Date visited Cambodia: 14 July 2017
Duration: 6 days
Our Cambodia trip was as short and sweet as a shot of sugar cane juice. We raced through this country in a matter of days when we knew we could have stayed for weeks on end. With a short timeframe, but strong desire we made our decision to throw on the blinkers and start to scratch at the surface of what Cambodia offers in tourism. Angkor Wat had been our major pull factor but we uncovered so much more in such a small time. Our blog below reveals it all for you.
Phnom Penh Airport to Phnom Penh City Center
$8 USD for a Tuk Tuk
Once we exited the airport we came to a line of Tuk Tuks and settled a price with them $8 for the ride to Mad Monkey Hostel. As we were in peak time traffic it took around 45minutes to get there. There are taxis also available which are more expensive.
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
$10 USD each
We booked our bus tickets to Siem Reap from Mad Monkey hostel, we choose Delta Adventures as they departed at the best time for us. The bus company picked us up from the hostel and took us to the bus station, which was really handy! We left around 2.30pm and didn’t arrive until 8.30pm in Siem Reap.
“Surprisingly the journey was very smooth and I slept most of the way!”
There are many bus companies and departure times to choose from, once you choose tone that suits, the staff at Mad Monkey will organise the booking and pick up time for you.
Siem Reap to Siem Reap Airport
KHR ($6 USD) each
We hailed down a tuk tuk from the side of the road and set a price of $6 to get to the airport. The airport is around 7km away and takes 15-20 minutes depending on traffic. This is the most easiest an cheapest way to get to the airport.
We threw our entire lot on black in Cambodia and choose to stay only at the notorious party hostels, Mad Monkey!
Dorm rooms from KHR 20,300 – 32,500 ($5 – $8 USD) p/n
Group rooms from KHR 85,000 – 122,100 ($21 – $30 USD) p/n
Private rooms from KHR 69,200 – 122,100 ($17 – $30 USD) p/n
Unfortunately we only had one night here. Our room was across the road from the main hostel area above the Mad Monkey restaurant. What’s worse is that Brett had become crook. We got in bed early in hope of kicking it.
So much for partying the night away!
We had a great night sleep in our private room with a personal shower. The bed was comfortable and as one would assume quieter than the average dorm room. Each night has a different theme and it was BBQ night for us. For only $6 you could eat your fill of some awesome skewers.
Feeling better we set off on foot to explore in the morning. Everything we planned to visit in the city was all within a morning stroll and by lunchtime, hot and sticky we were glad to head back to the hostel and refresh with a dip in the Mad Monkey pool. There is always someone around up for some chat, or falling asleep in the sun by the pool is totally cool here too. It’s all about, relax during the day and have fun by night!
Dorm rooms from KHR 24,400 – 32,500 ($6 – $8 USD) p/n
Private rooms from KHR 73,200 – 122,100 ($18 – $28 USD) p/n
We checked in roughly 8pm, and were happy again to have the privacy that comes with a private room.
From one Monkey to the next! Siem Reap again featured an epic pool and hang out, chill out bean-bag zone. Exactly the kind of R&R needed before and after exploring the Angkor Wat temples.
“Speaking of which the friendly staff will totally organise everything to do with your temple visit for you”
The rooftop bar/restaurant serves up some delicious food and is also where the parties happen! Free punch nights, beer pong and the fun that comes along with alcohol-fuelled madness. The floor is a giant sand pit and bar has a world tournament running for grenade shots! “Caution to all those patriotic alcoholics out there.”
The hostel was heaps of fun, a great place to relax before and after temple excursions. Perfect social place to meet fellow travellers hangout and have a general good ol’ time.
- Fish Amok – One of the most well known dishes in Cambodia. It is a fish mousse with fresh coconut milk; curry paste from lemon grass, turmeric root, garlic, shallots and Chinese ginger. This can then be steamed and served in a banana leaf.
- Khmer red curry – Coconut based curry without the overpowering taste of chilli. The dish can be made with beef, chicken or fish featuring eggplant, green beans, potatoes, coconut milk and lemon grass and served with bread on the side.
- Lap Khmer (lime-marinated Khmer beef salad) – Is a salad where the beef has been marinated with limejuice. It is then dressed with lemon grass, shallots, garlic, fish sauce, Asian basil, mint, green beans and fresh red chilli. Fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts and cucumber is then sprinkled on top.
- Nom Banh Chok (Khmer noodles) – Most common breakfast food, found by women selling it in the morning. This dish is rice noodles topped with fish-based green curry made from lemon grass, turmeric root and kaffir lime.
- Red tree ants with beef and holy basil – You man find all sorts of insects on the menu in Cambodia. The most popular dish for foreigners is the stir-fried red ants with beef. A very spicy dish served with rice. Go on! Give it a try.
