City: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Time of Year: January
Stay: Tom and Jerry Hostel. I booked the Tom and Jerry Hostel because it was clean and cheap. Simple. I knew I’d be spending very little time in a room so I wasn’t worried about having any creature comforts around me. The best part of my stay here was the wonderfully kind family that ran the hostel. In true Cambodian style they were very friendly and accommodating. The hostel is also walking distance from some great eats and the main streets.
See: Angkor Wat. It is undoubtedly the major attraction to the city but its popular for a reason – the temples are spectacular. Like any major tourist attraction go early to avoid the crowds. You can purchase one day, three day or five day passes to the temples. A one day pass is good if you’re on a tight schedule but you won’t see everything that’s on offer, a three day one is better if you want to see more of the area. The best way to experience the temples is at sunrise, it’s a very different experience compared to seeing them in the middle of the day.
Save: Consider saving on accommodation by staying in a hostel. Hostels and budget hotels are very affordable in Cambodia and (in my opinion) large, luxury resorts look slightly out-of-place. In any case you will most likely be spending most of your time outside exploring than in your hotel room.
Splurge: When I wasn’t admiring ancient temples, I was wandering through the night markets. The night markets in Siem Reap were among one of my favourites in South-East Asia. It was the only place I have been where I could get my feet nibbled by some fish for as long as I wanted for $3 and get a free beer. Also in the night markets, you will have a chance to barter for some Cambodian Silver or their famous Cambodian Silk. Cambodians are not ruthless hagglers so don’t be too severe when bargaining. As much as you want the best price just be mindful that you are a wealthy visitor and for some, market stalls are their primary income. Don’t get too annoyed if you feel like you are getting “ripped off” or paying more than a local because, well lets be honest, you can probably afford it. It’s the scammers that you want to watch out for.
Pack: A comfortable pair of walking shoes because if there is one thing you are going to do in Siem Reap..its walk. Tuk Tuks are a fantastic and cheap way to get around the city, even the temples, but there is still a lot of walking to do if you want to get the full experience.
Good to Know: Beware of scammers around Angkor Wat. If anyone tries to offer you anything like a flower or tries to “bless” you, do not accept or (like I foolishly did) you will be forced to pay a “donation” to the monk – they wont accept any less than US$5. A smile, a no thank you, and walking quickly past will do. Also, opposite many temples are stalls offering drinks, food, and souvenirs. Often times it is the children running up to you that ask for your name, where you’re from, and talk to you in order to get you to buy something at their stand. As hard as it is to refuse a child, if you don’t want to buy anything you need to keep walking past – but be kind – a smile, a no thank you and a quick pace. If you hesitate then the chances of you parting with money are a lot higher. This will happen at just about every temple.
Have you ever travelled to Siem Reap? I’d love to know your thoughts and recommendations!