We did it. Three little pigs set on an adventure of their own and left their humble abode for a 5-day trip in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
It’s pricey and priceless.
I can’t believed I get to tell this wonderful journey of my siblings and I.
We never went to a trip, just the three of us as an adult; I was thrilled when they agree to come with me and see The Angkor Wat, which I always dream of seeing ever since I watch Tomb Raider.
Quick Trivia of Kingdom of Cambodia / Cambodia
Currency: USD and Riel (mostly use for small change)
Capital: Phnom Penh
Official Language: Khmer
Spoken Languages: Cham, English, and French
Transportation: Tuk tuk, rickshaw, cars
Head of Government: Prime Minister
OK. We’re done with tidbits, moving on to an adventure, I used to dream of.
5-Day Trip to Siem Reap: Temple Galore.
I’ll show how we spent our day based on the itinerary. We made few changes in our schedule depending on how much time and energy we have left. Flexibility is a priority.
Wait! Before leaving, don’t forget to get a travel insurance. My siblings bought online a travel insurance from Malayan Insurance.
From One Airport to Another
We arrived at NAIA Terminal 3 with three hours before our flight. A lot of time to check in.
It was my first time at Terminal 3 which is a far cry from NAIA 1.
It’ easy to check in on a flight (Cebu Pacific) if you don’t have extra baggage. We all have one backpack (mine is CabinZero) and a sling bag for passport, wallet, and other small items.
Then we had supper in a ramen house, not too far from our departure gate. For backup, we brought empanada for our snack from Red Ribbon . No need to worry getting hungry during the flight.
Related Post: Avoid Paying Unnecessary Fees on Cebu Pacific Flight
After two hours of smooth flight, we arrived at Siem Reap International Airport. The plane landed in an open field and we had to walk inside the airport.
Because we are Philippine passport holder, we didn’t need a visa.
ASEAN passport holder should go to the left. To the right, those who needs to apply for visa on arrival or e-visa.
I was asked by the officer if I need a visa, definitely “no.” This is one of the reasons why I apply for dual citizenship (Filipino-Canadian). On our way out, we handed the custom declaration form given during the flight.
Before heading to Angkor Pearl Hotel, we bought a SIM for USD 5.00 valid for five days.
We checked in around 11:00 pm and eager to take a shower and sleep. We have a long day ahead of us.
Related Post: How to Stay Connected in Cambodia
Day 1: Travelling Slow to Enjoy Art, Food, and Dance
Tip: Use PassApp Taxi for an affordable travel without the need to haggle which I only do in Divisoria.
It’s always best to start the day with a hearty meal. From this day, we never missed the breakfast buffet. Some reviews say it’s so-so meal. To us it’s a feast. The food is similar to Filipino breakfast: fried rice, vegetables, and fruits. Oh and there’s also bread and potatoes and more.
We are grateful to be on our way with stuff stomach.
First stop is Artisans Angkor. Here we witnessed how talented the Cambodians are in stone and wood carving.
I can only wonder how much energy and days were spent to finish a single masterpiece.
My sister and I get to try the tools and realized how hard the stones are.
Address: Stung Thmey road near Old market 15mn before 9:30am.
Hotline: 092 777462, 092 777 464
Tel: (+855) 63 963 330
Fax: (+855) 63 964 097
By the way before you go inside, you might want to book for a free trip to Artisans Silk Farm. Go to a small nipa hut in front and sign up. We waited for a minivan that will take us to the farm.
The trip provided a view of rural living so I didn’t mind observing the surrounding while inside an air-conditioned vehicle.
It was Sunday so most of the staff were having a day off.
In the farm, we saw the stages of worms and how the silk is made. The process of making something out of silk is long and tedious. Someone is in charge in coloring. Another is in weaving.
The intricate design caught my attention. I’m in awe. Sighing became a way of breathing.
After an hour or so, we went back to Artisans Angkor and was left on our own devices.
Our brain could only think of food that we chose to eat not far from the hotel. We didn’t find our first choice restaurant; instead, we went to Orchidee Angkor Restaurant. The food is good but there’s no air con. I made the mistake of ordering soup in a hot weather. My bad.
Tip: Always bring your own water. A bottled water cost around $1.00 and $4.00 for a meal.
Here’s another setback. We were lost going back to the hotel. I forgot to calibrate my compass on my iPhone. My sister said that Google Map relies on iPhone’s compass. Is that true?
It’s always handy to have a tech-savvy sibling who got lost at the same time.
We found our way back to the hotel by asking direction to the staff in the restaurant. He’s English is quite good. (We’ve had a few awkward moments due to language barrier; nothing too serious.) At the hotel, my siblings had a nap and I had a quick shower.
