters where it only took us a few minutes to clear everything before we were told to go to the luggage conveyors to get our things. What is nice about the airport was even if it looks like a domestic airport because of its size, the area was beautifully designed for its functionality to serve the crowd of tourists excited to visit Angkor Wat.
Cambodia is part of Indochina (GMT +7) that is 1 hour behind Manila Time (GMT+8).
US Dollars is widely used in Siem Reap so its advisable to use this currency while transacting in the area even when buying souvenirs from people selling on the roadside other than Philippine Peso and the Cambodian Riel since the conversion is low. As of this writing, the conversion is as follows:
$1 = 4,050 Cambodian Riel
Php 1 = 418.70 Cambodian Riel
Also, be sure to do your money exchange outside of the airport so you can get a much better and competitive rate.
The official language spoken in Cambodia is Khmer but in Siem Reap, English is also widely spoken.
Similar to other Asian countries, there is no dress code restriction in Siem Reap, however, it is advisable to wear decent clothing especially when entering religious areas.
Roaming can be used while in Siem Reap or you have the option to buy a Sim Card just like what we did. But, it’s actually not the best option since hotels would have free wifi offerings as well as some restaurants. In case of connectivity is a big issue, sim cards are widely available at the airport or through the Klook application online for Cambodia Prepaid 4G SIM Card with a BKK Airport Pick Up from AIS ($10.59 or Php 563) which was what we did.
For our week-long stay at Siem Reap, we decided to book with Golden Temple Hotel located at 7 Maraka Street Angkor High School Road around 15-25 minutes from the airport and Golden Temple Retreat in the heart of the city near the famous Pub Street and Temple Night Market where a lot of awesome finds can be bought at a bargained price! The hotels were part of the locally-owned Golden Temple Group famously known for giving off an authentic-Khmer hospitality through their 5-star hotel ambiance, delectable cuisine, friendly staff, amazing offers, and great rates.
Since we were traveling on a budget for our honeymoon, picking the right accommodation for our stay was tricky since Siem Reap has a lot of amazing hotels, inns, and hostels to choose from. But among them, Golden Temple Hotel stood out not only because of its great real client feedback from Tripadvisor, its affordable rate from Agoda and fabulous offers other than the usual free buffet breakfast and complete toiletries such as welcome drinks, welcome tray full of traditional snacks and fruits, complimentary traditional Khmer massage (which is a must-try!), free Khmer gourmet lunch and dinner set, snacks, room upgrade, etc.
Moreover, the facilities were also great with their fast in-house wifi connection and clean swimming pool. The staff was also friendly, knowledgeable and efficient! Honestly, our expectation with our Siem Reap accommodation wasn’t that high assuming that anything being offered with lots of perks at a seemingly super affordable rates due to an existing promo at the time of booking is always too good to be true, but that wasn’t the case with our experience with Golden Temple Hotel because they actually exceeded all of our expectations with Cambodian hospitality, food, and services!
Cambodian cuisine is mostly similar to Filipino cuisine especially with rice as its staple food and the use of fermented fish paste, although some dishes also have a strong Thai-affinity most probably because of their historical relations. Cambodian food is mostly served with veggies and fish, and the way that they cook it is usually done with less oil as well. We’re not nutritionists, but based on what we have experienced, their food is definitely good especially if you’re on a diet like in my case or if you’re planning to go vegan, which we noticed since the majority of restaurants in the city offers vegan dishes. In Siem Reap, you can get a local decent meal complete with rice, 1 main dish, side variant and drink for $5-10 (Php 266-533) per meal depending on the type of restaurant or it can go as high as $25 (Php 1,332) per person per set without drinks and taxes. Street food is also common especially around the Pub Street area where you can get for less than $3 each (Php 219).
Siem Reap is a city with a rural atmosphere, with Angkor Wat as the tallest building, probably because they have been trying to maintain the authenticity of the temple complex for its thousands of tourists. There were no CCTVs on the streets except in establishments and because of the crowd, it is strongly advisable to be mindful of your belongings especially in touristic areas to avoid problems.
HERE’S OUR FULL ITINERARY
- Depart from BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport via Bangkok Airways
- Arrival at Siem Reap Angkor International Airport
- Check-in at Golden Temple Hotel for Superior Double Room for 2pax but we were upgraded to Deluxe Poolside for free (KWD 43.44 or $143 or Php 7,671 all-in for 4D/3N including taxes, buffet breakfast, complimentary massage vouchers, complimentary meal vouchers for the whole stay, and airport transfers)
- Chill day at the Hotel to explore the facilities indulge in the complimentary Khmer massage and complimentary Khmer gourmet dishes (breakfast-lunch-dinner) where cooking class were also held
- Angkor Wat Full Day Tour with Banteay Srei Area
- We bought our Angkor Pass tickets early in the morning at the Angkor Enterprise office which opens at 5 AM. Our ticket costs $37 each ($74 or Php 3,946 total for 2 pax) for 1 full day access of the Angkor Wat Complex. They also took our photos which were shown on our tickets to ensure that we were the ones who are going to use them. Credit cards are also accepted but we were advised by our tour guide to pay in cash so the process would be quick. The Angkor Pass has a validity of 1 month upon issuance. Aside from the 1-day pass, you can also buy other tickets good for 3 days at $62 and 7 days for $72.
