A May 2005 trip
to Siem Reap by Kez
Quote: Siem Reap is the perfect base to visit the absolutely amazing temples of Angkor Wat. It is a really fabulous little town that has a great atmosphere and everything a traveller needs including great accommodation, fabulous restaurants, and many Internet cafes.
Siem Reap is a fabulous place to meet other travelers, and you can eat and drink really well for reasonable prices.
There are Internet cafes to keep in touch with home at about a an hour, CD burning available for your photos to disc for to , and enough shops and markets to keep you amused but not overwhelmed.
When it comes to eating, you are spoilt for choice in this little town. Most of the restaurants are located on "Pub Street" in the centre of the old town. Just don’t expect any of your meals or drinks to be served at the same time, even if they are the same thing. One comes and then the second comes 5 minutes later.
Aside from the ruins there are some diversions to pass the time. These include the AKI RA Mine Action Gallery, miniature replicas of Angkor and Phsar Chas, and the old markets that are worth a look. The other market at the other end of town is more geared towards the locals with food stuff and house ware. There are various wats located around the town, but these seem to get overlooked when you consider the grandeur of the temples.
Probably our most unusual purchase while we were here was having our business cards printed, thanks to our driver who knew where to take us. We had the layout on a disc, picked our paper, and made sure it was all okay, and the next day they were ready to be picked up at about a hundredth of the cost at home.
We opted to stay on the other side of the river. It was really quiet but close enough that you could walk in to the main centre of town with a short walk or moto fare.
When booking your accommodation, most of the hotels include an airport transfer either free of charge or for . Check on this when choosing where to stay.
Buy your pass after 4pm, which allows you to use it that afternoon for the sunset, with day 1 being the following day. Supply your own passport photo to speed up the process. If you have a guide, make sure you clarify if this afternoon trip is an extra charge. We had a slight hiccup over this, but it was sorted out satisfactorily.
Motos around town are , and out to Angkor Wat they are .
We flew in from Phnom Penh with Bangkok Airways as part of an airpass. These are great values.
This was a mid range hotel decorated in traditional Khmer style with terracotta tiled floors and beautifully carved timber doors and furniture with Cambodian silk touches in bright purples and gold thread.
It is located across the river in the quieter part of town but is close enough to walk into town for dinner or shopping.
It offered the luxuries that we needed such as hot water, refrigerator and air-conditioning and a fabulous cooked to order breakfast in their open air restaurant.
We did have a problem with the first day that we arrived with the fridge and air-conditioning not working properly so we were finally moved to a larger room overlooking the pool.
The pool area was a delight with it's surrounding being decorated with mini replicas of the Bayon faces and temple carvings. It was a godsend at the end of the day coming home hot and dusty it was just a relief to be able to cool off and relax.
This all came at a cost of about $40USD a night, including breakfast. The normal price was $46. >
Of course, any extras such as laundry, mini bar drinks, phone calls etc all came at a mid range to expensive cost as well.
Airport pickup was $5 each way. Because our airport pickup was made by our guide that we were using for the next few days to see the temples it was a great way to get to know one another and he could get a feel for what we wished to do during our stay. We decided on a pickup time of 4pm for that same afternoon to see the sunset and the best plan for the following days temple viewing. He also went to the ticket booth to arrange our passes. So it turned out really well.
The hotel's restaurant also has a good reputation for great Khmer cuisine. The night that we dined there the curries were delicious. It can get very busy as it does cater to large tour groups as well.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 27, 2005
0512 Street Acharsvar
Siem Reap, Cambodia
855-63 964 928
The rooms were not large but clean and comfortable, with hot water and air-conditioning. The room that we were shown was smallish but at least the air-conditioning unit was large enough to keep it cool. They still had the Cambodian touches with the traditional woven bed covers and prints on the wall.
Geared to the traveller, the hotel offered many free services where in other hotels you normally needed to pay. These included airport pickup, Internet facilities, tea, coffee, and fruit, plus a reasonably priced laundry service. Breakfast was not included in the rate but started at $2.50 for a French style breakfast of fried egg, toast, fruit salad and tea or coffee or $2.80 for a Phnom Penh consisting of an omelette, fruit, tea or coffee and so on. Prices are reasonable enough when you take into account all the extras that are included in the tariff.
The staff was really helpful. Although we didn’t stay, they were more than happy to show us a room. It was not quite up to the same standard as they show on their website but it may have been their worst room in the house or the only one they had available.
The location is probably not as good as the Bopha Angkor as it is located on the other side of the Old Market.
As their advertising states, it's four-star accommodation at a two-star rate, and it certainly looked like it to me.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 27, 2005
Golden Temple Villa
Siem Reap, Cambodia
(012) 999 918
In Touch – Thai Restaurant and bar is located upstairs and opposite the Red Piano. This was a really tastefully decorated restaurant. It featured a feature wall of a greenish stone along the back wall and as you entered up the stairs. The large square bar was in the middle of the restaurant again with a stone feature front but in a creamy colour.The ceiling was all in timber and the seating was mainly comfortable cane chairs although there was also a lounge area on one side. Modern and airy the restaurant was a pleasure to be in. There is a great balcony area to watch the action below. The lighting arrangement consisting of many, many shades is one of the most original and effective that I have seen. This was one of the best meals and best service that we experienced on our whole trip. Spicy fried nibbles to start. We chose the Spring rolls followed by VERY spicy Kang Panang Chicken and plain rice with a great glass of wine. Total food cost $6.50 for the meals.