For only USD 12.00, I booked for a dinner buffet that includes Apsara Dance Show at Koulen II Restaurant. I used my siblings phone which has a local SIM to make a reservation for three people. Or send an email ahead of time; they do reply.
Note: Drinks are not included so bring your own to avoid splurging on refreshment. But I must say that the Piña Colada (USD 3.50) doesn’t disappoint.
I don’t think you need to call for reservation because the place is huge but without air conditioning. But make sure to ask for a table close to the stage for the best view during the Apsara Dance.
Koulen II Restaurant
Address: No. 50, Street Sivatha, Mondul II, Svaydangkum, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tel: +855 92 630 090
+How was the food? Awesome, like a Canadian would say.
The food alone was scrumptious that I thought of going back before we leave. Sadly, we didn’t have a chance.
I was touched that they thought of serving vegetarian meal. Which one should I try first?
An hour after the buffet, the Apsara Dance Show started. It lasted for an hour. Guest doesn’t have to stay after dinner, but why not make the most of what you paid for by learning the traditional dance of Cambodia.
It’s worth it. So stay foot. Enjoy the show.
To burn some calories, we walked back to the hotel. On our way, we bought some food in Angkor Market, a mini grocery, passed by Mad Monkey Hostels, which I considered staying at but opted for Angkor Pearl Hotel instead. I guess there wouldn’t be much difference besides room size . . . and a pool.
Day 2: Ancient Wonder of Temples
This day is the highlight of our trip. To see the temples is the reason why we ended up in Siem Reap instead of the capital.
I saved the details of Day 2 for another post because so much has to be said about it and photos to share.
In a nutshell, these are the temples we visited for a day pass:
- Angkor Wat
- Ta Phrom
- Bayon Temple (my favourite)
- Phnom Bakheng
Other tourists may choose a three day pass but a day is enough for us. So how much is the ticket.
- One day pass – USD 37.00
- Three day pass – USD 62.00
- Seven day pass – USD 72.00
I booked two tours through Klook:
- Angkor Temple Tour – CAD 17.39
- Trek Phnom Kulen Waterfall Day Tour – CAD 46.79 (destination for Day 3)
Both tours were from the same company, Siem Reap Shuttle Tours. I don’t mind spending to learn, meet fellow travellers, and enjoy the convenience of an air-conditioned vehicle.
We were picked up and dropped off in our hotel after a long day.
Note: Do not underestimate the hot temperature. Dress light clothing; no shorts for women. Read the section on What Clothes to Wear.
Someone from our group had to leave early because he’s not feeling well by lunch time. The heat is the culprit. For my next visit, I’ll go during the least warm month devoid of rain. Good luck to that.
Day 3: Learn, Walk, and Shop
The next day, we want to take things slow yet educational.
In our third day, we went to Angkor National Museum. Other bloggers suggested to go to the museum first before exploring the temples. In our case, we didn’t have much time and the sequence didn’t matter.
Taking picture and video is not allowed inside the exhibition so don’t push it. Let’s respect the law, especially foreign law.
So I took photos of the architecture of the building. I promise the inside is way better that the USD 12.00 entrance fee is worth it.
I love the miniature Angkor Wat and watching videos to learn about the religion and literature of Cambodia.
In Angkor National Museum, you can gazed at gargantuan statues in good conditioned all you want.
Some statues were beheaded during the invasion in Cambodia.
From the museum, we walk towards Royal Residence and stroll in a huge park in front of it. The park could use more care and tropical plants. What a perfect place to relax and breathe in the province’s life.
Not far from the park is The Heritage Walk.
Correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve read on a blog that this is the only place where you can find Starbucks.
For snack or supper, we settled on two take-out pizzas from Domino’s Pizza: thincrust Hawaiian and Vegetable. We are lucky to get a buy one take one promo (USD 11.00 only).
Long walks is indeed good for one’s health and budget.
The pizzas didn’t last long once we arrived at the hotel. Time for a nap.
At night we went to Night Market. Shopping is not part of my agenda. But we went to see what Siem Reap looks like at night.
We were drop of in a loop and had to follow people as our guide.
It was like a night market in Divisoria where foods are sold on the side of the road.
Then we found ourselves in Pub Street which is busier than the Night Market. It’s hard to choose where to eat so we ended up eating at Viva Restaurant.
In all honesty, I didn’t like my food. It’s spicy. The smoothie turned out to be my dinner and a little serving (whatever vegetables there is) from my siblings dinner.
My siblings were surprised how cheap ($1.00) beers are. None of us had one because we have to wake up early.
There’s no way we’ll miss breakfast buffet at the hotel. I wouldn’t mind having the same meal for supper.
We finished the night by a stop over at a convenience store and call it a night with a five t-shirts bought at Night Market.