- Bai Sach Chrouk (BBQ pork and rice) – Another popular breakfast dish we couldn’t get enough of. You can find this on the street; we usually went to the busiest stalls, we knew the food would be made fresher. The pork is marinated in garlic, soy and coconut milk and grilled over charcoal, where it becomes smoky and caramelized. The pork is sliced thinly and sprinkled over rice with chopped cucumber and tomatoes.
- Kuy Teav (noodle soup) – Egg or rice noodles cooked in pork broth and served with pork, beef, chicken or meatballs and garnished with fried garlic and limes.
- Green mango salads – Cambodians love their mangos and eat them at every stage of ripeness. Shavings of green mango mixed with shallots and basil and mint, array of veges – carrots, green peppers and tomatoes. This salad works really well with fish.
- Jelly desert – Popular among the locals especially the children. For 1000 riel ($0.25 USD) you can try a sweet dessert; sticky rice drenched in coconut milk and topped with taro, red beans, pumpkin and jack fruit.
- Num sang Khya L’peou (pumpkin custard) – Pumpkins are scooped out and filled with a mixture of egg yolk, palm sugar and coconut milk, then baked or steamed. Slices of pumpkin custard are served at room temperature with a scoop of shaved ice.
- Sour fruit – Green, unripe fruit including various types of mangos, guava, apple and tamarind, are sliced and sprinkled with chilli and salt. I am not a big fan, but give it a try.
- Khmer Iced coffee – Perfect to stay fresh in the morning with a strong brewed iced coffee with sweetened condense milk. A great pick me up in the morning or after dinner sweet.
- Beer – Another way to stay cool when it’s hot is with an ice-cold beer. Cambodia and Angkor where are two favourite beers and boy they are cheap here!
- Yam Yam restaurant – We found this great place while roaming the streets. A popular spot for locals at lunchtime to grab a buffet meal. For $2.50 USD you can eat as much as can of Cambodian cuisine. About 7 dishes to choose from you will come away with a happy belly.
- Street Food – We found so many pop-up restaurants on the side of the road. We choose carefully, only places busy with locals. $1 meals of BBQ pork and rice. Delicious!
- Brew – A trendy café near the national museum serving a good cup of coffee.
- My little cafe – Great place to find some quality local food at cheap prices. This place was recommended to us and we enjoyed an excellent Amok and Iced coffee here.
- Sisters Srey Café – Run by 2 Australian sisters, you can really feel the Melbourne vibe here. Always packed with people, if you try the food, you will discover why… Everything is delicious and there is so much to choose from. Our favourite place to eat in Siem Reap.
- Meng Café – Another great find near the market you can find a variety of local and western cuisine at decent prices. The food here is delicious and one to recommend.
- Chan Koem Lin restaurant – After hours of exploring the old markets, we got very hungry and found this great local restaurant on the outside of the old market. The food here is so tasty, we ordered amok shrimp that came in a coconut! The prices are super cheap and you can buy beer for 50cents per can.
Must see & do
- Royal Palace – explore the grand gleaming gold royal palace together with the silver pagoda. Both are architectural achievements and worth a look.
- National Museum of Cambodia – The country’s largest leading historical and archaeological museum. Due to time we didn’t get to visit.
- Wat Phnom – Our favourite Wat in Phnom Penh, a very photogenic spot and a great find. It costs $1 to enter the premises, climb the tall steps and a beautiful pagoda will be revealed.
- Central Market – Large, well-known market built in 1937 by French architects. There are a variety of products offered at great prices and it is said to be the biggest market in Asia!
- Russian Market – is better for shopping than the central market. Here you can find a lot of fakes, clothes, jewellery, silk and souvenirs. Every girls dream J
- Street 93 for street art – Found this by reading the Internet of what to do in Phnom Penh. If you like street art, check it out.
- Tuol Sleng Prison (S-21) Museum and Choeung Ek Killing fields – These are the infamous killing fields of Khmer Rouge. Choeung Ek is a series of mass graves from the Cambodian genocide. You will see human remains sticking out of the ground, along with hundreds of skulls of the men, women and children that were murdered. Tuol Sleng used to be high school that was converted into a torture centre, where 14,000 people were tortured before their deaths with electric shocks and having their heads locked inside of boxes with scorpions. The museum reflects this atrocious time in history. The deranged leader Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot), detained anyone who showed a sign of intellect (professionals, artisans, people who wore glasses) and sent them to torture centres as he wanted a nation solely based in agriculture. This started in 1975 and ended 1979 when the Vietnamese military invaded Cambodia. Both the Tuol Sleng Prison (S-21) Museum and Choeung Ek Killing fields seek to teach people about the past horror so it is not repeated. Admission fee for both sites is $10 each and you will need to hire a tuk tuk driver for the day to take you to each place.
- Angkor Wat – Our biggest highlight here in Cambodia was to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site and unofficial 8th wonder of the natural world.
