Siem Reap: Almost like Las Vegas, this city has sprout up in the nothingness creating an immense party and luxurious scene. Each hotel is bigger and fancier than the previous and the restaurants are booked months in advance. All this while Siem Reap is located in the middle of the jungle. Why then all the fuss? The city gets its fame due to the magnificent and majestic Angkor Wat monuments which are such an important Cambodian icon, you’ll find it on the national flag. Home to many expats and even celebrities like Angelina Jolie (who fell in love with this place after shooting her famous Tomb Raider movie) this place has a metropolis feeling and suits everyone’s desires.
Must Do 1
Rent a bike: To go to the Angkor Wat monuments (which is an absolute must when in Siem Reap) rent a bike to get there. It isn’t that far, about 5 to 6 km and in the morning the cool breeze is really nice while at the same time you get your daily work out. We rented a mountain bike (cause of the sometimes rough terrain) for a whole day only $3 and loved the way we could cruise through the area. Green Cycle Inn Hostel is friendly and has good bikes. Make sure you get a good lock so nothing happens to the bike and fasten it to something when you leave it unattended.
The Angkor Museum is a definite must before storming off into the Angkor Wat Monuments. Together with an audio guide you’ll walk through the museum and find out so much about the history, culture, architecture, religion, symbolism etc. that it might even be a good idea to take a notepad with you.
Or, additionally book a tour guide that will walk you through the monuments and explain in further depth what you’re seeing while you’re at the site (however we gathered up so much knowledge that we headed on out and brought a book with us just in case we needed to know something specific). If you do book a tour guide, make sure he/she speaks good English so you are able to communicate in an easy way.
Angkor Wat, Bayon, Angkor Thom, Wat Ta Prohm and Monuments: Tip buy a card for 1 day before buying automatically a ticket for 2+ days.We found out that we were able to see almost everything we wanted in the first day.Yet if you’re a real history buff I’d recommend 2-3 days (the price for these cards is the same).Also make sure you bring something to cover your shoulders and knees with, otherwise you won’t be allowed into some of the temples. The Angkor Wat is known to be one of the 7 wonders of the world. The image above is the centre of the famous ‘Churning of the Sea of Milk’ found on the East of Angkor Wat, which represents fertility as the sun rises on this side. With Vishnu in the middle demons on one side try to pull the fertility elixir out of the snake together with the gods on the other side, kind of like a mythical game of tug of war. On the west you’ll find scenes of war and death as the sunsets here.The Angkor Wat is orientated to the West, which is very unusual for a temple but is explained to do the fact that it is dedicated to the god Vishnu who is connected to the West.
My favorite was Angkor Thom and Bayon with the beautiful faces pointing in all the directions. They say the faces are that of the king who built this. Angkor Thom was home to more than 1 million people at that time and even had multiple hospitals in the center.Also, the beautiful Wat Ta Prohm is a must for your camera. With the help of mother nature, the ruins have been taken over by strong trees hugging the big slabs of stone.
You’ll find yourself clicking the day away. Also a fun hidden gem is the etched drawing in stone that looks like a dinosaur. I’d say there’s no other way to explain this, than by saying that dinosaurs existed during this time. Right?
Must Drink 1
Blue Pumpkin: Located in the center of town this cool modern styled ice cream parlor is the spot to be when you want to cool down. The interior is simplistic and relaxed as you can lay down while enjoying each scoop of goodness. Also try their fruit shakes or fresh pressed juices, they’re great!
Must Drink 2
Pinot Divino: For a cozy relaxing evening this place is the spot. Having only just opened, the Dutch owner knows how to pour a good Shiraz and serve a tasty platter of Gouda & French cheese. Found in the small alley near the Night Market, you’ll stumble upon this place with dozens of candles making the setting homelike and warm.
Must Drink 3
Pub Street: Lit up with neon letters and Justin Bieber’s ultimate hits pumping through the street, this place is the center hub for the nightlife. Pub Street really has all kinds of clubs, cafés and bars which is the reason why you’ll find all kinds of people rumbling around here.
Must Drink 3
Park Hyatt The Glass House: I loved this setting! The mustard yellow walls combined with the white marble tables, tropical plants and a modern glass house construction to sip away your coffee in make this an idyllic coffee stop. Want soy milk in your coffee? Well no problem! Want the world’s biggest Macaron?
No worries, take a bite out of this guy (although the extreme bright unnatural pink color did scare me off a bit). The whole vibe is perfect.
Must Eat 1
Bugs Café: Oh… My… Lordy… Lord… AAahhhh! No, No…oh, but yes we did! Scorpion, Tarantula, Cricket and Silk Worm all on a stick and to tell you the truth we loved it.
My boyfriend and I said to each other that we would experience the bug life but when where and how was still a mystery. To eat a fried scorpion from a vendor at 02:00 am after a drunk night at the bar wasn’t really appealing to us so when we saw this place we were ecstatic. The western style of food preparation and presentation fused with Asian delicacy’s make this hip industrial styled restaurant amazing.
At first we were afraid to bite down but soon we discovered that the taste and texture really wasn’t that bad! Our favorites were the ant spring rolls and the salad with silk worms and crickets. Definitely the best place to try this delicacy as it’s all prepared clean and tasteful.
Must Eat 2
R.E.A.L. Kebab: After a few drinks in Pub Street head on over to this place and enjoy a yummster fast food kebab. Owned by a French man, this joint brings the real deal and comfort food for the drunken soul. But even sober the taste will be just as satisfying. Take your time though, the owner makes each kebab individually so it might take a little while but it’s worth it.
To spill some time head on over to the Angkor Night Market which is right next door and walk through the small stalls.
Must Eat 3
Viva: Are we in Asia? No, this has to be Mexico ‘cause this burrito is intensely great and mouth-watering just thinking back to that meal! The Gypsy Kings playing in the background and the fried beans with Mexican spiced rice make this dish perfect.
Plus let’s not forget the divine guacamole and beef spices that take me back to memory lane when I lived in New Mexico (they had awesome burrito’s there).
Must Eat 4
The Hive: This Australian owner knows what he’s doing with this amazing place. The food, drinks and snacks remind me of some healthy hipster places we found in Bali Indonesia and now also discovered the same setting in Cambodia.
They serve breakfast the whole day and have bizar inviting dishes like Hives Breakfast Pavlova served with lightly toasted baguette smothered in whipped passion fruit cream cheese topped with mango & mint plus with a fruit salad on the side.
Or, try they delicious falafel with pita bread with a surprisingly yummy chilli sauce. Also their coffee is to die for and they have great healthy green salads like my favourite with chickpeas, rocket, a poached egg and refreshing herbs.
Must Find 1
Crocodile Leather: Although this is sad to find, don’t be too shocked to discover many leather shops that try to attract the tourists with dead crocodiles outside. It seems as though killing these beautiful and endangered animals is ok as all the shops are filled with purses, shoes, belts and more crocodile made items.
Must Find 2
US Dollar Bills: I do not understand how this is possible but the Khmer currency is not used anywhere but, the US Dollar Bill is the way to pay. Go to an ATM and you’re allowed to take out Dollars with the same fee as the Khmer. But, why is America allowing their currency to be used in this country? Why can you not pay with Khmer anywhere? Well, not entirely true. It is possible to use the Khmer for smaller amounts like 25 cents or 75 cents.