Siem Reap is home to the iconic Angkor Temple complex. Built by the Khmer empire, it is one of the largest religious sites in the world. It is highly rated as a must see destination in the world and features on most travellers bucket lists.
Planning our trip
When planning our week long vacation in Vietnam, we thought it would be opportune to spend a few nights in Cambodia.
We flew directly from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap with Cambodia Angkor Air. It was our first time flying with the airline and I must admit I was slightly nervous travelling in a two-propeller plane. We had a bumpy take-off but once in mid-air, we had a comfortable flight to Siem Reap.
Upon arrival at the airport, there were quite a few tourists scrambling to arrange their visa’s however the process is quick and pain-free. The airport is beautifully decorated on the outside and surprisingly clean and neat on the inside.
We travelled to Cambodia late March and it was already very hot and humid. Whilst it was more affordable at this time of year, it was highly unpleasant for sightseeing.
Whilst the currency of Cambodia is Riel, US Dollar is an accepted and preferred medium of exchange.
Tourist visa for South Africans
South Africans require a tourist visa for Cambodia which can be arranged on arrival. Reminder to carry the visa fee in cash which is priced in US Dollars.
Our hotel – Somadevi Angkor Hotel
Our travel agent, Custom Vietnam Travel, arranged our accommodation at the Somadevi Angkor Hotel. At first we were given an old, run down room. After expressing our dissatisfaction, we were upgraded to the block across from the main hotel. The room was spacious and modern, overlooking the hotel’s pool area. Unfortunately there was no wifi here. Overall, we had a good 3 night stay.
In terms of proximity, the hotel is situated about a kilometre away from Pub Street. Although tuk-tuks are available at all times of day, just outside the hotel, at minimal cost.
The best part about staying here was that there was an indian restaurant situated just outside the hotel.The food at Curry Walla was affordable and tasty.
Things to see and do
There are so many temple ruins to see, the famous ones being Angkor Wat and Bayon.
I would also recommend the very pretty Banteay Srei and Preah Khan. Ta Prohm is another one of my favourites and not just because it featured in the movie Tomb Raider with the famous Angelina Jolie, but because it looks like something out of a children’s story book. Imagine the tallest trees with its branches and root intertwined with the temple ruins.
Included in our tour cost was a 3 day pass to access the temples of Angkor. We were on a private tour and had a guide and driver accompany us to the different temples. There are a few different passes but this was adequate for us and we were able to visit most of the temples.
It is a breathtaking site to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Prepare yourself for an early morning start and arrange with a tuk-tuk driver to collect you in the morning.
Before booking an apsara show, look online for traveller reviews. Our tour itinerary included a show and dinner at the hotel. Can’t say it’s something I would pay to see but it’s a nice way to end a long day.
This city comes alive at night. The nightlife is centred around Pub Street where there is an abundance of bars and restaurants.
If you looking to relax and unwind after a long day of sightseeing, there are quite a few spa’s to choose from around here as well.
Cambodia’s night markets are great for curios, clothes, art etc. However I found bargaining with the locals extremely challenging. Perhaps you will have better luck than I did. 🙂
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay having seen some of the oldest and most beautiful temples in the world. What made it great is that we had a patient and knowledgeable tour guide that did everything to ensure that we had the best time.
The sad reality is that these temples are subject to the elements and will deteriorate over time. What are you waiting for? Get planning! 😉