Conclusion: I’m getting rusty in haggling for a cheaper price since I always wait for items to go on sale. Never in a rush.
Day 4: Water and Higher Perspective
Time to spend time with nature. In day 5, we went to Phnom Kulen Waterfall.
It is the farthest trip we did away from the city. For 30 minutes, we spent our time seeing Siem Reap in a ground level and from a high perspective, up in a mountain.
The ride going up in a mountain is entertaining to watch. I wouldn’t dare to drive on such a road but happy to be on a backseat all the time. (So that’s why I sold my car.)
In this trip we went to different attractions:
- River of Thousand Lingas
- Reclining Buddha
- Kulen Waterfall
The tour is supervised by the same company that took us to Angkor Tour Temples. So we know we are in good hands.
I was proud of myself for choosing this tour and would love to do more if the budget allowed.
Our trip went smooth but surprisingly we spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping in the hotel, and skipping supper which unlikely to happen for us, my siblings who love rice and me who gets hungry every three hours or so.
Day 5: Homeward Bound
How time flies so fast. Time to go home.
After fixing our backpacks, making sure that we didn’t leave anything behind including our clean laundry, my sister and I went to Wat Preah Prom Rath.
We spent an hour here. It’s a huge temple with many statues that I wish someone could explain to us the meaning. Some monks were going in and out of the temple.
We checked out at Angkor Pearl Hotel and head to Lucky Mall.
Having not much option, we had lunch at Lucky Burger .
The salad made my day. And so is the fries. From there, we lingered for an hour before heading to Siem Reap International Airport.
For $3.00 rickshaw ride, we enjoyed the view before arriving at the airport. Life in Siem Reap is peaceful. The people seemed calm and healthy without air pollution.
Guess what’s our supper?
Something from Burger King. I was sleeping on my backpack when the gate changed without any announcement. Great.
Tip: If you have still have Riel and you are at the airport might as well donate it to the tip box on Starbucks, Burger King, or any store. The staff would appreciate such kind gesture.
On top of that, Cebu Pacific flight was delayed. Is this the norm?
How I long to set foot on Philippines’ soil and wishing at the same time to go back in Cambodia again.
A Grab ride took us home. Our breakfast includes pandesal from a bakery and small Nissin noodles from 7/11.
I was shocked to pay for plastic spoon. It shouldn’t be a surprise because Piattos on my right cost 70 pesos. The high cost of unhealthy living. I’ll never get used to the high cost of living in the city.
It Was a Success
My dream came true after we completed the 5-day trip in Siem Reap. I witnessed how happy my siblings were.
They were able to communicate in English and probably surprise how fluent they are considering that they don’t use it on a daily basis.
At home, they have endless stories to share to our parents and friends.
I wouldn’t mind going back in Cambodia someday but in the capital next time. What places do you want to visit in Cambodia?
We made a plan to travel again on my next vacation to the Philippines. Where do you think we should go next?
Where Else to Go
I’ve done a lot of research for this trip but deliberately chose not to go to some attractions that I’m going to share.
- The Cambodia Landmine Museum
- Phare, The Cambodian Circus (CAD 23.90)
- Quad Bike Adventure in Siem Reap (CAD 37.19)
- Kompong Phluk Floating Village Half-Day Tour (CAD 23.90)
- Wat Damnak (Buddhist temple)
- King’s Village
- Old Market
Someday, I would love to try riding an ATV and see the way of living of Khmer up close. In booking for tours, other than Klook, you can also try Get Your Guide.
Do you have something in mind? Let’s add it on the list.
What Clothes to Wear
I underestimate the weather in Cambodia. Spending two days in the Philippines had me sweating like never before.
So Siem Reap being a province with trees and all, I thought would be less hot. Well, it is less hot than in Phnom Penh according to some travellers we met in the tour.
It’s best to know the best time of the year to go but if I know better then, I say being prepared is the best way to deal with the weather whatever it is.
The best way to wear if you are going to temples like Angkor Wat or any temple is a comfortable and not-too-showy clothing:
- Loose shirt
- Light, loose pants for women (not tight)
- Shorts can be worn by men
- Comfortable shoes (I prefer runners/sneakers.)
- Flat sandals
- Extra shirt
- Hat (like gardening hat) or lightweight cap
- Tripod or selfie stick (good for solo traveler)
- Camera or/and phones
- Small towel
- Wipes or alcohol
- Oil film for ladies
- Medicine (I can’t go anywhere without this.)
- Power bank
- Portable Wifi
As you can see I’m a neat freak. I want having essential things and be prepared for emergency. My sister brought a medicine in case she has an allergy. It’s pricey yet I insisted. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to take it.
For someone who loves backpack, travel light or use a messenger back instead. Distribute gadgets among others if you’re travelling with friends or family.
