We were already on the last leg of our Vietnam-Cambodia trip, with heavy bags full of dirty clothes and souvenirs, that we arrived in Siem Reap at 5AM in the morning. From Phnom Penh, we rode a 5-hour ride via Giant Ibis Sleeper Bus, together with 20 more tourists, excited to witness the grand City of Temples.
But aside from the famous Angkor Wat, Siem Reap has a lot more to offer: eco-tours, museums, shows, and nightlife! That was why we made sure to spend a day more in Siem Reap outside the old temple walls.
It was still dark when we arrived at Siem Reap. The moment we stepped out of the bus, there were a lot of tuktuk (their version of tricycles) drivers encouraging us go with them to Angkor Wat. We declined politely, telling them we’re not scheduled yet to visit the famous structure. That was how we met Sakun, the tuktuk driver who drove us to our hotel and fetched us at 4AM the next day for our Angkor tour. At $20 (excluding the entrance), he assured us that we’ll be able to see all the major temples (he was quite convincing and we loved how fluent in English he was).
It was almost 6AM when we reached Mandalay Inn, and we were greeted by a sleepy yet very accommodating receptionist. He was kind enought to let us check in earlier than scheduled and happily booked our ticket for the Phare Circus show the next day.
We planned on going to the Landmine Museum but since it was far away (25km) and the tuktuk rental is expensive (we were running out of money!), we decided to just visit the Old and Night Market, as well as dine and chill at the famous Pubstreet. Luckily, Pubstreet was just a short walking distance away (a must!).
The Pubstreet, on a very hot 12NN, was already full of tourists. Corridors and alleys were full of restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, spas, and exhibits! Be sure not to get lost!
We had lunch at Khmer Family Restaurant, since we wanted to try good Khmer cuisine (we saw a lot of good reviews on tripadvisor). It didn’t disappoint!
With full tummies, we decided on visiting the Old Market, just adjacent to Pubstreet. Local vendors greeted us and tried to sell us their “discounted” products. As we got out of the market an hour after, our arms were full of bags containing little souvenirs, pillow cases, herbs and teas!
We then went back to the Pubstreet, and searched for a place to chill for the whole afternoon, with cheap beers and good pizza. There were a lot of choices, and luckily we were able to discover World Lounge, which had a good view of the street!
By 6PM, we decided to go have a massage at the massage parlor in front of our Inn. We were curious how a Khmer massage is done.
It was a very relaxing full body massage at only $4 each. The therapists were also very kind. A traditional Khmer massage does not use oil, apparently.
After dropping off our things at the inn, we went back to the Pubstreet, with a slight detour to the Night Market, just across it. We were drawn by the flock of tourists, music and lights.
The stuff they sell at the Night Market were the same with what we found at the Old Market, the difference is just the peopler were livelier, maybe because of the scenic view brought by the reflections of neon lights on the river in front of it.
As we entered the Pubstreet, the scene that greeted us was very different from how it was during our afternoon visit: flock of tourists, street vendors, lights and loud music! Vendors and waitresses alike were inviting us to try their drinks! It was 10x more crowded but 20x livelier. I swear.
We had so much fun strolling down the streets and alleys, looking for a bar to have few more beers (Khmer Barbeque a must-try!), and even saw fellow Filipino tourists!
The next day, we woke up at 4AM, packed our bags, and got ready for our last day at Siem Reap (and the whole vacation huhu), by touring the famous Angkor Wat. Sakun, the tuktuk driver we commissioned the previous day, was already waiting outside our inn as we checked out and deposited our baggage for safe-keeping at the reception area.
It was still dark when we travelled to the Angkor Wat, a 20-minute ride according to Sakun. It was also very very cold so be sure to bring a jacket with you!
It was through my research before our trip that I discovered Angkor Wat is not just one temple, but is a complex of many temples. The Angkor Wat Archaeological Complex, is the largest religious monument in the world and is the most popular UNESCO Heritage Site of Cambodia.
Entrance fee: $20 each. Opens daily from 5AM-6PM.
Our feet was starting to ache from all the walking since there was a lot to see! To think we’re still on our first stop! By 9AM, we walked back to Sakun, and he said we still had a lot of temples to go and see. Push!
Sakun brought us to a lot of temples that we lost track of the temple names! We just took and took pictures of the awesome structures.
By 2PM, we already had so much of the sun and the walking and the temples. Our phones were reaching it’s max memory from all the pictures that we took! After a lunch at one of the restaurants in the complex (kinda expensive), we bid good bye to Angkor Wat complex. We still had a circus show and a flight to catch to!
After having a few beers, seafood and yummy pasta at Pubstreet for the last time, we went back to the inn for our bags and arranged a tuktuk that will bring us to Phare’s Circus and then to the airport.
The tuktuk driver (we forgot his name) was very friendly and accommodating. When he learned that we were Filipinos, he asked if we drink palm wine (tuba). He then asked us if we wanted to meet his friends, which was along our way to the circus, to drink Khmer palm wine. We were in doubt at first but then decided to go with him nevertheless, since it’d be a good local experience!
After talking about Pacquiao and Siem Reap tourism and their Vietnam conspiracy theory over palm wine, we bid good bye as we were almost running late with our schedule.
The Phare Circus uses theatre, dance, music, and circus art to tell Cambodian stories. The performers were said to be street children from post-war Cambodia and were given a chance to go to school for free. Due to its high rating at tripadvisor and with the strong recommendation of a friend, we didn’t dare miss this rare spectacle!
Shows are daily at 8PM. General Open Seating is at $18 each.
After the standing ovation at the end of their performance (very very awesome show), we hurriedly went back to out tuktuk to catch our 10:30 PM flight back to the Philippines.
Our trip to Siem Reap was very fun. If we could go back there again, we would definitely buy a 1-week package entrance to Angkor Wat! And maybe rent a bike. Because one day is definitely not enough to tour the vastness of the complex. The nightlife at Pubstreet is also a must. Bar and restaurant hopping! 🙂
Below is our itinerary for our 2-day stay in Siem Reap, including actual expenses for two pax.
- Cambodia has a very hot weather. Yes, hotter than summer in the Philippines. Be sure to wear light clothing and sunblock!
- You may opt not to exchange your US Dollars to KHR, since USD is widely accepted.
- Don’t be afraid to try exotic food! Trust me, they’ll just taste like deep-fried chicken (with hair).
- Wear proper clothes when visiting Angkor Wat. There are areas where short shorts and dresses are not allowed.
- Bring water always, so that you wont get dehydrated.
- Be friendly to tuktuk drivers, and they will be friendly too.
- Never miss the sunrise at Angkor Wat!
Want more? Check out more of our adventures here:
- Crossing the Vietnam-Cambodia boarder by Bus
- 1 Day in Phnom Penh: The Horror of the Past
- 11 Days Vietnam-Cambodia Itinerary and Summary
- 2 Days in Ho Chi Minh
- Across Vietnam via Saigon Express