March 2019 found us exploring Siem Reap – a destination that had been on the family bucket list for some time. We spent three days there and loved every minute of it. Siem Reap has a special mix of old world charm and new world funk that makes it a special destination. Of course it helps that the food is delicious and the people so warm and welcoming. This is what we did …
Where to Stay
We got a hot tip from a friend to stay at the Rambutan Resort. It did not dissapoint. When booking there are apparently three options (the hotel, resort, and villas). Checking in to one you can use the facilities of the other properties as well but we found that the Rambutan Resort had everything we needed. A small boutique hotel with maybe 15 rooms, including an bathtub on the balcony! The food was excellent and reasonably priced with a central lounge area by the salt water pool that doubles as a cafe and in the evening turns into a great Happy Hour spot. The staff where super helpful and friendly and we would definitely go back there where we to return to Siem Reap.
Another tip from a friend put us in touch with a charming Mr. Kim Yin. He speaks good English, is always on time, and is fair and reasonable with his prices. We arranged in advance for him to pick us up at the airport and he was there waiting for us with a cold drink and a big smile on arrival. You can reach him via WhatsApp on +855-92-631-752. Highly recommended! Riding on a Tuk Tuk is fun but depending on the time of year and how long you are stuck in traffic the air quality is not fabulous – if air quality is a concern for you remember to pack a mask.
What To Do
Of course no trip to Siem Reap would be complete without the obligatory temple visits, and after much family squabbling we settled on splurging with a “proper” tour using Vespa Adventures. Though not cheap (about USD 90 per person at the time of writing) the tour is what the title implies … adventuring around Siem Reap on the back of a Vespa! We were picked up at 4:40am in time to get our 1 day temple pass tickets and then headed for “the sunrise shot.” Our guide Sophoan was very knowledgeable and excellent at mixing the busy sites with the more peaceful and “off the beaten path” sites. All throughout we were well taken care of, with cool refreshments, delicious lunch, and much needed rest to keep us going through the hotter part of the morning. We were back at our hotel by 1pm and spent the rest of the day relaxing and cooling off by the pool. Highly, highly, highly recommended!
The Phare Circus should also be on the “to-do” list of evening activities. The circus is a social enterprise focused on providing artistic opportunities for Cambodian youth. Shows start at either 5:00pm or 8:00pm and last about an hour. Wonderful.
The Foodie Scene
Didn’t really know what to expect food wise and was surprised to find a vibrant foodie culture in Siem Reap. Two places in particular stand out.
Just next to the Rambutan Resort is the Wild Creative Bar and Eatery. Their concept is pure genius. Only spring rolls on the menu! Fresh and fried. Over 15 kinds and some really interesting varieties like the smoked duck or fried cheese ones! Well worth the visit.
The New Leaf Eatery is dining with a social conscience. According to their website “Each month 30% of our profits are donated to a chosen charity or project and 20% is shared among our Cambodian staff. To date, we have donated over US$ 40,000. We are currently donating profits to PEPY Empowering Youth and SeeBeyondBorders.” The fish amok is divine (pictured above) and the whole place is very bright and airy and full of books.
Remember to bring a passport photo on a white background for the tourist visa. Ours were not all official Cambodian visa size but the immigration officer didn’t seem to mind. You can also do the whole thing online for an extra $7 and skip some of the line (our wait was quick and we were out of the airport in 20 minutes).
Afternoons are hot in March. Almost unbearably so. Plan on doing stuff early in the morning, then chilling mid day, and heading out again in the evening.