It’s best not to have something burdening or blocking your back. Otherwise, you’ll feel sweat trickling down your back nonstop. This isn’t an exaggeration.
The sun in May is unforgivable. It made me wonder how I managed to smile in spite of the weather. The good news is as the day approach the night, the heat dial down a bit. Too little.
How Much I Spent
This is the breakdown of expenses for one person. It’s only an estimate since I failed to track every single expenses.
I used Canadian dollars, US dollars, and Riel. For those living in Calgary or Canada, this is how you can exchange Canadian to US dollars.
1. Cebu Pacific Flight – CAD 276.25 = Php 10,126.30 (two way). Next time I’ll try AirAsia or Jetstar Asia.
2. Angkor Pearl Hotel – CAD 134.05 for 5 days or CAD 26.00/day for one room with twin bed.
Best part is the breakfast buffet. This is what I’ll look for in my next hotel booking just like when I checked in at HI Vancouver Central, a hostel in Vancouver, British Columbia.
3. Angkor Temple Tour – CAD 17.39
4. Trek Phnom Kulen Waterfall Day Tour – CAD 46.79
5. Angkor Archeological Park (one day pass) – USD 37.00
6. Angkor National Museum – USD 12.00
7. Portable 4G Wifi (1Gb) for five days – CAD 43.42
8. Local SIM card – USD 5.00
9. Food – USD 100.00 (USD 20.00 a day, maximum estimate). It’s easy to spend only $5.00 for a good meal if you’re not picky.
10. Rickshaw for transportation – USD 25.00 (USD 5.00 a day, maximum estimate). Always have $1.00 paper bill for fare. Rickshaw is the cheapest choice on PassApp Taxi, an app that made our commute a breeze.
Exchange rate: USD 1.00 = CAD 1.3459 (BOC monthly exchange rate) and CAD 1.00 = PHP 39.00 (for simplicity)
Total Expenses: USD 563.79 = CAD 676.22 = PHP 26,372.58
The list doesn’t include tips and Grab fare to and from the NAIA Terminal 3.
Tip: I always leave a dollar or with change (Riel) I get during the day in our hotel room. Don’t forget to leave a thank you note even on a clean tissue (like what I did) if you can’t find a paper in the room.
It warms my heart to appreciate and make someone smile while doing their job.
In booking for hotel, flight, tour, and buying where credit card is accepted, I used Home Trust Preferred Visa with ease.
What I Learn as a Traveller in Cambodia
It’s all right to shy away from the capital. Some of the tourists in our tour are heading or been to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. I thought of squeezing it in the schedule but there’s so much to do already in Siem Reap that we decided to focus on one destination.
Give yourself plenty of time to plan. For my next trip (tentative: Thailand and Vietnam, or Korea), I’ll come up with a plan and save one year ahead. This leeway will give me enough time to discuss the itinerary with my companions (friend or family) or just me.
Be open-minded with the culture of the country you are visiting. The differences and similarities of their culture to yours enrich the travel experience.
Take what you need. In Siem Reap, I want to emulate how disciplined the people are in the road, from kids to adult. They do not hunger speed.
It seems as though they are enjoying every moment of the ride especially the students on motorcycles. How cool is that. I’ve rode in jeepneys all my student life. I wouldn’t dare to ride a motorcycle in Manila nor a car.
Make new friends. My siblings and I met a solo traveler from Indonesia. We are noticeable in the trip because we look after each other, making sure no one is left behind or dehydrated. Always taking pictures of one another.
So we offered to take her photo and had a good conversation. We keep in touch till this day and looking forward of meeting her again.
Sometimes strangers can become friends in a nick of time.
Track your expenses. This I failed to do but I do have some of the receipts that I don’t want to deal with. I was busy getting things right because I solely planned for this trip. It’s my goal for all of us to enjoy and be not bother with little setbacks.
The lessons I learned in my first trip in Cambodia are ingrained in my mind and heart. I’ll forever keep it and apply to my future trips.
Heroes of the Hour
Our trip in Siem Reap became successful because of the many bloggers who inspired and helped me in my research. Without them we would have more troubles and less fun.
I am grateful that Pinoy bloggers shared their stories, good and bad. Let’s give them a round of applause.
- Ira of Ira on Her Dreams
- Yoshke Dimen of The Poor Traveler
- Chyng Reyes
- Gael Hilotin of The Pinay Solo Backpaker
- Mary Charie of A Mary Road – my fav travel blogger
- The Backpack Couple
- Wil Dasovich (I thought of adding this though he’s a vlogger)
I can’t thank everyone enough other than paying it forward to future traveller to Siem Reap, Cambodia. May the knowledge be with you.
Share your story of travelling in Siem Reap or ask a question. Have you watch the Tomb Raider movies?