Unfortunately as we didn’t have enough time we only bought a one-day pass, this costs $37 each. Many other tourists do it in 3 – 5 days, as it is a big archaeological site. Lots of people online say one day is too short.
“For us, one day was enough, we got to see everything we wanted to see.”
Our favourite temple wasn’t the amazing Angkor Wat itself but some the other surrounding temples.”
Top Tip #1 Try to get to the ticket booth at 5pm to purchase your ticket for the next day, you will then be allowed entrance to the park and watch the sunset from one of the temples. After we purchased our ticket we headed to Pre Rup, which is one of the recommend temple to watch the sunset. Unfortunately it was cloudy this day and we didn’t get to see anything.
Top Tip #2 – If you want to explore the temples at your own pace, instead of hiring a Tuk Tuk driver, hire a scooter for the day. Unfortunately we didn’t get to do this as we had read online tourists aren’t allowed to scooter around the park by themselves. This is either incorrect or unenforced as we saw other travellers doing this. We think it would be easier as you can choose which temples you visit at are less crowded times and it is half the price of a Tuk Tuk for the a day.
We hired a Tuk Tuk driver to pick us up at 4.50am and drive us to Angkor Wat for Sunrise. Be prepared at this time there were many tourists doing the
same thing and the sunrise spots are very crowded. You can arrange with your driver to see the big circuit (Full day of all the temples) or the small circuit (half day of a few of the main temples and small un-known temples). We paid $25 for the day plus a ride to the hospital and the airport at the end of the day. Without the additional rides, you should pay $15-20 for the short circuit and/or $25 for the big circuit.
Here’s a list of our favourite and the main temples not to miss out on:
- Angkor Wat
- Bayon temple
- Ta Prohm
- Banteay Kdei
- Pre Rup
- Ta Som
- East Mebon
Make sure when roaming around the archaeological site you dress appropriately, must cover your shoulders and knees, otherwise you may not be allowed in.
- Old Market – Find a good deal at the Old Market for all sorts of pants, skirts, trinkets, shoes, handbags and many other souvenirs. On the outside of the market is a row of cheap local restaurants where you can rest after an hour or so of shopping; it is also a perfect place to get a delicious feed and 50 cent beers.
- Pub Street – Our favourite street in all of Cambodia! This bustling street at night comes to life with the colourful neon lights and music coming from each bar. Enjoy a great night out here. You won’t want to leave until early morning! – preferably not to the temples
- Visit the Landmine museum – The war museum has a collection of landmines and tanks from the Khmer rouge in 1975. Millions of landmine and unexploded objects left behind and now some on display here. 25km north from Siem Reap you can take a look and learn more about the history of the Khmer rogue.
- Get a Khmer massage – Perfect after a day roaming around Angkor Wat! The massages here a amazingly good and dirt cheap! We got one every day in Siem Reap. Depending on where you want your massage and for how long, they can range from$1 -$7.
- Night Market – Located a few short blocks from the Old Market, very similar but slightly different and without any produce. You can find here art, jewellery a lot of fakes.
- Spend the day visiting a floating village – Tonle Sap is the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia, you can do a day trip out here exploring the lakes flooded forest and floating villages.
Tips & Advice
- The currency is the Cambodian Riel
- Organise your Cambodia tourist visa before arrival. You can do this online at evisa.gov.kh or you can get it at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airport (make sure you bring a 4x6cm passport photograph of yourself)
- Plugs used in Cambodia are the three round pins (Type D) in a triangle pattern or 2 pin connections (Type C). They operate on a 230V supply voltage and 50 Hz.
- You can use USD dollars around Cambodia. When entering Angkor Wat, you will need to pay USD $37 each cash. So have this ready.
- We heard that the sim cards are very cheap and more reliable than the hotel WIFI. We were only here for a week so we didn’t think we needed one. WIFI is quite slow here.
- High season is from November until February, this is when it rains less and it is not too hot.
- Low season is from June to October, this is Cambodia’s rainy season, which can get quite wet especially in the south.
- Do not drink the tap water; try refill your water bottles hostels/hotels instead.
- We did not feel at risk here, but as always just be travel smart wherever you go!
- We did not have any trouble with language barriers, we felt that most people could speak if not understand English with lots of pointing.
- Public transport is readily available and easy to organize trips between cities.
- When visiting temples make sure you take your shoes and socks off, even if they are outdoors.
Helpful words and phrases
The official language in Cambodia in Khmer:
Hello Joohm ree-up soo-a
Goodbye Joohm ree-up lea [formal] / lee-hai [informal]
Thank you Arkun
You’re welcome Kom kuorosam ei
Pardon me Attos
Do you speak English? Ta neak nee-yay pee-a-sah ong-klay tay?
* Updated to 2017 prices; Please let us know if there has been any changes to prices or if you have any tips to add.
* This guide is written in our own personal opinion and all recommendations are our own