It is Friday evening and I’m sitting in a mini-van about to leave Phnom Penh for a weekend in Siem Reap, and the van is super hippie: we look like a rock band touring the West Coast. Not quite the same thing though. The way from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is filled with the tropical mix of clay orange and dark green trees so prominent in South East Asia. I’m all surrounded by locals, who seem to be having an animated discussion. I still don’t understand a thing so I focus on reading my Lonely Planet guide.
Apart from the occasional cow in the middle of the highway, the journey is pretty smooth and the roads are fine. We stop at a restaurant in Kampong Thom, halfway through our journey, and they invite us to go eat but I’m not hungry. So I decide to sit on a bench in the middle of main road, next to a fella having a bag of crickets while he watches life go by.
I get to Siem Reap safely in a little over 5 hours. It is far smaller than I thought. It’s a small town. It’s a lot less chaotic than Phnom Penh and super different – doesn’t have the big city vibe.
Day 1 – Bring on the temples!
Next morning, we hire 2 tuk tuks for 5 people for a tour around Angkor. 15$ each tuk tuk a day. The hotel where we stay help us find these tuk tuk drivers. The entry to the temples is more expensive: 20$ for one day, 40$ for three days within one week. Don’t try to get away with tricks, your pass has a picture of you and the authority is super strict.
As soon as we hop on the tuk tuk, a little rain becomes a heavy storm. The tuk tuk driver stops, covers the cabin with curtains while he battles alone against the incredible rainfall that rapidly has him knee deep. He doesn’t seem to care, he says: “it’s just water!”. What a legend.
So I thought that Angkor was a couple of cool temples, but man this is huge. Important is to not overdo it, 5 temples a day is more than enough.
In any case, Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm temples are the ones which one should not miss at all.
Attention: It is hot throughout the year!! You should respect the code (no bare knees or shoulders) but make sure you wear light clothes. If not, I strongly recommend to buy one of those tacky elephant shirts inside Angkor, they are cheap (post-bargaining) and super comfortable. Make sure you buy it loose, as my friend ripped it in less than an hour.
It is evening now and we are back to our hotel. After resting in the hotel for a while, we head for pub street for drinks. It’s buzzing! The atmosphere is a bit artificial, all you see around is backpackers and zero locals. Still very fun and a great way to relax after a tiring day at Angkor.
Day 2 – More temples and back to Phnom Penh
Next day the tuk tuk takes us around some other temples that are a bit more spread. I struggle to remember the names of all the temples we visited, but the Lonely Planet guide is very useful to know your way around. There’s some information about each of the temples, just enough to have an idea and not dive too deep onto the details.
My bus back to Phnom Penh is at 5 pm, and while we are heading back to the hotel around 4.30 pm our Tuk Tuk runs out of gas. Brother, you had one job! The other driver brings us some in a bottle of Red Label whiskey – problem solved!
Written by Ricardo as part of the CamboTicket traveler memoir section. Ricardo is a young Spaniard who has recently moved to Cambodia and is now sharing his experience as a first time traveler in Cambodia.
Note: A weekend in Siem Reap would suit best to the people traveling from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap or Bangkok to Siem Reap as the bus journey takes just 6 hours and 9 hours respectively. You can search across multiple operators and book tickets online on our website.
If you want to read more about the travel from Bangkok to Siem Reap, you can read our other blog post here.