- We booked our tour online through Klook for our private car charter ($35 or Php 1,861) with English speaking tour guide ($30 or Php 1,595) to formally explore the areas of Angkor Wat and its complex because we want flexibility for our tour and because it was really, really hot (34 degrees Celsius ++). Our very efficient team consists of Mr. Ohm, our driver and our English-speaking tour guide Mr. Touch Chanthy of Siem Reap Shuttle Tours, who made sure that we’ll have a better understanding of what their culture and people represent.
- Angkor Wat Temple
- Angkor Thom
- Banteay Srei
- Pre Rup
- Ta Prohm or Tomb Raider Temple
- Prasat Bayon
- We had lunch at a local restaurant serving authentic Khmer cuisine and we also visited a jewelry store after the Temple tours since Cambodia is actually known for mining special stones such as Emerald, Ruby, and Sapphire. It was also interesting to know about the country’s rich mining history and how their economy partly relies on it other than agriculture and tourism. If you like jewelries, you can get good rates starting from $50 for a good pair of genuine gemstone earrings directly from the local sellers! Just be sure to ask recommendations from your hotel and tour guide so you won’t be scammed.
- Transferred to Golden Temple Retreat which is located near Pub Street after a miscommunication about our initial booking took place. To make amends, our booking was upgraded to Luxury Double Pool Access without any additional fee ($65 or Php 3,315 for 2D/1N including taxes and airport transfer)
- DIY travel around the area (Riverside, park and other temples) through their local Tuk-tuk (tricycle) for $6 (or Php 319) round trip from the hotel
- Visit at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church located near the riverside at No 027, 50 Krong which is one of the two Catholic Churches in the City
- Wat Preah Prom Rath. Free entrance. Great way to walk around the site without having to stray too far from the central tourist area.
- Pub Street. If you want to experience nightlife in Siem Reap where you can find a variety of great local food and cheap beer is sold for less than $0.50 (or Php 27) per bottle then this place will surely make your stay quite memorable!
- Temple Night Market. This is a typical wet market where lots of bargains for souvenirs other than exotic fruits, fish etc. can be bought.
- Apsara Dance Performance at the Golden Temple Retreat for their guests. The performance was a 5-dance ensemble that showcased Cambodia’s classical dances and traditional colorful attires.
- Depart Siem Reap Angkor International Airport (back to Bangkok Airport which was our base station)
Overall expenses for 5D/4N Siem Reap, Cambodia Tour (excluding airfare, food and souvenirs)
- 4G Sim Card: Php 563
- 2 Hotels : Php 10,986
- Angkor Pass for 2pax: Php 3,946
- Private Car for max 4pax: Php 1,861
- Private English Tour Guide: Php 1,595
OVERALL TOTAL for Two Pax : Php 18,951 (US $350~)
Note: The cost of airfare, souvenirs, and food expenses have been excluded in the overall expenses computation because of the seasonal rate and promo that we were able to get and the complimentary meal vouchers (free food) that we received as freebies from the hotel that we used for the whole duration of our trip.
Moreover, prior to our trip, we’ve heavily relied on blog and Facebook posts of people who traveled to places such as Angkor Wat for example. Unfortunately, we found out that the important costs such as the Angkor Pass fee were not properly disclosed which is compulsory to be able to get inside the complex. Instead, some false information about their overall budget during their Siem Reap stay have been spread. To avoid confusion, it is highly encouraged to directly check the official website of Tourism Cambodia for legit information about rates, tours, restrictions etc.
- Plan everything ahead to avail of promos and to finalize your possible route (bus, boat, train or plane) either directly from Manila or from the other neighboring countries. It is also highly recommended to stay in Siem Reap for at least 3-5 days to do the Temple tours and explore the city.
- Always book directly for your flights online to get better discounts and enough information about delays, cancellations, baggage and reroutes.
- Agoda has been our best friend when it comes to booking our hotels around Indochina other than booking directly through the hotel’s website. The site would usually have one-day offers that give up to 90% discount. But always compare rates first before booking since they would usually vary from time-to-time.
- Since we want convenience, for our tours, we preferred to use the Klook platform because based on our experience they offer the most competitive rates (great discounts) so far. They also partner directly with the best tour agencies in the area and any changes can be easily done through their 24/7 customer service. Payment is also easy through credit card and/or Paypal options.
- Credit cards are widely accepted in Siem Reap so it’s not a big problem when you ran out of cash but only except when riding Tuktuk.
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