Cambodia

Cambodia, Travel

Everything You Need to Know About Angkor Wat


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Angkor Wat has always been on my archaeology bucket list since a couple of years back. Now I have seen it with my own eyes and witness the sheer size of the temple complex, I could say I got an eye feast. Built from 879-1191 AD at the zenith of the Khmer civilization, it used to be a part of the great Khmer empire. The ruins and restored sites in the Angkor Archaeological Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It actually reminds me of my visit to Machu Pichu last summer. It is surprising how people from the past manage to build these amazing marvel structures with resources back then.

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When to visit Angkor Wat

The sunrise was really awesome, even though the sun does not rise from the back of the temples. It is slightly to the left at this period of the year if you are viewing the sunrise from the popular spot. If you want it to be rising up from the back of the temples, you got to be visiting from December to March which is also the dry period. The crowd is significantly lesser as compared to the dry season. But don’t be afraid of the monsoon period because it is often clear in the morning, so if you are in the sunrise, it is not a problem. I tried cycling the Angkor Wat in the evening but my plans got ruined by the rain. The sunset and sunrise timings are different at different periods of the year. Ask your hotel or tuk tuk driver for the right information, or you can simply ask Google.

P1040976Early morning prayers

P1050006Bayon Temples

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Getting to Angkor Wat

Most people use Siem Reap is a base to visit Angkor Wat. From anywhere in the city of Siem Reap to Angkor Wat, hiring tuk tuk for half a day will cost around USD 12 and a long day; from sunrise to sunset will cost USD 15. One way is around 30 minutes. Another similar way is to go on motorbike as a pillion, I tried asking around but it seems that the price does not differ much from a tuk tuk. There are many tours venders having mini buses tour supported with a guide to bring you around, those are more expensive. A private car can be hired for about USD 30 a day, sharing it with people or friends will bring the cost of travel down, so don’t be afraid to make friends and do trips together. If you want a guide to bring you around and know more about the history of Angkor Wat,  expect to pay around USD 20 for a day.

Things to do there

Explore the temples! Angkor Wat is huge, a day is not enough to cover it all, especially if you are a temple fan. I would recommend buying the three days pass for USD 40. A day pass costs USD 20 and 7 days pass for USD 60. The best preserved, and most visited, are Angkor Wat, the Bayon, and Ta Prohm ( Tomb Raider ). If you are just doing a few, a day pass will be sufficient.

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P1050079Ta Prohm

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Finding food and drinks

Don’t worry about finding food in the temple complex because there are food venders nearly everywhere, especially more at popular places. They will approach you to sell food and drinks; you definitely need some cold drinks to cool you down from the sweltering tropical heat. Very often, you can haggle for a good price. Probably three small bottles of cold water for USD 1, two cans of soda for USD 1. I had a plate of chicken fried rice for USD 2. You can bring your own water but it will not be enough and you do not want to be carry extra water around on your back under the merciless heat.

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Attire

Angkor Wat is a religious venue, so decent wear is needed. No tank tops, upper arms need to be covered, so a normal t-shirt is fine. For bottoms, shorts need to be around knees or lower, strictly no skirts. Bring along some sunscreen because you do not want to end up looking like a cooked lobster at the end of the trip. I advise against flip-flops because you will do some walking around, so sneakers or running shoes will be good.

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P1050115Ed and Jamie attempting a mid-air high-five

 If you are around Cambodia, you got to pay Angkor Wat a visit. I guarantee that it will not be a disappointment. Angkor Wat is a great place to learn about Khmer history and witness one of the greatest man-made structures of all time.

 

Cambodia, Travel

Getting From Phnom Penh To Siem Reap By Giant Ibis Bus


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There are various ways to travel from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and vice versa. I was looking all over the web for the most efficient way to travel between the two places. I came across the Giant Ibis bus company which has some pretty good reviews. The bus leaves Phnom Penh at various timings. Visit Giant Ibis website for the complete list of timings. There is also a night bus which leaves at 11pm if you are looking to save some accommodation costs. It takes about 6-7 hours each way and costs USD 16 per trip. I booked the bus via my hotel and they charged a dollar more but the bus company will pick you up from your hotel. A tuk tuk will charge you at least two bucks to get you from the hotel to the bus station.