Temple Bar – This is one of those places that looks more atmospheric at night. Lighting is very tempered with red being the signature colour on both the walls and ceiling with various temple carvings added for decoration. More bar than restaurant with the standard burgers and so on. I think it actually part of the Temple Villa accommodation.
Blue Pumpkin – This little café is so very slick. Decorated all in white and I mean all in white, that is except for the wait staff, luckily - otherwise you wouldn’t see them. On two levels the upstairs has a couch bar so you can lie back and relax while eating off your very own little tray table. They serve mainly pastas, salads, pita rolls, and fresh baked breads. Servings were small and not cheap but so very cool. You would not believe that you were in dusty old Siem Reap!
Le Grand Café – Big place that looks nice but not a great atmosphere, the food was all right, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It was a little expensive, as the meals were $4.75 each.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 28, 2005
For a drink at the end of the day it is a great place to relax with many other travellers enjoying a cold beer at happy hour. The upstairs balcony offers a great place to people-watch. The downstairs outside area has comfortable cane chairs grouped in twos and fours so are conducive to chatting and drinking. If you are comfortable and too foot sore to move you can stay put and dine here also. Upstairs are mainly standard tables and chairs for dining.
All the staff speaks really good English and have been well trained in service standards so that you never wait long for a drink or your meal.
The menu is mainly western fare such as pastas, burgers and some Asian dishes. The night we ate there, we had the good old standard, fish and chips (fries), and to be honest, it was pretty average. The fish was okay, but the chips were soggy and not how I like them. Prices, though, are not steep.
The cocktail list is huge but I didn't actually sample the famous "Tomb Raider" cocktail.
I believe that this site used to offer accommodation as well, but as the enterprise has recently expanded, they now have another site nearby for rooms. This is now strictly a restaurant and bar.
If you are looking for the Red Piano, it is still there but it’s very small and actually mounted on the wall.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 28, 2005
The Red Piano Bar
50m Northwest of the Old Market
Siem Reap, Cambodia
063 963 240
We came here every day for lunch and dinner one night, and the food was just so good.
Plus because of it's central location, it was a great spot to pop back for a spot of lunch after doing a ruin in the morning and then meet up with our driver after eating, re-fueled and ready to go again.
Three airy levels, the service is good and the local kids waiting tables were really eager to please. Like all the restaurants here but especially the Soup Dragon because of it's central location don't choose a street side table if you don't wish to be pestered by the passing parade of beggars and salespeople.
The menu is large and is made up of mainly Vietnamese-style dishes. Because it offered such a large range of choices my partner and I could choose a meal that was poles apart and still both be happy. My favorite dishes were the Lentil Patties and the Mango and Smoked Fish salad; the fish was shredded finely and finished with a Vietnamese style fish sauce, stupendous. My partner, Scott opted for the more mainstream such as their burgers which he still thought were top-notch.
They have a large pizza menu but offered no Hawaiian so by the time we left Scott had them educated and it was on the menu at $6.
They also made the best fruit shakes with the coconut one being sublime. Don’t miss the homemade ice creams if you have room.
Also with the 7 cents being donated to the Angkor Hospital it makes everything taste even better.
The bill is never over $8 - $9.
Happy hour was on for every day also. Best place to head for this is the third level bar. After a hard day at the temples it is a cool place to relax.
Mmmm I can still taste that salad!
The Soup Dragon
369 Group 6 Mondol 1 Svay Dangkum
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Attraction | "Miniature Replicas of Angkor"
Entry is about $1.50, and you will probably have to buy one of his mini sculptures. When these are only $1 to $2 each, depending on the size, how could you say no? When we picked out the one that we wanted, he signed the back of it with a flourish and a smile. For a couple of bucks, it is worth it just for the pleasure of his company.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 31, 2005
16 Quartier Slokran, Sud Pagoda, Polinka
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Aki was a former conscripted child soldier for the Khmer Rouge and now does all he can to assist victims and has also adopted several kids that have survived landmines. He is considered one of Cambodia’s foremost de-miner's.
A donation made here is very well spent, as it assists those who need it most.
Quite a number of the kids who have survived landmines perform a concert most evenings, but as we only discovered this on the last night, we were not lucky enough to see the it.
There is also a Mine Museum attached to the gallery, located on the road to Angkor. It contains a mock minefield and defused mines, bombs, and other ordinance from the war period.
AKIRA Mine Action Gallery
10-696 Old Market St.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Yes, there are many beggars, but consider that you are in a country where the numbers of these victims is so great and the majority have no form of income in a country where no welfare system exists as a safety net.
I normally wouldn't condone giving to beggars, as most other countries I have been in have a large number of professionals that do beg for a living, but I dare even the most cold-hearted person not to be moved by some of the victims. One person that really sticks in my mind was that of a young guy who had lost both legs and one arm and whose only means of transport was lying facedown on his stomach on a skateboard – imagine moving through life like that? Think how much your small amount of riel means to him.
Before you brush them off, think of passing on a dollar when you have so much. I know that you can't give to every one of these, people but just don't ignore them as if they don't exist.
Many of these people do not want to rely on begging, so you will encounter many booksellers and the like. If you are looking at purchasing books on Cambodian culture, buy from these people. Not only will you save money, but you will also be helping them.
Also, another small way to help is to try to choose a restaurant, such as the Soup Dragon, that donates $0.07 from every dollar spent to the Royal Hospital for Children.
Broadbeach Waters, Australia