Siem Reap: Real Life Temple Run

by - February 20, 2019

Siem Reap: Real Life Temple Run

If you read my Singapore travel, you would know that I am on my 6/10 of my Southeast Asian bucket list. And visiting Siem Reap Cambodia means I'm on my 7th country! Sooo sooo close in completing all of it. <3
So yeah, for this trip, I am with my mother, my sister, and my high school friend Ton. Hi, Ton! :) It was fun because I think we planned this like for a very a long time and now it is here.

The plan is we will be backpacking from Siem Reap to Bangkok, meaning border crossing and all that stuff. I really have to plan this well because I am with my mother and my sister and they really are not the people who do backpacking. 

I need to make this travel as comfortable as possible for them.

Siem Reap sign in Siem Reap International Airport

As for me, I really did backpack a couple times already, all of it are with my father, and I am not exaggerating when I say backpacking is not for the faint-hearted and "maarte" people. And unfortunately, I am the "maarte" type so I have endured it and lived like a local. LOL.

BTW, I am writing this on Feb. 16, 2019, and these events happened May last year so forgive me if I miss or forgot some details already. I am trying to catch up on my backlogs. 2018 just happened so fast I really don't have time to update the blog as often as I can. But yeah... Enough with the introductions.

tuktuk pick up from the airport
Our tuktuk airport pick up - blending in with the locals

I have always wanted to visit Siem Reap because of the well known Angkor Wat. Siem Reap or "sometimes" directly translated as "Defeat of Siam" is very popular among backpackers from Western countries and from people in Southeast Asia. Siam is actually an old Thai kingdom and going to Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, I am pretty much aware of their history and old kingdom. This is also one reason I wanted to visit Cambodia so that I can finally fit the pieces of history from the Khmer perspective. 

*See my posts from Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam!

I was never a fan of history but it is fun learning it by visiting the places where it happened. Trust me, it's fun to finally see places in real life.

We arrived at Siem Reap international airport around 9:10PM. I coordinated with the hotel if they can pick us up at the airport since it was late already. Upon arriving, we waited patiently for the airport pick up guy and guess what? The pick up wasn't a car but rather a tuktuk!! It was very funny at that time because they had to fit our pieces of luggage at the tuktuk and the ride was like 15 minutes to 30 minutes. And since it's a tuktuk, I felt like I just caught all the dirt on the way to the hotel. LOL. Also, 1 tuktuk can only accommodate 2 people so we had 2 tuktuks driving us to the hotel.

The hotel was just so-so. I mean it was one of the cheapest with decent amenities that I could find at Agoda at that time. The room we got also is so spacious and can accommodate 6 to 8 people I think.

So we before we retire for the night, we had to plan our tour for the next days. I think we have 3 days in Siem Reap before going to Bangkok so we have 2 full days exploring the temples and ruins.

Inside Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei - Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva

Tour packages in Siem Reap are divided according to the location. If you only have 2 full days like us, I suggest you take the so-called "Big Circuit", "Small Circuit", and "Angkor Tour". This tour package includes all the must-see temples. Also, before seeing everything, you need to buy a ticket first at their tourist center or APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap) office. Your guide will drop you off here first to get tickets.

People lining up to get tickets from APSARA
APSARA - This is where you will get your tickets. They will take a photo of you and include it in the ticket itself. I guess they have trust issues :)

Siem Reap Temple Ticket
And here is the ticket, excuse my face =))

You can choose for 1-day pass, 3-day pass, and 7 days pass. You need to show this ticket to all the temples you'll be visiting. Without this, you cannot go inside the temples.

So the next day, we decided to take the "Big Circuit" tour package first. This includes the following temples:

  • Banteay Srei
  • Preah Khan
  • Pre Rup
  • Ta Som
  • Neak Pean
  • Eastern Mebon
  • Banteay Samre
  • Srah Srang

As for us, we didn't actually visit all because as time goes by, you just get tired of seeing all of it. Lame excuse I know. Also, the weather is just too hot and remember we arrived late at night so we are definitely tired and didn't get enough sleep.

Thankfully, we had the best guide/driver for this trip. He is very accommodating and would ALWAYS give us wet wipes and a bottle of water every after temple we visit. He makes sure we are comfortable and hydrated. Very friendly. If you're reading this Sophat, hello! :)

Since this happened almost a year ago, I cannot remember exactly the exact order of temples we visited but here are the photos hoping this would encourage you to visit Siem Reap too. :)

Me inside Banteay Srei
Somewhere along Banteay Srei

This is actually our first stop for the day so we were all amazed at the carvings on the stone. Very detailed and I am impressed on how they were able to preserve it.

The squad inside Preah Khan Temple
The squad at Preah Khan - This photo was taken by someone who is I think a tour guide? Nothing comes free so a tip is a must. Also, his tricks in taking iPhone photos are to the highest level.

Peaceful Neak Pean

Neak Pean - En route to this is a very long shallow pathway without side railings. Must be very careful so you won't get derailed and fall on the water ;)

Fried ice cream from Pub Street
Fried ice cream from Pub Street

Hand paintings at Ta Som Temple
Look at how exquisite the hand paintings are!

Squad posing for photos

People inside Banteay Srei

Vietnamese fresh spring roll for lunch
Vietnamese fresh spring roll

Not sure if this is happening always but if you are hiring a driver and then it is almost lunchtime, they will bring you to an expensive restaurant where they get commission from bringing customers. Thing is, the food is very plain but expensive and there are a whole lot other good places to eat at. Just be firm with the driver that you want to eat somewhere else. Better if you have a place in mind so they can bring you to that place instead.

On the lower left is an authentic Khmer food while the rest are western food
On the lower left is an authentic Khmer food while the rest are western food

Early dinner at Pub street
Dinner somewhere along Pub Street

People inside Banteay Srei

Siem Reap Cambodia

Siem Reap Cambodia

Smiling inside Banteay Srei
Fun times :)

Entry to Ta Som Temple
Entry to Ta Som Temple

Night market/pub street
Night market/pub street

Ton posing inside Neak Pean

Ton posing inside Banteay Srei

Singers from Banteay Srei

When you reach the end of Banteay Srei, there is a group of people who sing, not sure if it's their folk song but they are using local instruments and sings different melodies. It rained a little bit so we took the chance to sit in the shade for awhile while listening to them and waiting for the rain to stop.

Siem Reap Cambodia

Pub street sign

Siem Reap Cambodia

Always, always, always be mindful of how the way you dress. Khmer is as conservative as other Southeast Asian countries. I had to buy a scarf and cover my shoulders so I can enter the temples. 

Siem Reap Cambodia

Siem Reap Cambodia

As for the food, either you go big by eating at touristy restaurants like the ones in Pub Street or try out the street food/cart scattered in the area. The difference in price is huge.

As for money changers, it is highly recommended you bring in US dollars instead of PH peso. You will get your money's worth much more. That's the mistake we made because we didn't have USD that time so our money lost its value big time.

It was a very tiring day. We retired early for the day because we plan to catch the sunrise over Angkor Wat the next day. :)

So that's it on our first day. I am just happy that I finally visited this amazing place.
Trivia: Did you know people in Cambodia are called Khmer? :)

Watch my Siem Reap IG stories for more photos and real time videos! :)

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