P1040847  Here’s the bus parked at the 30 minutes rest stop

These buses are fitted with WIFI connection and power supply at each seat. But the WIFI got useless out of the city area and it was not accessible for more than 80% of the journey. I think that the WIFI runs on the 3G mobile network which is in line with my phone network; it switches to GPRS when the bus travels to the outskirts. The seats are pretty new and can be decline to a slight degree. It is a 2×2 configuration with a last row at the back. There is no toilet at the back of the bus but there are two rest stops for the journey, the first one for 10 minutes and another one for 30 minutes where you can grab a bite. All seats comes with seat belts which makes it a safer ride. There is a LCD monitor at the front of the bus where they play a couple of English movies but it may be too far for people sitting at the back.

photo(1)Bring a neck pillow for your sleep

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My bus was not full and I was lucky to get two seats to myself. It is fine if you are traveling with a friend but the seats might be too close together if you are sitting beside a stranger. It’s not a short ride, we are talking about a 6-7 hours bus ride. It is pretty bumpy at some parts and this is when the seat belts come in handy.

Overall, I think it is a very good option for budget travelers that have ample time and wants some comfort.

Cambodia, Travel

My One Way Ticket To Phnom Penh


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People ask me where am I headed, I have no idea and this is what I love about backpacking solo. It opens up a whole new dimension of traveling. I changed my plan about going to New Zealand this summer and here I am, sitting in a cafe in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I plan to travel around Southeast Asia for a bit, probably doing a border crossing into China from Lao Cai in Vietnam.

I got into Phnom Penh two days ago and I’m falling in love with the city. Being the capital of Cambodia, a lot of travelers transit at Phnom Penh, be it by land, sea or air. I recommend to spend a few days around this city because there are plenty of things to explore. Cambodia is a troubled country because of the Khmer Rouge period during the 1970s. But things has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. It has a mysterious charm around the palaces and the people.

P1040832Golden Palace

P1040821Hotels along the riverfront, a true contrast to the countryside

Walking around Phnom Penh is relatively easy but you will be scouted as a potential customer every few minutes by Tuk Tuk or motorbike drivers. But don’t do it alone at night, especially in dark alleys. A 5 – 15 minute ride on a Tuk Tuk costs around USD 2-3 , and USD 1-2 on a motorbike. Always haggle because their ‘special’ prices are jacked up for you. It is recommended to travel around in a Tuk Tuk or motorbike at night. I would do motorbike if I am carrying minimal stuff because of common snatch thieves cases and it’s pretty fun being a pillion in the crazy traffic of Phnom Penh.

P1040823Hotel constructions are going on the other side of the river

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It is good to speak some Khmer, but I survived speaking not a word of Khmer. So do not worry if you are like me. Basically, most Cambodians that deal with foreigners know some basic English, at worst you can try hand gestures. I tried some local food and I thought they tasted pretty good. I would love to try more local food as I spend more time in Cambodia.

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I had a visit to the Killing Fields located in the outskirts of Phnom Penh. I arranged a Tuk Tuk to take me there and back, the journey takes about 45 minutes each way and costs USD 15. The ride was pretty bumpy at some parts of the journey but it was bearable. It was a good experience to learn about the tragic past of the Khmer Rouge period. The entrance fee costs USD 3 and an additional USD 3 for the audio guide. It is advertised as foreigners having to pay USD 6 which comes with the entrance fee and the audio guide, but you have a choice to go with just the entrance fee, so don’t be afraid to ask.

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P1040805The entrance of the Killing Fields

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At checkpoint number 12, it is a loop around the Killing Fields which brings you around the border of the area. The whole area is fenced up, I encountered children and the disabled asking for money outside the fence during my walk. Probably that’s what the fences are for. There are children all over Cambodia asking for money, whether to give them money is up to your discretion. But I have seen people attracting a whole group of children just because they gave out some change to a kid. Be warned that many of these children actually work for gangs.

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P1040809The stretch of road that back to the city

For now, I’m headed for Siem Reap!